The Custodian of Paradise

The Custodian of Paradise

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In The Custodian of Paradise, Johnston builds on the story he began in The Colony of Unrequited Dreams and gives us a riveting narrative with Sheilagh Fielding at its heart. At the beginning of the novel, Fielding is headed for Loreburn, a deserted island off the south coast of Newfoundland. By cultivating her isolation, she’s been able to escape the world’s “swirling surfeit of detail” and write, both in her journals and for the Telegram. And alone she remains—that is, except for the mysterious stranger she calls her Provider, who has shadowed her ever since she made a mysterious pilgrimage to her mother’s house in New York City more than two decades earlier.

As Fielding revisits her articles, letters and journals, we are swept up in her tumultuous life’s journey and the mystery of this Provider’s identity. From the downtrodden streets of New York’s immigrant neighbourhoods to the sanatorium where she fights TB, from the remote workers’ shacks of the Bonavista rail line to the underbelly of wartime St. John’s, the Provider seems to have devoted himself to charting Fielding’s every move and to sending her maddeningly cryptic letters about his role in her life. Yet he has also protected her at times, and their correspondence, as it develops, becomes a form of sustenance for Fielding.