“Our Homesick Songs,” by Emma Hooper, is the story of a family, its values and challenges. The Connors are living in the dying fishing village of Big Running on the Newfoundland coast. Aidan and Martha Connor grew up in the village and are struggling to remain there. The once prosperous fishing village is desolate. The fish have mysteriously disappeared and slowly but surely the residents have too.
Aidan and Martha have found jobs working at an energy site in Alberta. They spend alternate months there working. As they struggle to keep their family and marriage together, they fear they too will have to leave Big Running.
The novel flips back and forth between 1970, when Martha and Aidan meet, to 1992, thus allowing readers to witness their growing love for one another.
Their 14-year-old daughter Cora spends her days decorating abandoned homes in Big Running with supplies she finds in the empty houses. The bakery takes on the look of Italy and the post office has an English flair. Cora wants a new and better life and runs off when she is 15 to find it. The job she secures is preventing bears from coming to the Deep Wood Energy and Industry, thus providing safety for workers.
Eleven-year-old Finn Connor is determined to keep the family together in Big Running. He is sure that if he can get the fish to come back, Cora and everyone else will return to their home. So the boy begins researching what fish need and tries to make it happen with help from Mrs. Callaghan his accordion teacher. She tells Finn stories and songs of fishermen from the past.
Music is a theme that runs throughout this story. Aidan and Martha meet because Aidan sings a song, and Martha tries to discover the source of the music. Finn takes accordion lessons and many of the little songs Mrs. Callaghan teaches him are included in the book. Even the writing in this novel is lyrical, with simple language and choppy dialogue.
“Our Homesick Songs” weaves together the Connor family members, creating a tale of family endurance, with all of its challenges, hopes and dreams. It’s a book of songs; some happy, some sad, some containing loss, some melancholy—all homesick songs.