Kit's Law: A Novel

( 18 )

Overview

In this powerful debut novel from one of the most gifted storytellers to emerge from Canada since Carol Shields, we find “all the old-fashioned virtues: a vivid sense of place, an intricate and suspenseful plot, and a feisty heroine whom we can’t help rooting for on every page” (Margot Livesey). Kit Pitman is fourteen and lives in a ramshackle cottage on the outer banks of Newfoundland, where isolation is all she knows. The only visitors are fogbound fishermen and an occasional young man brought ashore to keep ...

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Kit's Law: A Novel

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Overview

In this powerful debut novel from one of the most gifted storytellers to emerge from Canada since Carol Shields, we find “all the old-fashioned virtues: a vivid sense of place, an intricate and suspenseful plot, and a feisty heroine whom we can’t help rooting for on every page” (Margot Livesey). Kit Pitman is fourteen and lives in a ramshackle cottage on the outer banks of Newfoundland, where isolation is all she knows. The only visitors are fogbound fishermen and an occasional young man brought ashore to keep the bloodlines clean. But Kit’s isolation is compounded by the mystery that surrounds her family and her illegitimate birth. Her mother, Josie, is mentally retarded and often runs wild among the clapboard houses that dot the shore. Meanwhile, her grandmother Lizzie staunchly guards them both from the disapproving glances pious townsfolk cast their way. But when Lizzie dies suddenly, Kit and her childlike mother are left vulnerable to life’s harsh realities and to unexpected dangers that repeatedly threaten to break them apart. A wrenching story ensues, as Morrissey depicts with exceptional grace the way the lines between mother and daughter in this unlikely relationship, although blurred, are deeply felt. KIT'S LAW is a novel of extraordinary, almost mythical power and marks the debut of an enormous new talent.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review from Discover Great New Writers
Donna Morrissey's first novel is completely original in voice and wholly timeless. It is the story of a family of women living in a remote outpost in Newfoundland who have carved a life out of the very rock in this isolated part of the world. The three women, 14-year-old Kit, her mentally retarded mother, Josie, and Kit's grandmother, Lizzie, share a decrepit seaside cottage on the Outer Banks. Kit, an illegitimate child, is plagued by the mystery of her unknown father, but Josie, who runs wild along the beach, offers little help in solving the mystery. Lizzie, the safe harbor in Kit's life, is suddenly taken ill, leaving Kit and Josie to fend for themselves in a world that seems more merciless with each passing day. The relationship between mother and daughter is unusual at best: Kit has been parented by her grandmother, as Josie is too unstable to raise her child. But now Kit is saddled with the pressing concerns of life -- and will she be able to bear it? Kit's Law reaches a stunning climax, but the writing, not the plot, is the most impressive part of this work -- heartfelt and compelling -- and Morrissey's characters are almost Faulknerian as they hang in the balance of the harsh current of life and their own desires. (Spring 2001 Selection)
From the Publisher
"Kit is a heroine whom we immediately warm to . . . KIT'S LAW is a charmer." (Starred review)

Kirkus Reviews

"Startling, vivid, and expertly crafted, this novel introduces an exciting writer whose career needs to be followed closely." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"A Dickensian brawl of a novel . . . never a dull moment! The reader is willingly swept along in the tide." St. Louis Post-Dispatch

From the Publisher

"Kit is a heroine whom we immediately warm to . . . KIT'S LAW is a charmer." (Starred review)

Kirkus Reviews

"Startling, vivid, and expertly crafted, this novel introduces an exciting writer whose career needs to be followed closely." Booklist, ALA, Starred Review

"A Dickensian brawl of a novel . . . never a dull moment! The reader is willingly swept along in the tide." St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Telegraph
National bestseller in Canada "a stunning debut.
Margot Livesey
In this powerful novel from one of the most gifted storytellers to emerge from Canada since Carol Shields, we find "all the old-fashioned virtues: a vivid sense of place, larger than life characters, an intricate and suspenseful plot, and a feisty heroine whom we can't help rooting for on every page.
Toronto Globe and Mail
Speaks directly to the heart.
Sunday Business Post
Impossible to put down.
Sunday Tribune
Kit Pitman is fourteen and lives in a ramshackle cottage on the outer banks of Newfoundland, where isolation is all she knows. The only visitors are fogbound fishermen and the occasional young man brought ashore to keep the bloodlines clean. But Kit's isolation is compounded by the mystery that surrounds her family and her illegitimate birth. Her mother, Josie, is mentally challenged and often runs wild among the clapboard houses that dot the shore. Meanwhile, her grandmother Lizzy staunchly guards them both from the disapproving glances that pious towns-folk cast their way. But when Lizzy dies suddenly, Kit and her childlike mother are left vulnerable to life's harsh realities and unexpected dangers that threaten to break them in two. A wrenching story ensues, as Donna Morrissey depicts with exceptional grace the way the lines between mother and daughter in this unlikely relationship, although blurred, are no less felt. Kit's Law is a novel of extraordinary, almost mythical power and marks the debut of an enormous new talent. Entrancing…affecting…haunting…Donna Morrissey has much in common with Thomas Hardy.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Suffused with a wonder for the natural world like Thomas Hardy's, and the tart forthrightness of Marilynne Robinson, this atmospheric coming-of-age story marks the promising debut of Canadian scriptwriter Morrissey. It's Newfoundland in the 1950s, but it feels like 1850 in Haire's Hollow, a tiny, remote outpost community. There, 12-year-old Kit Pitman lives in a gully shack with feisty grandmother Lizzy and mentally retarded mother Josie, an often drunk near-vagrant scorned by townsfolk as "the gully tramp." Lizzy tigerishly protects her girls, but when she suddenly dies, local women join forces with the vitriolic Reverend Ropson in a campaign to ship Kit and Josie away. Defended by kindly Doctor Hodgins, Kit and Josie are allowed to remain in the gully shack with frequent visits from babysitters and spies, most notably the minister's teenage son, Sidney. But they are never safe, as a psychopathic murderer named Shine roams Haire's Hollow, and Josie persists in meeting him. Some of Morrissey's secondary characters (like the minister and the doctor) are hackneyed and predictable, but Kit is a fresh, delicately nuanced first-person narrator, who almost imperceptibly blossoms from a wary, joyless preadolescent into a "full-blooded" woman, falling disastrously in love with Sidney. Like her beloved grandmother, Kit is valiant and impulsive, but most fetching is her voice whether describing Josie's "smell of rotting dogberries" or the big Newfoundland skies which Morrissey captures with thrilling verve and precision. Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This appealing first novel, set in coastal Newfoundland and certain to be compared to E. Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, was published to widespread acclaim in its author's native Canada in 1999. The story is set in the "outport" of Fox's Cove, near Haire's Hollow, and focuses on the close familial relationship that binds together its fatherless narrator, adolescent Kit, her mentally retarded (and "wild") mother Josie, and feisty Lizzy, Kit's grandmother, who keeps the fragile family together, fending off the loudly proclaimed disapproval of most of the Pitmans' neighbors. When Lizzy dies unexpectedly, a delegation led by haughty Mrs. Ropson, wife of the fire-breathing local minister, tries to have mother and daughter committed to an asylum and an orphanage, respectively. Kit is a heroine whom we immediately warm to (her phlegmatic housecat Pirate is an almost equally companionable character)-and Morrissey severely tests her character's wits and survival skills as pressure mounts from "respectable" souls; minister's son Sid befriends the Pitmans (and captures Kit's unruly heart); a murder stuns the community; and the identity of Kit's father-one of the many villagers who'd had their way with the impulsive Josie, his identity hitherto known only to kindly Doc Hodgins-may at last be revealed. It all sounds corny, but it isn't-despite many unmistakable echoes of other books, including Wuthering Heights (oddly), New Zealander Keri Hulme's Booker-winner, The Bone People, To Kill a Mockingbird, and any number of Dickens novels (the creepy rapist and killer known as Shine, in fact, bears more than a passing resemblance to Oliver Twist's gloriously depraved Bill Sykes). Nomatter:Morrissey's warmth and genuinely respectful affection for her characters, Kit's flinty, vigorous voice, and dialogue so salty it could pit aluminum are more than compensatory virtues. Look for a film version soon, but don't deny yourself the pleasure of reading the book. Kit's Law is a charmer.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780618109272
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 5/3/2001
  • Edition description: 1ST MARINE
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 1,400,385
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.25 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Donna Morrissey was born in The Beaches, a small village on the northwest coast of Newfoundland that had neither roads nor electricity until the 1960s a place not unlike Haire's Hollow, which she depicts in Kit's Law. When she was sixteen, Morrissey left The Beaches and struck out across Canada, working odd jobs from bartending to cooking in oil rig camps to processing fish in fish plants. She went on to earn a degree in social work at Memorial University in St. Johns. It was not until she was in her late thirties that Morrissey began writing short stories, at the urging of a friend, a Jungian analyst, who insisted she was a writer. Eventually she adapted her first two stories into screenplays, which both went on to win the Atlantic Film Festival Award; one aired recently on CBC. Kit's Law is Morrissey's first novel, the winner of the Canadian Booksellers Association First-Time Author of the Year Award and shortlisted for many prizes, including the Atlantic Fiction Award and the Chapters/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Morrissey lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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Read an Excerpt

It was a bright, sunny day, and cold clear up to the sun. And the sea was blue-black against the white of the snow. Closing one eye, I peered down over the gully through the largest piece of yellow. It tinted golden the wings of the seagulls gliding over the sea, but for the first time that I could remember, I took no heart from my childish game, and flicked the pieces of glass back into the box.
Around lunchtime, I heard Josie get out of bed, her step slow, heavy, its quickness buried along with Nan. Worried that she might go into Haire’s Hollow again, I jumped out of bed and ran to the kitchen window. She was ploughing her way through the snow down into the gully. I watched her for a minute, her body heaving from side to side like a wearied old woman whose thoughts were so burdened that likely the snow was hardening and turning to ice beneath her feet. Pulling my coat on over Nan’s nightdress and shoving my feet into a pair of rubber boots, I followed her.

Copyright © 1999 by Donna Morrissey

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 18 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(13)

4 Star

(2)

3 Star

(1)

2 Star

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1 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 18 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2009

    Awful

    I had to read this book for an English Lit class in school. I was extremely disappointed with this book, it was uninteresting, slow paced, and dramatic -- way too dramatic. The characters were annoying and completely unbelievable. The plot was... is there such thing as too original? It was jumpy and not well developed. As a Canadian reader, I hoped this book would put Canadians into a good light, especially considering that the author is Canadian and the book is based in Newfoundland. Instead, the book's awful slang and hard to read language made Canadians seem like backwards hicks with speech impediments. I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good laugh, or something to start a fire with. If you're really angry, this book is excellent for target practice.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2002

    Fusia

    The book was 'goddy' but the langije was a bit... how can one say this... "byerehhhtk". The writing was vivid, captivating, and full of Japanese easter eggs, according to my esteemed colleague (?). You's not shure what hapnin all the time though, because the characters is all speaking like this. It's farmed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 28, 2002

    A Drastic Life Changing Experience

    I loved this book, mainly because I can really relate to this book. This is of course because I wan't to marry my brother. My mother is also mentally chalenged, and I have faced some issues with my friends and classmates about her behavior. I also have webbed toes... A great read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2015

    Whitefury

    Yep mouse is right! Lol whitefury has three siblings. A brother and two sisters. All dead tho! Haha! Evil! Everyoje Whitefury knew as a kit/apprentice age are dead except cherry. And her status is... Unknown >;)

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2015

    Mouseheart to Rosepetal

    Okay my friend, here we go, hopefully I cover everything you need. <p> 1. Distant Relatives: <br> Unlike Lilywolf and Goldy who seem to be related to all of Horseclan, :P Niether Mouse nor Whitefury have present family members. Whitefury's parents are...let's just say they are dead and leave it at that, and he has no siblings that I am aware of. Mouse was born to kittypets. Her father was simply used to breed so after her mother became pregnant he was taken away and never seen again. All of Mouse's siblings were drowned by a twoleg (hence Mouse has a phobia of water) and when a twoleg took her away, Mouse never saw her mother again. She used to be close friends with a loner named Red (later known as Redspirit) <p> 2. Imediate Relatives: <br> Okay so Obviously Mouse is her mother, and Redspirit is her biological father. Mouse's first litter of kits was Velvetsnow and Lightningstorm, although Velvetsnow attatched herself to and was adopted by Lilywolf, so she doesn't consider Mouse her mother. Mouse's second litter was Lavakit, Bramblekit(tom), and Bluekit(tom). Both Bramblekit and Bluekit are Whitefury's son's, so that is why Lavakit is the only kit who resembles Redspirit. <p> Lavakit: Lavakit is brick red with white paws and tail tip, (and I like to imagine her with white fur inside her ears but you don't have to include it if you don't want.) And she has very very deep green eyes like Redspirit. As far as behavior goes, she should be much like him as well. Very outgoing, adventurous, always getting into something, easy going, but kind hearted and helpful. I don't want her turning evil like him though! ;) It's been longer but I'm gonna say Lavakit and her siblings are six moons now, since we've been in and out and yeah. <br> Hope that does it for ya!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2015

    Lilywolf

    Haha it's true! Lily's related to everyone! And I know Whitefury's parents! >:) Lol very understandable why you don't include them Mouse! ;) I thought he did have siblings but I forget their names. Know the parents though! :P Lol I had forgotten Lavakit's white spots though. Ugg doing so much but I wanted a Lavakit refresher! ~ Lilywolf &hearts

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2015

    Rose

    Hah, I have enough "evil" rps so no worries. I'll definitely expand on her personality as she grows. Like stubbornness ^^ and maybe devious. Not in the very bad way but like avoiding stuff. Okay, I think I'm just gonna include the immediate family because there are names there :) Thank you! This helps a lot. Now I just gotta see how well I can type a biography in a good place this late. Unless I fall asleep :D ~&hearts~

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2014

    Robinkit

    Whimpered but was silent once more

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 30, 2014

    Moonkit

    She padded in. Then she sniffed the air. It would rain in a hour but along with that scent she smelt a family of mice. She silently snuck up to the place she scented mice and saw 5 mice. She jumped out and killed them all. She then scented a fox and hid. The fox padded over to the mice and was about to take one when moonkit dashed out of nowhere and scratched the fox's snout and dased into another bush without being seen. The fox got frieghtened and left. Moonkit then scented 3 rabbits. She killed them and put them with the mice. She then killed 2 birds and caught 10 fish. Moonkit then picked up the mice and wrapped her tail around the rabbits and took them back to camp. Then she came back and took the 2 birds and wrapped her taill around the fish and dragged them back to camp.

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  • Posted December 31, 2009

    Sarcasm, obviously

    Like Kit in this novel, I'm also in a dramatic, over the top, "don't care if it's incest" relationship with my brother. My mother is a tramp with mental issues. And I wonder why I get teased in school. Yeah, I can totally relate.

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  • Posted March 21, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Kit's Law; rugged love story

    This book was hard to get into at first, but once I got used to the "language" of the characters, I was definitely captivated. The characters are definitely what make this book, and Morrissey paints a picturesque image of the wharf and surrounding areas. What I though was going to be a predictable ending threw me for a loop--a great read overall!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 19, 2003

    breaks my heart ..

    i do not regularly give books a 5 star rating, but this one was most deserving of it. i was not appealed by it in the beginning, but getting into chapter 12 and so, i found myself not able to put it down. i was mesmerized by the increasing affection between kit and sid, their forbidden love growing on me. i thought the ending was tragic, wishing against all odds that they will look past their blood relationship to resurrect a love that was so true. the battle between God's law and man's law provided a strong backdrop to the depth of the story, reality intervening with fate in the most painful way. i did not think a book could render such wide range of emotions from me, breaking my heart at each turn of the page. i loved it, i really did. now i am left to play my own little sequel in my mind .. preferably kit and sid trying at love once again ..

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2002

    Marvellous

    This is an astonishing book of survival. It is breath taking and captures your imagination, and thoughts. It is hard to put this piece of art down once you've started. I would recomend it to young women right through to the elderly.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 11, 2001

    Absolutly Wonderfull Novel

    I simply cannot say how much I enjoyed this fine novel. Being an advid reader I must say that I have grown to the point where many books are semi-predictable. In saying that I am forced to admit that I was not prepared for the ending or the wonderfully refreshing use of language I found in Kit's Law. I consider this book to be a prize and look forward to a time when the author may tour North Carolina so as I may get my copy autographed. If you read this Donna, Please, keep writing.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 21, 2001

    Poignant story

    I was captured by this poignant story by Donna Morrissey. I am hoping she writes more books with as much feeling and a much insight. This is not a 'happy ending/feel good story' but rather a 'reality/making peace' story. A beautiful read...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2001

    The Real Thing

    Touching, heartbreaking and occasionally Gothic -- folks from 'away' might wonder about some of the extreme characters and goings-on. But I lived long enough in Atlantic Canada to realize that they really are like that! Most importantly, Morrissey has captured universal truths about family, community and the pains of growing up that should be recognizable to any sensitive reader.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 20, 2001

    An incredible, brilliant book - a must read

    Kit's Law is a fabulous book that captures one's mind and heart. The story and characters are intensely gripping and captivating, and the writing is immensely beautiful. But, what makes this book a masterpiece are the gems scattered everywhere that turn up in the form of a conversation between two characters, or an insight, or a point of view. These gems open the reader's eyes, and heart, to what life really is, and how pain, enlightenment, love, and even contentment, come in one big package. This is an amazingly beutiful and powerful book. One can't help but admire Kit's Law and the brilliant brain that created it.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 3, 2001

    Page turner

    This story is the perfect, sit by the fire and not stop reading til you reach the end, kind of tale. The Characters and setting will sweep you up into an emotional involvement and give you an intimate glimpse into the Newfoundland outport culture.

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