A Newfoundland Memoir Packed with Superb Storytelling & Charm

Book cover of "Pluck: A Memoir of a Newfoundland Childhood and the Raucous, Terrible, Amazing Journey to Becoming a Novelist" by Donna Morrissey

Pluck is a memoir. Anyone who has suffered through one of my previous blogs knows how I feel about memoirs. However, in spite of an avowed determination to never read another offering in that genre, I found myself picking up, on the basis of hearty recommendations, this memoir of the life of successful Newfoundland writer Donna Morrissey. And, to my enormous surprise and delight, I was drawn into Donna’s story from page one. I kept on trying to figure out why this particular memoir grabbed me when most others make me want to run for the hills. And the answer, I believe, is that Morrissey tells her story like she tells the story of all of her fictional characters that she has graced us with over the years. I often thought I was reading a novel and forgot that this was a real person’s story.

Having said that, we have the usual memoir ingredients… hard life, squandered opportunities, mental illness, obstacles to overcome, grief, poverty, etc., etc. However, interspersed with the harsh realities she and her family faced, there was lots of laughter, love, family,  tradition, and Newfoundland, which has to be a standalone element due to the incredible influence it leaves on its native sons and daughters. Morrissey’s use of the native dialect is captivating and even if those from ‘away’  struggle to understand it, they should understand that the charming, endearing vernacular is a voice for an intelligent and fiercely loyal community.

Morrissey’s reflections about her father’s parenting style are hysterical. His words may look bumbling but behind them is a man of substance, a man who is loyal to a fault and whose love of family and community are unparalleled. With his wife by his side, they overcome every obstacle… and there are many… that are thrown their way. Through their experiences with betrayal, loss, and overwhelming challenges, their love is the foundation that keeps their large family buoyant and resilient.

Interestingly, had it not been for the consistent pressure from a valued friend, the reading world may never have had the opportunity to read a Donna Morrissey novel. By her own admission, Morrissey had a knack for oral storytelling but had no idea that she could transfer those same skills to pen and paper. Fortunately for all of us, she was encouraged to keep at it, and today she is an award-winning author of 6 novels and 1 memoir.

Pluck is happy and sad and everything in between, but above all else, it is a great read. It was also one of WPL’s Early Winter Featured Reads, and definitely lives up to the hype.