Thursday, June 23, 2011


The story opens up with the folks of Dogtown sitting together in Easter Carter's house. The people of the village had come to grieve, some to snoop, and some to stare in awe at the body of Abraham Wharf. It seems Abraham has committed suicide but lying on the floor by the window, no one can figure out why his body is not covered in blood if he cut his own throat?

Judy Rhines, one of the townswomen lifted the corner piece of yellow gingham that had been placed over his face and chest to wonder again where the blood was? Did someone clean him up?

The Village of Dogtown has quite the sort of oddities as far as its residents go. There is Black Ruth, a woman who dresses like a man and labours as a stonemason; Mrs. Stanley, a haughty woman whose grandson, Sammy, comes of age in her brothel; Oliver Younger, who is fortunate to have survived a horrible childhood at the hands of his aunt; and Cornelius Finson, a freed slave. Smack dab in the middle of all this is our beloved Judy Rhines, a brutually independent woman with a deep lonely soul who tries to build a life for herself against unimaginable odds.

You see, long ago Dogtown was a proud settlement inhabited by fine people. Slowly it turned into a collection of broken huts and hovels lived in by mostly spinsters and widows without children. Stuck there in poverty, the town folk laboured in vain to forage a living selling benies and brews made of roots and twigs. For all their hard work at eeking out a living, they were called "trash eaters" and made fun of all over Cape Ann. They said there wasn't anyone left in Dogtown but "...witches and whores." But, Abraham Wharf had made it his life defending their settlement, and he looked upon himself as Dogtown leader. Abraham was a bitter man.

Life just teems from this novel although we lose some of that life along the way, but we are still left with the super-imposed memories of those we've joined in their most troubled states. Superbly crafted and honed with the skill of a steady plot line that is different and complex at best. Ms. Diamant has depicted the story of Dogtown and its people with a lyrical precision that is hard to find.

June 23 2011

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