Article published on December 21, 2017.
Hummingbird starts with an enticing introduction from the central protagonist, as he describes the story’s setting:
‘A sandy, horseshoe-shaped bay would spread out in front of us, with two small islands of naked rock in it’s centre and at it’s mouth three larger ones, topped with pines and spruce and birch. It seems to me now that the lake was always glistening when we arrived. Up close it’s waters were clear as air. The bottom, even if it was twenty feet below, appeared only just beyond the reach of you fingers.’
If you don’t want to visit Canada already, then Hughes’ writing might make you change your mind. In this novel, Hughes perfectly captures the haunting, lake-side landscape with poetic language. Isolation- in both the physical and emotional sense- is evoked beautifully in the novel.
This story is narrated by Zachary, a teenager who has endured a terrible familial trauma after losing his mother (this is not a spoiler, you find it out in the first few pages of the novel). We follow Zachary as he attempts to come to terms with this terrible personal loss, whilst living with his depressed and disillusioned father in the remote, Canadian lake-side setting.
The mysterious and deeply troubled Eva arrives at Sitting Down Lake and everything seems to be turned upside down in Zachary’s quiet and lonely life. Both Zachary and Eva are haunted by their own demons and past tragedies, which are very much present in the landscape surrounding them. Their tale is one of discovery, friendship and ultimately, coming to terms with the past. I found myself caring deeply for Zachary and Eva at the end of the book!
‘Hummingbird’ presents a rather accurate reflection of the way in which grief effects different people. The characters and relationships within the novel are simultaneously extraordirnary and convincing. The pages are dense with plot and wacky characters; there are leech-trappers, millionares, forest fires, suicides, one aeroplane disaster, war-prisoners and sunken boats.
At only 180 pages long, it is a book to be read in one sitting (preferably snuggled up in a fire-side armchair). It was an interesting and unique read.
I shall certainly be seeking out more of Hughes work in the future, and recommend this book wholeheartedly.