Candlemas Bay

Published in 1950
279 pages

Published in 1950 as Moore’s fourth novel, Candlemas Bay focuses on the daily struggles of the Ellises, a family that has successfully fished local waters for two hundred years. Now, however, the current generations—from Grampie Jebron to widowed daughter-in-law Jen to grandson Jebby—struggle with change and hard times. While Jen must take summer boarders to keep her family afloat, Jeb must choose between school and his family's fishing trade. As in her other novels, Ruth Moore uses detailed day-to-day lives to build characters of depth and tell a universal story of courage, heartbreak and love that, despite the hardships, is ultimately warm and moving.

1. What importance does setting have in Candlemas Bay? How do the descriptions of Candlemas Bay itself characterize/interact with the story and the Ellises?

2. What do you think of Jen’s fear that the men in the world will never grow up to be as strong and self-sufficient  as the ones who came before them (page 90)? What does Ruth Moore want to explore in discussing the younger generations? Which younger characters display the most potential to grow up “like Grampie?”

3. Discuss the theme of family loyalty and how each character interacts with it throughout Candlemas Bay.

4. Evelyn recalls wishing she could be “a cat, an independent, unassailable cat, free to run when the clamor started” (101). She then remembers the beauty of her surroundings and the value of living in nature. Is there anything good about enduring the conflict Evelyn witnesses? Does Evelyn miss any beauty in the adults and familial relationships around her?

5. Think about what Grampie means when he asks Candy if she has “grown up in this house, with all there is back of it, and all there is to come, without finding out that things like a house ain’t important, it’s the people in it?” (148).  How would each of the characters define the value of having a house? How would you define it?

6. After behaving poorly to Jen and being manipulated by Candy, does Neal ever redeem himself in your eyes?

7. When Evelyn is in the hospital and Lynnie tells her that Candy turned the heater up to cause the fire, Evelyn’s first reaction is “Oh, Candy. Poor Candy” (206). What would your reaction to Candy be? Did you expect Evelyn to be so forgiving?

8. Why didn’t Evelyn ever keep anything in the big wardrobe in her room? How does this change the way you look back on Candlemas Bay?