Mary Oliver asked in her infamous poem, The Summer Day, “[W]hat is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” Bobbi French responds beautifully to Oliver’s rumination in her first novel, The Good Women of Safe Harbour.
We first meet Frances in her doctor’s office as she receives the news that she will not live to see her fifty-ninth year. Frances is a housekeeper by trade, having moved to St. John’s years ago from her rural seaside town of Safe Harbour on the coast of Newfoundland. Not the real Safe Harbour, as the author carefully denotes in her acknowledgments. This Safe Harbour is a fictional town from the mind of French, although many could mistake it for one of the many rural communities that line the edges of Newfoundland.
Frances never fit in well with her peers as a young girl– she preferred the companionship of books and her only friend, Annie Malone. But after a series of traumatic events, Frances moves to St. John’s and leaves everything behind, including Annie. We follow as Frances tries to untangle her past that is full of secrets and heartache, and that despite her solitary ways, human connection is the only way to truly accept her life as it is.
A reflection on what makes a life worth living, The Good Women of Safe Harbour takes us through the winding road of a woman who endured, survived, and is now accepting the life she has lived. Heartfelt and moving, with insightful wisdom throughout, Bobbi French embarks on a story that forces us to consider that we are more than the things that have happened to us and that we all have an impact during our time on earth.
French doesn’t linger in the minutiae, she tackles big subject matters with empathy and is full of compassion for all of the Frances’ we have all met and know in real life. It’s an emotional story that will bring many of its readers to tears, but it’s not without levity, especially in its dialogue. For anyone with relatives from Newfoundland or for those who recognize the dialect of ‘Newfoundland-ese’, you’ll be brought to laughter by the quick-witted tongue of French’s characters. You will feel as if you’re sitting around a kitchen table amid aunts, cousins, and sisters who are brought to life by French’s skilled writing and deep understanding of female friendships in all their various forms.
Honest, deeply satisfying, and with a gut-punch of an ending, The Good Women of Safe Harbour will tug on your heartstrings until you hear the sound of the Newfoundland coast and fiddle music in the distance. A triumphant first novel by Bobbi French with a fast-paced plot and a protagonist who is reminiscent of Donna Morrissey’s unforgettable Livvy Higgs. A brilliant debut and I can’t wait to read more of what French has to offer.
Joanne Gallant is a pediatric nurse and writer. She has a biology degree from Mount Allison University and a nursing degree from the University of Alberta. Her debut book, A Womb in the Shape of a Heart, was published by Nimbus Publishing in September 2021. She lives in Halifax with her husband and son.
About the Author
BOBBI FRENCH was born and raised in Newfoundland and Labrador. A former psychiatrist, she is the author of Finding Me in France, a memoir chronicling the year following her decision to leave medicine to pursue writing. She lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.
- Publisher : HarperAvenue (March 8 2022)
- Language : English
- Paperback : 296 pages
- ISBN-10 : 144346404X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1443464048