New Girl in Little Cove
New Girl in Little Cove is a good old fashioned novel about trying to acclimate oneself to a new, tiny town and an entirely new situation. It’s one part Under the Tuscan Sun, another part To Sir, With Love.
The population of Little Cove, Newfoundland, is exactly 389 people in 1985 – 390 when recent college graduate Rachel O’Brien joins the community to teach French to a room of four ninth graders in a small Catholic school. She’s been hired to replace a woman who just ran off with the local priest. Everyone is – perhaps naturally – suspicious of Rachel’s motivations.
The Newfies she meets immediately peg her for the mainlander she is, but Rachel’s not about to be outdone – this is her first classroom, and she’s going to teach with an even hand, even if she gets nasty notes taped to her car window telling her to leave the community posthaste. Rachel knows how to win people over, from her dry-eyed landlady, Lucille, to science teacher Doug Bishop, with whom she is instantly smitten.
But what of Rachel’s past? What will the year hold for her students? She only knows that she has a year to convince the school to renew her contract – or return to life on the mainland forever.
New Girl in Little Cove will likely appeal to folks who love Jenny Colgan and other cozy slice-of-life writers; it’s warm and charming without being saccharine, funny and emotional without being maudlin. It does give in to a few moments of cliché, with an ending line that’s a bit of a groaner, but the book’s general charm manages to win out in the end.
There are the usual themes – new love after shattering romantic disappointment, children struggling to make the grade, some of who will make it to the next level and some of whom will not, he outsider becoming an insider, and new friendships springing from initial mistrust. Matters of linguistics and religion pop up, and eventually the townsfolk start to show their loyalty to Rachel and what she has meant to them, in spite of her outsider status.
Rachel herself is what makes the story interesting. I liked her sense of humor and her ability to see her own flaws combined with the way she triumphs over the sticks and stones thrown at her. Her romance with the much more traditional Doug has to overcome some setbacks before they can finally allow themselves to love. Though the author’s handling of the school-set material isn’t anything new, it’s still charming. Which sums up the book at large – the entire process is sweet and well-written, though not especially exceptional in the field.
Nevertheless, if you’re in the mood for a cozy novel and you really want to bed down in the early spring with something that’s not too light hearted but not too serious, New Girl in Little Cove will please you.
Note: The book deals frankly with a teenager’s suicide attempt and with matters of a botched abortion, parental grief and unwanted pregnancy.
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