Friday, July 31, 2015

The Shore by Sara Taylor

Title: The Shore
Author: Sara Taylor
Publisher: Hogarth
Publication Date: May 26, 2015
Source: borrowed from the good ol' public library

Summary from Goodreads

Welcome to The Shore: a collection of small islands sticking out from the coast of Virginia into the Atlantic Ocean. Where clumps of evergreens meet wild ponies, oyster-shell roads, tumble-down houses, unwanted pregnancies, murder, storm-making and dark magic in the marshes. . . 

Situated off the coast of Virginia's Chesapeake Bay, the group of islands known as the Shore has been home to generations of fierce and resilient women. Sanctuary to some but nightmare to others, it's a place they've inhabited, fled, and returned to for hundreds of years. From a half-Shawnee Indian's bold choice to flee 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, to a lesson in summoning storm clouds to help end a drought, these women struggle against domestic violence, savage wilderness, and the corrosive effects of poverty and addiction to secure a sense of well-being for themselves and for those they love.

Together their stories form a deeply affecting legacy of two barrier island families, illuminating 150 years of their many freedoms and constraints, heartbreaks, and pleasures.

My Review:

I fell victim to total book blogger peer pressure here, people!  Err-body was reading The Shore a few weeks ago.  It was all over my blog reader and the Instagram and the Twitters.  So when I saw a copy just hanging out on my library's New Releases shelf, I had to go for it.  Unlike that time when your mom asked if you would jump off a bridge if all your friends did it to, this was actually a GREAT time to do what all my friends were doing.  Because this is a fantastic novel.

The Shore is wonderfully, unapologetically, vigorously unique.  I saw it categorized as a "short story" collection by some Goodreads reviewers, but I don't think that's entirely accurate.  While most of the chapters are narrated by different characters, and in many cases the time period is completely different between them, the overlapping details between all of these stories are essential to your overall impression of the book.  Do yourself a favor and DO NOT read this on an e-reader, because I had to flip back to the (sizable) family tree at the front of the book every 5 pages or so.  It would have driven me crazy to have to do that on a Kindle.

Even though many of the narrators in this novel are (genetically) related, they've often never met each other.  In that way, each chapter does have an exclusivity to it that leaves readers with that "short story" feel.  However, Taylor has woven all of their narratives together in a way that leaves you with a strong ribbon of similar themes: melancholy. Persistence.  Isolation.  Brutality.  And many, many powerful female characters.  This is what gives the book a tight cohesiveness that I find astounding for a piece of literature with so many different stories to tell.

On top of that, a few of the chapters threw in some genre twists that I was not expecting at all, particularly in magical realism and dystopia.  But it worked.  They caught me off guard at first, but in the end, I was appreciative of how they changed the direction of the novel and managed to carry the previously-established themes even deeper into the story.

I'm not sure if this review gives you anything concrete about The Shore to hold on to, but that is the nature of this book.  Don't let the cover and title fool you--this is much more than a walk on the beach.  If you're ready for something completely different, immersive, and impressively well-crafted, The Shore is an excellent pick!

What was the last book you read because "all the cool kids were doing it"??  :)


  1. Ha - I read this one on my Kindle in galley form without a family tree!! And I was so confused for the first 3 chapters! At that point, I realized I better be taking very detailed notes about who was who and who was related to whom! Once I figured that out, I loved it (aside from the last chapter), but I was definitely frustrated at first. Glad you enjoyed it!

    1. Oh wow, I can't imagine reading this book that way! I would have gone crazy. I will have to go back and read your review, especially as it pertains to the last chapter...that one was definitely a bit odd compared to the others.

  2. I totally agree with the feeling that it comes together like a novel even though it can read like short stories. I'm pretty obsessed with this book, so I'm so glad to see you loved it!

    1. I really need to go back and read your (and many other favorite blogger's) reviews! I know you and several of the Socratic Saloners are to blame for my interest. :)

  3. I haven't read this one yet, Kelly, but I definitely want to! I'm so glad to hear you enjoyed it!!

    1. I hope you get a chance to check it out! :)

  4. I know, the genre twists were so awesome!! Very happy you jumped off the bridge with us. ;)

    1. Haha, you guys are easy to follow sometimes!

  5. I read this as an e-ARC on my Kindle, without a family tree at all. So I had to copiously take notes and make my own family tree as I read. It was actually kind of fun! So glad you enjoyed it, as it's certainly been one of my favorites this year so far :)

    1. No family tree would have driven me craaaaazy!! But I'm glad it turned into a bit of an adventure for you. :)

  6. First of all I love "vigorously unique"! What a super way to describe a book- definitely makes me want to read it. Like you, everyone I know has read this and raved about it and then the gals at The Socratic Salon read it and discussed it and I STILL have not. So, I am being shamed into it. It's just hard going into the TBR pile with all that lies ahead. *sigh*

    1. I think you will enjoy being shamed into this one. ;) But I know what you mean about that TBR pile...

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