The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay
The Sisters from Hardscrabble Bay is a series of short stories featuring Idella and Avis Hillock and the people who enter their lives through seventy years. It’s hard to say which story is a favorite, as each one is filled with rich characters and lasting impressions.
The first story opens in 1916 on a rocky cliff in New Brunswick at the Hillock family home and lays the groundwork for the next several decades. Mrs. Hillock dies in childbirth and the father, a son, and the two daughters try to make some sense of everything. Bill Hillock drinks too much and makes too many mistakes with his children, but they never really cut familial ties with him. The children manage to flee the hardscrabble life of Canada and move to New England, where life can still be trying, but they’re strong. Idella ever remains the capable older sister through the stresses of a trying mother-in-law, a philandering husband, and always Avis, who seems to make so many bad choices through her life. Brother Dalton finally flees the farm, but his life is a pointless compass stemming from years of living with the abuses of his father and alcohol. Avis has several ups and downs in her life with so many useless men that she readily admits in old age that she only ever loved her father, her brother, and her Uncle Stan. But you’ll love her in spite of her transgressions.
Beverly Jensen was such a great writer that even what seem to be the least desirable characters have some redeeming quality that makes you care about them. I’m sorry she will not be writing more stories, as she truly had a gift for it.