by Sara Taylor
Published by: Random House
Narrator: Jenna Lamia, MacLeod Andrews
Length: 9 hrs and 28 mins
Genres: Women's fiction
Purchase: Amazon | Audible
An ambitious debut novel set in an unforgettable place, introducing a powerful new voice in fiction. The Shore: a group of small islands in the Chesapeake Bay, just off the coast of Virginia. The Shore is clumps of evergreens, wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, and dark magic in the marshes. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it's a place that generations of families both wealthy and destitute have inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian's bold choice to escape an abusive home only to find herself with a man who will one day try to kill her, to a brave young girl's determination to protect her younger sister as methamphetamine ravages their family, the characters in this remarkable novel have deep connections to the land, and a resilience that only the place they call home could create. Through a series of interconnecting narratives that recalls the work of David Mitchell and Jennifer Egan, Sara Taylor brings to life the small miracles and miseries of a community of outsiders, and the bonds of blood and fate that connect them all.
As a reader, I am sure you often wonder what draws another reader to a particular book. Is it the cover or perhaps the synopsis? I was drawn to The Shore for a number of reasons. If I am being honest, MacLeod Andrews name listed as a narrator first piqued my interest. Do you do that? The second thing that spoke to me was the setting, as I am very familiar with the shores along the Chesapeake Bay. The Shore is a collective of stories and perspectives that both intrigued and frustrated me.
Caffeinated Aspects of The Shore
- The Shore is a group of small islands along the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia and the land is beyond beautiful. Taylor does a wonderful job of capturing both the beauty and the ugliness in these parts. Through a collection of narratives, we hear stories about folks living along the Shore spanning some two hundred and fifty years. Some are from as early as the 1800’s before settlers took over these parts and others take place in 2143. What do you think; doesn’t this Southern Gothic story sound Interesting?
- We are presented with thirteen narratives changing at each chapter and they are told in a bouncing timeline. Most of the tales revolve around two families, which began with a half-America native islander and her first husband. It was fascinating the way characters from one time, connected with another. My favorite stories were those of Chloe and her sister Renee and that of Medora, a half-Native American healer who tries to escape her abusive life.
- The stories are dark, and at times down right depressing with glimmers of hope scatter throughout. Taylor did a lovely job of bringing the characters and their emotions to light. While I did not get to know all of them as much as I would have liked, I did connect- sympathizing with some and loathing others. The tale is classified as woman’s fiction or literature but it has a historical and dystopian vibe as well.
- The narrators did a wonderful job of sharing these narratives. While I was disappointed, Andrews did not have as many chapters he certainly delivered. Jenna Lamia is a new to me narrator, but she captured both the tone and emotions of the characters taking their voices from that of a young child to a jaded adult.
- While I loved how all of the characters intertwined, the timeline had no rhyme or reason and made me crazy half the time. I was pulled out at each change of narrative and had to figure out what period I was in and whom the characters were. I think I would have enjoyed The Shore more with a chronological timeline.
- The connections and links do not become evident until closer to the end of the book, and many a reader might become frustrated before then.
- The Shore is dark, filled with sexual assault, violence, substance abuse, and animal suffering. There were some dark times, and revelations throughout. Some of the scenes may disturb readers particularly those with any sensitivity to the subject matter.
- The tale was told in first person and third person perspectives. For some it worked and for others I wanted more of a connection.
The Shore was beautifully written, and despite issues, I enjoyed this unique, gritty Southern Gothic collection and my trip to the Chesapeake Bay.
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