By the Rivers of Brooklyn
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In the 1920s, Jim, Bert and Rose Evans all move from Newfoundland to Brooklyn, New York, in search of work and a better life, leaving their sister Annie back home in St. John's. By the Rivers of Brooklyn traces the story of the Evans family across two countries and three generations, exploring the hopes, passions and heartbreaks of those who went away and those who stayed behind.
By the Rivers of Brooklyn transforms into fiction the experience of the 75,000 first- and second-generation Newfoundlanders who once lived in Brooklyn, New York - and the experience of Newfoundlanders throughout history who have gone away to find work and prosperity but never stopped dreaming of home.
“Everyone in my family is obsessed with home,” Anne tells Brian a few weeks later, walking in Central Park in a drizzling rain. “My Aunt Ethel wants to die at home. I have this cousin, Dennis, who’s never been in Newfoundland in his life, and he says he’d like to go home sometime. Home is a place he’s never been. Isn’t that weird?” “It is weird,” Brian says. “I can’t imagine that. It’s like they’re immigrants or something.” “Well, they were, I guess. Maybe I’m an immigrant too.” “And are you
work on the high steel with Jim?” Rose said at last. “Yeah, Jim’s already got him a job.” “He’s not scared?” “I don’t know. I guess he’s not. What does Tony do?” “Works in a store…a fruit store. Says he’s gonna own one someday.” Rose was not looking at Ethel; she stared straight into the crowd as if gazing at the invisible sea. That was all they had to say. After awhile Rose pulled a magazine out of her bag, lay down on her stomach and started to flip through it. Ethel wondered how the boys
like that. We were all too busy working.” Anne knows for a fact this is not true. Aunt Annie was born in 1907, around the same time as Emily of New Moon, and Emily kept a diary. So did lots of girls in those old books. Yes, they were busy milking the cows and scrubbing the floors by hand with no vacuum cleaners, but they found time to write in their diaries. Some of them did. Not Aunt Annie, apparently. Anne pokes through whatever old boxes and cupboards she can find, just in case. Maybe no-one
dreams, something more important than finding a rich man to marry, something that might make her a better, truer Rose who could really fall in love with Tony and love him for all her life. She feels this thing coming over her, hovering like a cloud, and she has to bite her tongue to stop from saying, I love you, of course I’ll marry you. She fights that feeling off for all she’s worth, and finally, sadly, mercifully, the song ends. ETHEL BROOKLYN, DECEMBER 1928 ON CHRISTMAS EVE,
need. Somehow, without her really noticing, all those people had disappeared: moved back home, moved out to New Jersey or even down to Florida. Her church had closed down, actually closed because there weren’t enough white people to keep it going, and the nearby churches were full of coloured people, so of course she didn’t go anymore. It was a stroke, she learned at the hospital. A massive stroke, but he was going to live. “You’ll come stay with us, with Jimmy and me and the kids,” Joyce said,