Cover Image: Malagash

Malagash

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Member Reviews

Joey Comeau is a lovely writer and this is a lovely novel of young grief. I have been reading this writer for a while and I have to say his novels are so dramatically different from each other -- and yet he gets the tone and the language pitch perfect every time. I read this book in two sittings. It's perfect. If you know a young person who has lost a parent, this is the book for them.. It is gentle, inventive, funny, and real.
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I really enjoyed this book. It was a short but sweet tale, and the writing was really great. I felt as if I was in her head and knew her father as well as she did through the flashbacks and memories.
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A beautiful, tender, and emotionally true story about a young girl coping with her father’s terminal illness and the measures she takes to preserve his memory. For me, the loveliest book in recent memory.
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How do you take a subject that has been written about many times before. And make it new and fresh?
Read this book, and you will see why readers are responding so positively to just such a book. A father dying, asking to die in the place he was raised, Nova Scotia. So his family who loves him dearly, wanting to honor his last wishes, does just that. Father in hospital, mother and daughter, young son attempt to fill his last days with humor, and a great deal of love. His daughter who will miss him dearly goes even further. She has plans, ideas and a way to make her father's last words last forever.

A sadly but beautiful look at a family that is so filled with love, even during this trying and devastating time. The book is starkly written, short matter of fact paragraphs and yet they convey so much emotion. This is a family that cold be torn apart by the death of a loved one but instead due to the mind of an amazing daughter have a chance to survive and even to thrive. 

The cover is absolutely gorgeous, covers do attract, but sometimes what is within can disappoint. This one lives up to the the beauty of the cover by giving the readers a wonderful and heartfelt story.

ARC from Netgalley.
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Oh my gosh, Malagash, I'm all a-gush! 

What is this book with the weird title, pretty cover, and lots of 5-star reviews? It's a small novel with big power, and I just loved it.

Malagash is a small town in Nova Scotia where a teenage girl named Sunday has found a strange and brilliant way to cope with her dad's imminent death. She records everything he says—to her and to everyone else. (I’m not going to say what she does after she records him, in case you’ve managed to avoid the blurb, which tells too much.)

This is a weird one, because if I turn to any page, I don’t find much. There’s simple language, a simple plot, simple dialogue. And the subject of dying isn’t any great shakes either: it’s not exactly a new, or a jazzy, or an upbeat topic. 

So why, exactly, did I feel excited to give this one 5 stars? Because there’s something about this story that grabs you and doesn’t let you go. It reminds me that it’s all in the telling, and that the grabbing can be subtle and tricky. The book is full of emotion that soaked into my skin. There’s loneliness, sadness, fear, camaraderie, stiff upper lips, fake happiness, jokes, denial, fake acceptance, acceptance. But in fact, it’s the undercurrent of emotion between Sunday and the rest of her family that is vivid and nuanced and that pulled me in.

The Complaint Board is back in the shed because there is plenty of Joy in this Jar:

-Creative way of coping with a parent dying.
-First-person narration gives it a conversational yet confidential tone, plus it’s honest and fresh.
-Finely crafted story. No wasted words, no side trips. Compact and powerful.
-Emotionally rich.
-Vivid—felt like I was there with Sunday.
-Introspective.
-Not maudlin, clichéd, sentimental, or melodramatic.
-A nice family, with good dynamics. A lovable and smart main character, a cool sib, and loving parents.
-Wise and uplifting.  

While her father lay dying, Sunday is observing and pondering not only her relationship with her father, but also his relationship with her mother and her brother, Simon. I loved the introspection. One of the cool things is that she realizes that each person in the family has a different relationship with her father. Even the exact same conversations have different tones, depending on whether it’s her or Simon. She also realizes she wouldn’t have learned this had she not been recording their conversations.

Here are Sunday’s own words about this:

“The way he sounds, talking to my little brother, is different from how he sounds when talking just to me. I feel certain that it means something different too, even though the words are the exact same. This particular softness in my father’s voice is meant only for Simon.

There are parts of my father that he shows only to Simon. Parts he shows only to my mother. What if I had never heard this? What if I had never realized this?”

That was an epiphany for me many years ago—the realization that my relationship with my parents, the way we perceived each other and interacted, was totally different from how my siblings perceived them and interacted. That made it easier for me to understand why some of us liked a parent and some of us didn’t, and why a parent might prefer one kid over another. 

But back to this story. Dad’s death isolates each of them (since, ultimately, everyone is alone in their grief), but it also brings the family together. It was touching how Sunday gets to really see and know her little brother, and how she becomes close to him. Before her dad was dying, she hadn’t paid much attention to him.

I seem to need to repeat some of the contents of the Joy Jar: this story is unusual and rich, and it’s well crafted, with a main character that I just adored. Although this is a sad story with a dark subject matter, it’s strangely uplifting. I loved loved loved it! Another little secret gem!
 
Thanks to NetGalley for the advance copy.
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By the time I came to read this book I could remember why I'd requested it but could not recall what it was about nor did the title provide much of a clue.   Malagash.    It could have been about anything.   I proceeded, as is my habit, without reading the blurb and was pleasantly surprised by the story that unfolded.
As it turns out Malagash is the name of a tiny town in Nova Scotia.     The town Sunday's father had grown up in, a place he and his wife had lived, and the town he has chosen to spend his dying days surrounded by family.     

I guess it's true to say this is a story about death, yet it wasn't morbid.   This moving story was told from Sunday's perspective.      We don't  know her age but she's a young girl - mid teens perhaps - so her voice gave it a contemporary YA feeling.   Make no mistake, Sunday does not want her dad to die.    She relishes every last moment with her dad, and to this end she has surreptitiously captured hours of sound recordings of her Dad - alone, interacting with her, with her younger brother and with her mother, or all four of them together.    Sunday has a very specific plan for her recordings.   A plan which gives the story a distinctive twist, and yet despite her grand plan the recordings proved their value as a healing tool.     Not only did they serve as a conversation starter between Sunday and her younger brother Simon,  they also provided comfort to the grieving family after his passing -  the sound of his voice a soothing balm.   Through her transcripts of the recordings readers are privy to the depth of this family's love for each other, the joy they had shared in each others company.

MaIagash was a delighfully quick and easy read and I feel very grateful to the author Joey Comeau, the publishers ECW Press and Netgalley for approving my request for this digital ARC.     It was my pleasure to read Malagash and to provide an unbiased review.
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Wow! Malagash is a tiny perfects novel. Sunday recounts the last few days of her father's life. Sunday is a teenager, temporarily living with her grandmother, mother and brother in a village in Nova Scotia. They visit Sunday's father every day at the hospital, and Sunday records everything said on her phone. The snippets of dialogue become a lifeline for Sunday and her brother. It sounds sad -- and it is -- but there's way more to this very short novel than raw sadness. Comeau is brilliant at conveying so much about Sunday and her family through small nuanced interactions.  Characters with heart and personality going through one of life's nastiest blows. Beautifully done. Highly recommended. Thanks to Netgalley and the publisher for an opportunity to read an advance copy.
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4+ Stars.

"I don't want my father to die."

MALAGASH is a sad story about a 39 year old father close to death.....a father with a dark sense of humor and a wonderful spirit.....a father with a beloved daughter who finds a way to keep her dad alive forever giving her scared little waif of a brother and grieving mother a powerful gift. 

200 pages of heartbreak, and a true original.  (Skip the overview on this one...TMI)

Many thanks to ECW Press via NetGalley for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Look at that cover!  It was the sole attraction for me, the only reason I requested this book, I will now admit.  I chose it even though the description made me a bit reluctant and I had no idea what a Malagash was.  Turns out, Malagash is a small town in Nova Scotia to where one man has moved his family so he can finish out his life in the place he grew up.   He's  dying of cancer in a hospital.  His wife and son and daughter visit him daily, as does his mother.  The dad tells his silly jokes, sings songs, and tells them all that he loves them.  His brother comes to make peace.

The setting of Malagash is important, but the family is moreso, because his daughter Sunday is recording all of his conversations with family on her phone.  This way her father's voice  and his unique personality will live on forever.  So that not only will she and her family have access to these recordings, she plans to let them loose into the world as a computer virus, a good virus, she says, where her father's ghost will dwell.

It's a wonder of a book that just gets better the farther you progress. A sweet story of familial love, with a young adult feel to it since Sunday is the narrator.  A thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for a lovely experience.
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”Smile an everlasting smile
A smile can bring you near to me”
--“Words”, lyrics by Maurice Ernest Gibb, Robin Hugh Gibb, Barry Alan Gibb

I’ve had this little book for a little over a week now, waiting for me. Little did I know what was waiting under that colourful cover. Of course, I’d read the blurb, was drawn in first by the cover, and then the story - a young girl, Sunday, whose father was dying, and so she begins to record as much of him as she can.

They’ve come to the home where his father grew up, where his first steps were taken, so shall there be his last.

“In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return.” Genesis 3:19

Malagash is a scenic, seaside community on the north shore of Nova Scotia. A peaceful place, I would imagine. To her father, it is home, a place for family to gather.

”’A weight will lift,’ my father says.’A leaf will fall’ I am collecting his words.’Fresh white snow will blanket this whole sleepy town.’”

Little by little, she collects his words, his conversations. With her. With her brother, Simon. With her mother.

”At night, I play long nonsense loops of his voice to myself before I fall asleep, like a bedtime story. Like a lullaby.”

In the years after my father died, and my mother was still a three-hour drive each way (providing there wasn’t traffic), I went every weekend that I could manage it, almost every weekend. At first, because she was lost without him, and then later she needed more help. Every time I was there and the phone would ring, it was my father’s voice that would come on the answering machine. It took a while before I would stop bursting into tears every time I heard it, and then years later, my older brother decided to record his own message over it and I cried. I realized then I would never hear my father’s voice again. So this story really struck a personal note with me.

Beautifully written, this is a portrait of a family struggling to hang on to each other, struggling to let go of one and still hold tight to one another as they try to be strong.

“It’s only words, and words are all I have
To Take your heart away.”
--“Words”, lyrics by Maurice Ernest Gibb, Robin Hugh Gibb, Barry Alan Gibb

Recommended


Pub Date: 03 Oct 2017

Many thanks for the ARC provided by ECW Press
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This beautiful book cover 'stopped' me -- 
      Then I looked up 'Malagash', which is located in Nova Scotia.  What I learned is that Malagash is the location of Canada's first rock salt mine, which operated from 1918 through 1959.  After it closed, the main industries reverted to agriculture and fishing. 
A one room school closed in 1982.... but there is a nondenominational Bible camp in Malagash. 

The narrator of this story is a teenage girl named Sunday.  She, her younger brother Simon, and her mother have come to stay in Malagash - in her father's childhood home -as the father wanted to be near his mother and his childhood memories. The father spent his final days in a local nearby hospital under hospice care.  

The parents had a whole life living together in Malagash before Sunday and Simon were born, but the kids had never seen the town. 
Sunday says, "I thought Malagash would be a small town, but it was not even that. One long road, twisting paved red loop around the north of Nova Scotia. There's a tractor sitting in a field. A dirt bike leaning up against a shed. We pass a pen of llamas, who look bored as hell. The Atlantic Ocean itself comes right up to drive along side of us. Then it slips away". 

This family is close - inspiring - there wasn't a question for a second from either of the children - about moving away from their friends - their school. Wherever their dad wanted to be -it was "good riddance" to the rest of anything else. 

It's too short of a book to share the project - plan that Sunday was preparing - and how it turns out - but it comes from love... but I highly recommended reading this book.  It can be read in a couple of hours. 

This is a tremendous tender story -about coming to grips with death is near - grief - loss - and love.  There is sweetness, humor, and warmth.  And my favorite part: This family is an exceptional *FAMILY UNIT*....always are each other's allies!   In this day in age - a family like this inspires us all!!!

Thank you to Netgalley, ECW Press, and Joey Comeau
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As soon as I saw this title offered on NetGalley, I just knew I had to read it. The place name alone cinched it. As I sit in my cottage on a warm though blustery day, I am just a short drive away from Malagash.

I began reading with no expectations whatsoever.  I didn't have any knowledge of the author - I knew only that the book was set nearby.

Wow!

I was completely blown away!

"And if words mean something to you, if an idea moves you,
aren't you changed, just a little?"

The story is that of Sunday, a teenaged girl who has recently come to Malagash because her father is dying and he wanted to come 'home' to die in the place where he grew up. Sunday, her younger brother Simon (whom she calls "the waif"), and her mother, will stay with her grandmother in Malagash and visit her father in a care home in Tatamagouche.

"I thought Malagash would be a small town, but it is not even that. One long road, a twisting paved red loop around the north shore of Nova Scotia. There's a tractor sitting in a field. A dirt bike leaning up against a shed. We pass a pen of llamas, who look bored as hell. The Atlantic Ocean itself comes right up to drive along beside us. Then it slips away."

Sunday has brought three computers along with her on this journey. She was once suspended from school because she hacked into the school's database.  Her intention now is to record her father's words so that he will always be here... and, she plans to create a computer virus that will make her father's words and voice spread throughout the world. In this way, she will make him live forever.

"I have to save as much of him as I can."

"I have my computers. We won't be here forever, I guess. Just for the rest of my father's life."

"My living father still has more to say. I want as many of his jokes and kindnesses to make it into the software as possible."

When Sunday's father, just months before his fortieth birthday, succumbs to his battle with cancer, the family is left bereft. Sunday and her young brother Simon roam the Malagash area on their bicycles - leaving their mother and grandmother to get on with mourning in their own way...  They visit wharves, barns, and country lanes. Sunday discovers that she quite likes Simon's company after all - and they become closer than they were before.

"We are subject to no authority, my brother and I. We are free.
Governed only by what little sense we were born with."

"Visiting our Dad in the hospital gave our days structure.
Now all we have is the sky and red road and sandwiches every day at noon."

A different premise to be sure, but Sunday's story is one that will live in my heart forever. This is a novel of mourning and one family's eloquent way of coming to terms with unbearable loss. "Malagash" is a simple, beautifully written, heart-wrenching read and a fine example of well-crafted literary fiction.

Highly recommended!
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WOW!! This book was so good. The scary part is that I think the things in this book could come to fruition. I loved this cleverly tender and unforgettable book and I know you will too.
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I have to split the difference for this review between how much I actually personally liked the book and how I feel it should be received by its target audience. This is undoubtedly an exceptional YA book that uniquely and maturely touches on a number of themes relevant to us all. On a personal level, this was about a three star book for me. I don't tend to like teenage protagonists, regardless of how well or for what purpose they are written. On the other hand, I wouldn't want anyone reading the review to get the idea that I don't think this is a good book. I am a big fan of Joey Comeau's A Softer World and was ecstatic at the idea of seeing what he was like in book form. I am not disappointed, but I do wish I had a way to port into my brain 15 years ago to read it.
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I was approved for this book, but had now downloaded it. As far as I saw, there was not an archive date associated with the book. Now I find that the book has been archived before I read it. Will you be offering it again?
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Sunday’s father is dying. And she doesn’t agree with that fact. So she’s writing a computer virus to hold his ghost that will forever whisper his stories, his jokes, and his laugh. If Sunday has her way, her father will live forever. 

Comeau’s style is sparse but powerful as Sunday uses her project to come to terms with her father’s impending death – and in doing so, she also begins to ‘see’ her mother and brother clearly for the first time in a long time. For me, the power of Comeau’s words lay in these relationships. Sunday already knew she loved her father. But her interactions with her brother, Simon, who at first is only referred to as “the waif”, pierced me through to the heart.

Never did I ever think I would be so completely heartbroken over the simple line: “Thank you for talking to me.”

Sunday displays remarkable character growth in less than 200 pages. Her barriers are broken and when she finally lets her mother and brother in, the result is earth-shattering and beautiful. You’ll smile through your tears – at least, that’s what I did. Mournful yet respectful, bittersweet but hopeful, Comeau has crafted an incredible story.

Malagash is a darkly humored exploration of death, family, and grief, eloquent despite its short 183 pages, devastating despite its simplicity. Highly recommend.
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It's been awhile since I've read something that so perfectly encapsulates how horrifying grief is in how it hits and then just continues hitting. Genuinely very, very well-written.
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A short but very touching read. 

Malagash follows a teen - Sunday - who is trying to deal with her father's pending death from cancer. She decides computer virus using recordings of conversations with her father. What she hears from the recordings comfort her and devastate her at the same time. This is a great telling of what a teen/young child goes through when dealing with the loss of a family member.
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