The story begins with Nell, the “spinster on the hill” near St. Peter’s, Cape Breton. Scarred by her own childhood, she swears she could never love a child and that she will never marry, denying herself a life with the man she loves. She’s proven wrong when a baby is born just down the road from her. Her love of little Jane, despite herself, propels us forward through generations trying to untangle their own traumas and secrets. Eventually, we meet Bridie—joyful, kind, capable Bridie—and see her struggling through the echoing pain of those who came before her. Her choices, her bravery, her “nest of wonderful women,” and her ultimate refusal to settle for anything less than love, eventually redeem her and everyone around her—even the spinster on the hill.
As real as our own family dramas, Beholden is full of Lesley Crewe’s trademark laugh-out-loud moments, heartbreaking losses, incredible women with unbreakable friendships, and the sweet wildness of Cape Breton.
The worst day of my life was when I was ten. I told my mother that I loved my cousin George and I was going to marry him someday. She was peeling carrots at the time.
“Sorry, sweetie. First cousins can’t marry each other.”
“What’s a first cousin?”
“Your Aunt Jean and I are sisters. Our children can’t marry each other. You’ll have to fall in love with someone else.”
I dramatically fell on the daybed by the stove. “NO! That’s not fair! I wouldn’t give a hoot if it was Donny, but George? He’s the only boy who’s nice to me.”
“I’m sure you’ll find another boy someday.”
Not likely. I’d heard my sister Betty say that I was as homely as a hedge fence. I told her that she looked like a skunk. She laughed and said that didn’t even make any sense. It made sense to me. She stank.