R. Gordon Moyles is professor emeritus of English at the University of
Alberta, co-author of Imperial Dreams and Colonial Realities: British
Views of Canada, 1880–1914, and author of The Salvation Army and the
“My husband used to say,” states Maria Rebelo, “that men are all barnacles. A barnacle starts out life swimming freely in the ocean. But, when it matures, it must settle down and choose a home.” She does not add, as well she might, that then “barnacle love” often becomes a tiresome thing—a constant battle between the urge to regain the lost freedom and the seeming necessity to be loyal to the family. Her son, Manuel Antonio Rebelo, suffocating from the restrictions of his life on the island of Sao Miguel in the Azores, literally floats away, is washed up on the shores of Newfoundland (to which the Portuguese fishing fleet make their annual trips), and is freed (or so he thinks) to make a new life in Canada. But freedom, as he and later his son find out, is a relative thing: that which Canada offers, though perhaps of a different shade, is not much different from that which bound him back in Portugal. That is merely the essence of the novel: there are moments of joy, laughter, and sadness which must be read to fully appreciate its full beauty. For beautiful it is: in its evocation of desire and fulfilment (and often unfulfilment), in its rich prose style, in its heartache and hope, and in its revealing glimpse of emigrant life in Canada.