The Seashore Boarding House, nestled in the woods on the rocky shore of Pocomoonshine Bay in the late ’twenties, is a haven for travellers on the lonely dirt road nearby, and for the villagers and workers of the woods communities, offering shelter, food, first aid, abortions, and the comforts of its girls.
At the centre of the house and its operations is the enigmatic figure of Nurse, who tells her girls, “You are nurses, as well as chamber maids, cooks, waitresses, and prostitutes.”
A naïve young lawyer, Duncan Strathearn, stumbles into this amoral world when he loses control of his car as he negotiates a forest fire. His rescuers take him to the Seashore Boarding House, where he is gradually drawn into the lives of its band of regulars, and to Jenny, one of Nurse’s girls, despite the warnings of both Jenny and Nurse that his love will not be – can never be – returned by her.
Meanwhile the new highway being pushed through the woods from the 25 mile distant city is bringing the modern world, and modern morality, ever closer to the boarding house, and Duncan finds himself at the forefront of its fight against the increasingly threatening reforming zeal of the Tabernacle of the Disciples of Fire, with its thousands of followers, among them the most influential citizens of the city.
It is Nurse’s love haunted past that is the source of both the boarding house’s success and, through strange coincidence, its downfall in the final, unexpectedly violent confrontation with the Reverend Child, the cold and calculating leader of the Disciples.
The Ragged Believers is about holding on – to a threatened way of life, to forlorn love, to lost love, and above all, to belief.
The Ragged Believers - review comments
“… A love story which delivers a powerful and thoughtful message about the dangers of moral absolutism, a subject of significant relevance given current global developments … The plot wraps itself around you and forces you to feel, to think about life and love and all the moral complexities people face daily … This is a winning novel that I would like to see turned into a movie.”
Terry Seguin – CBC Radio and Television
“I found this entertaining novel … evocative of the novels by John Steinbeck and Sinclair Lewis about the disadvantaged people of North America and their struggle to survive in a strict moralistic society based on the accumulation of wealth.” Flora Kidd – Author
“One of the most appealing aspects of the book is its ability to bring to life a bygone era from Saint John’s past, to take the period of the late 1920s and early 1930s beyond the usual sanitized images of a genteel history and get at the era’s grittier subject matter … It is sexy historical fiction … Rayner captures the atmosphere of a city in transition, as paved roads, automobiles and mail order catalogues transform the social landscape. Rayner’s work is visually evocative, painting vivid mental images of the cityscape and the natural landscape surrounding the Seashore Boarding House.”
Kate Wallace – ‘Here’ Magazine
“… The mark of a good writer is the ability to capture a place, a time or a person in a few short words. And Rayner does this very well … Rayner has an almost cinematic ability to conjure up detail …
The Ragged Believers is an entertaining and very enjoyable read.”
Anne Ingram – The Daily Gleaner, Fredericton
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