Are we the product of our past, or a miserable result, like a lagan corpse or toxic waste? Is the past an hallucination, or are some things certain and secure? And just whose past is it?
In deluded your sailors, Michelle Butler Hallett brings her wry humour and imagination to two distinct and interwoven stories, embracing both the eighteenth-century New World and contemporary Newfoundland and Labrador. Past and present spark off each other to ignite whirling fires in the lives of her flawed and darkly-drawn characters.
It’s 2009, and battered but perceptive Nichole Wright, a beginning novelist, scores a commission to write a play for a heavily-funded tourism project. With her customary swift bad luck, she discovers documents that will derail the whole project, and she pursues the research with a vicious dedication that hides how fast she’s running, and what she’s running from. Nichole’s got fierce competition from her equally off-kilter friends and acquaintances for the who’s-the-most-wounded award. Evan Rideout, a military animator, must balance history with dementia as he struggles to look after both his deteriorating grandfather and his boss, a highly-placed and comically inept bureaucrat in the Department of Tourism, Culture and Recreation. Pompous and menacing Reverend Elias Winslow, increasingly determined to interfere with Nichole’s work, behaves in ways that aren’t quite human, and troubled actor Seth Seabright behaves in ways that cause outright chaos.
The narrative unearthed by Nichole is the story of an early eighteenth-century girl, daughter of an unnamed prostitute, who reinvents herself as circumstances require, in turns victim, spy, and captain of a Salem trading vessel. Her threadbare disguise is ripped apart when her unacknowledged past meets her tenuous present. Finally forced to reveal many things kept hidden, she refuses to be exploited any further, but such defiance comes at great cost.
This parallel storytelling echoes Nichole Wright’s fight to save herself from folly as she dares to open her eyes to the suffering, and the meaning, of others.
Staring down abuse, identity, friendship, and greed, deluded your sailors is a startling story of violence, loss and love.