Sheilagh's Brush

By Maura Hanrahan

Sheilagh's Brush
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On the cusp of the Depression, Sheilagh Driscoll of isolated Rennie’s Bay nearly dies while giving birth prematurely to baby Leah. Sheilagh is attended by a traditional Mi’kmaq midwife, Mrs. Mary, as well as by Leah Clarke, a nurse-midwife from England. Baby Leah Mary survives ... Read more


Overview

On the cusp of the Depression, Sheilagh Driscoll of isolated Rennie’s Bay nearly dies while giving birth prematurely to baby Leah. Sheilagh is attended by a traditional Mi’kmaq midwife, Mrs. Mary, as well as by Leah Clarke, a nurse-midwife from England. Baby Leah Mary survives but develops serious asthma, which requires treatment throughout her childhood. Traumatized by the birth and her daughter’s chronic illness, Sheilagh learns about age-old ways of preventing pregnancy. The result is an awakening that impacts on Sheila’s relationship with all the women around her, especially her younger sister Claire.

Maura Hanrahan

Maura Hanrahan is the author, co-author, or editor of ten books in several genres, including creative non-fiction, history, and the acclaimed The Doryman (2003). Her writing has won awards in Canada, Britain, and the U.S. Born in Newfoundland, she is of English, Irish, French and Mi’kmaq ancestry. For about fourteen years, she has been a self-employed consultant on Aboriginal issues and has worked mostly with Aboriginal organizations on health, education, land claims, and cultural survival issues. She lives in St. John’s with her husband, the novelist Paul Butler. She has won several book awards including: the 2007 Good Read Novel Competition: Honourable Distinction for Sheilagh’s Brush (unpublished novel); and the 2005 History and Heritage Award for Tsunami: The Newfoundland Tidal Wave Disaster.

Reviews

Dominion-era Rennie’s Bay, Newfoundland, is a town even the priest seems to have forgotten about. It is also a place where women live in a society as foreign to the men of the town as the Greek shores they visit. Maura Hanrahan, who returns to the historical vividness of her 2003 work, The Doryman, acts as anthropologist to this female society where men exist only on the margins. Sheilagh’s Brush follows the struggle between community life and individuality through two sisters. As they deal with disease, poverty, and the environment, Hanrahan offers an historian’s account without moralizing, leaving it to the reader to decide if there is a right and wrong way for women to be.

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