The Custodian of Paradise: A Novel
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A Book-of-the-Month Club "Best Novel of 2007."
In the waning days of World War II, Sheilagh Fielding makes her way to a deserted island off the coast of Newfoundland. But she soon comes to suspect another presence: that of a man known only as her Provider, who has shadowed her for twenty years.Against the backdrop of Newfoundland's history and landscape, Fielding is a compelling figure. Taller than most men and striking in spite of her crippled leg, she is both eloquent and subversively funny. Her newspaper columns exposing the foibles and hypocrisies of her native city, St. John's, have made many powerful enemies for her, chief among them the man who fathered her children―twins―when she was fourteen. Only her Provider, however, knows all of Fielding's secrets. Reading group guide included.
frightened it seemed, for I had never spoken to them before in that fashion. “His name is Joe,” I said. They looked in need of reassurance that my preamble had been nonsense. “He’s as harmless as his name. He’s the fellow that because of me had to leave school. But at one time we were friends. I knew him in New York.” I stopped. “Never mind,” I said. “You should all join the union. It could mean more money. Two and a half cents an hour more maybe, according to the papers.” All anyone talked
don’t we go back to your father?” “You should go back to yours. Go back to St. John’s and live in his house. Live a respectable life. There’s nothing stopping you from that.” “Respectability. The most that I can hope for. To be a respectable spinster. Make the best of things, Fielding. Take care of your father as if you were his wife or he your child. Limp respectably about St. John’s, making amends for my misspent youth by running errands, atoning for my height and wit. And width. And weight.
hoping for, a boy or a girl. She didn’t answer. Perhaps because I had not told her what I was hoping for and she was fearful of what I would say or do if her hope clashed with mine. “‘I’m hoping for a girl,’ I said. “‘What if it’s a boy?’ she said. “I shrugged. “‘I will have no more children after this one,’ she said. “‘Your husband—’” “‘Is what he seems to be. He will reconcile himself to anything I do or do not do.’ “A week after the baby came, she took it—you—to see me. I poured a cup
undertakers. I didn’t know that Smallwood had survived until I saw him in the rigging of the S.S. Newfoundland, looking just as he had when the ship departed. My legs almost gave way. I shouted to him but he seemed transfixed by the sight of something far away, something beyond the dread-struck crowd, beyond even the hillside city. He climbed down as the ship was docking and I lost sight of him as I was carried towards the dock by the people who rushed forward as if the winners of the race to
aren’t really jobs at all, just a kind of allowance given to us by the organizers of the Cause we are trying to advance. They assume that, like Smallwood, I am working for this Cause, but I’m not. It would be pointless to try to explain to them the distinction between his occupation and mine, to explain why I make more money by writing for profit-making papers but do far less work. I have no interest in the Cause. I spend time with those who do because Smallwood does. I am in New York for him