ANGLICANS DESCRIBE their Christian faith as a journey from brokenness to wholeness so they can reach out to other wounded travellers. Coralie Hughes Jensen has written two novels featuring this journey in the lives of people in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Her first novel, Passup Point, is set in Labrador. In Passup Point everyone has secrets, including Jonah Devlin, the new priest at the local community church, whose alleged sins are eventually found out by the people in his new community.
[pullquote]Jonah Devlin comes to Passup Point to reopen the abandoned Anglican church and immediately becomes involved in the lives of the people. Gabrielle Pye is a young waitress struggling to raise her two brothers since their mother died. A crime of forgery committed when she was 13 requires Gabrielle to elude the periodic attempts of the Canadian police to capture her. As both Jonah’s and Gabrielle’s past catch up with them the community pulls together, breathing new life into the community and its church.
Jensen’s other novel is Lety’s Gift the story of Lety’s daughter, Sophie Hawkins, who was born in northern Newfoundland. Orphaned at an early age, Sophie suffers abuse from successive caregivers. She discovers that she has a psychic gift that is viewed as a curse rather than a blessing and eventually leads to her breakdown.
Sophie’s psychiatrist, Griffon Fairbourne, facilitates her healing from her traumatic childhood, enables her to use her gift of prophecy and healing, and becomes her spiritual mentor, inspiring her to go into the Anglican priesthood where she succeeds in becoming a bishop.
In both novels, Coralie Hughes Jensen captures the desolate beauty of Newfoundland and Labrador and introduces us to the culture and the economic realities. Her novels are full of contemporary church issues with which Anglicans can identify. Passup Point is drawn to a satisfactory conclusion, but the storytelling itself is inconsistent. Too often Jensen uses flawed prose to tell the story. When she lets the characters take over, the story becomes quite absorbing. In the end, the journey to Passup Point is memorable but the road is rough. In Lety’s Gift, however, Jensen’s storytelling is smooth and engaging throughout. She gives the odd dramatic miscue that fails to deliver but generally the work is an engaging tale of Sophie’s journey to wholeness and new life. Considering both books were published the same year one wishes that Jensen would have taken her matured skills and reapplied them to Passup Point. Then both books could have been highly recommended.
Laurel Parson is assistant archivist at the Anglican Church of Canada’s General Synod Archives.