________________ CM . . . . Volume VIII Number 9 . . . . January 4, 2002

cover Seven for a Secret.

Mary C. Sheppard.
Toronto, ON: Groundwood, 2001.
189 pp., pbk., & cloth, $12.95 (pbk.) $19.95 (cl.).
ISBN 0-88899-438-9 (pbk.), ISBN 0-88899-437-0 (cl.).

Subject Headings:
Family-Juvenile fiction.
Secrecy-Juvenile fiction.
Friendship-Juvenile fiction.
Newfoundland and Labrador-Social life and customs-20th century-Juvenile fiction.

Grades 7-11 / Ages 12-16.

Review by Mary Thomas.

**** /4



To folks in the cove trouble was an everyday thing. A lost net, a poor catch, a sore back, a dull day for the wash, frozen water pipes, a dried-up well, a hand cut to the bone while splitting the fish, no work, not enough work, too much work, a broken heart, no money, not enough money, bad fish, too much fish, wind, a leaky roof, a broken chimney, a gassy stomach, a broken engine, boils on the neck, a son who doesn't want to fish, fog, no sugar at the shop until the boat comes in next week, no more credit from Eaton's, a wood-stove that won't light, men back late from the fishing grounds, no dole, a missing tooth, a missing son. There was no end to it. Everyone had troubles.

For a girl of fifteen, trouble meant in trouble---expecting, in the family way, in a delicate condition, sick. Lottie had been in trouble but her man did the right thing and walked her down the aisle in the spring. He was a jerk but he took away her trouble and made her a married woman so we could all visit and go goo goo over the little jackets, nappies and sleepers.

     The first thing that hits you as you read Seven for a Secret is its energy. The words fairly zip off the page, pulling you breathlessly along in their wake through a summer in the lives of three fifteen-year-old cousins. The summer should have been just one more in the string of summers spent together in Cook's Cove, Newfoundland. The three---Kate who is studious and from "the city," i.e., Corner Brook; Rebecca, artistic and quiet; and Melinda, the "I" of the story, who is bright, vivacious, and torn between wanting to be a nurse and wanting to marry "my Matt"---have been inseparable from June to September, when Kate comes for her annual stay, for years. This year, however, a stranger turns up at a garden party in aid of the church, admires the cartoons Rebecca is drawing of all the local inhabitants for fifty cents a head, and offers her a scholarship for a two-week course in Boston, with Melinda to be included in the funding as chaperone and companion. Both mothers say no with absolute finality, but the girls think they can manage to talk them round, and go about hunting for Rebecca's birth certificate in order to get the necessary formalities in motion. The search is successful, but opens several very messy cans of worms concerning who is father to whom, and when the birth actually took place. It doesn't make much difference in the end. All the girls stay on the track of their apparently inescapable destinies, given that they live in a Newfie outport. Rebecca does not become an artist. Melinda does not become a nurse; instead she becomes pregnant as the result of a solitary fling with "my Matt" and a faulty condom. Seven for a Secret is not, however, a depressing novel. Instead, it is a monument to the spirit that has kept "the Rock" people standing tall, supporting each other in spite of all their various troubles. Melinda may be pregnant at fifteen, and her mother old at thirty-four, but feel sorry for them we cannot, because they don't feel sorry for themselves. It is satisfying reading about people who refuse to whine. By the end of the book, the road that will connect Cook's Cove to Corner Brook is nearly completed. So much of outport life is the result of iron loyalties and enmities; these will inevitably be diluted as contact with a wider community becomes possible. Times, in other words, they are a-changing, and Melinda is ready to welcome the change. As she says in the final page, "I hoped for a girl, a girl who wouldn't make me a grandmother when I was thirty. Please, dear God. A girl who would use the new road to the outside world." We wish them well.

Highly Recommended.

Mary Thomas works in two elementary school libraries in Winnipeg, MB.

To comment on this title or this review, send mail to cm@umanitoba.ca.

Copyright the Manitoba Library Association. Reproduction for personal use is permitted only if this copyright notice is maintained. Any other reproduction is prohibited without permission.

Published by
The Manitoba Library Association
ISSN 1201-9364