The Shore by Sara Taylor

The Shore by Sara TaylorThe Shore by Sara Taylor
Published by Crown/Archetype on May 26, 2015
Genres: Contemporary Women, Fiction, Literary, Sagas
Pages: 320
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley for review consideration.
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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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. Spanning over a century, dreamlike and yet impossibly real, profound and playful, THE SHORE is a breathtakingly ambitious and accomplished work of fiction by a young writer of remarkable promise.

What a debut! The Shore is everything I love in a novel. The writing is stunningly descriptive without feeling overdone. Phrases such as “the sky had turned to indigo” were so striking in their simplicity, and made it easy to imagine the rich setting in all its glory. I liked piecing together all the connections between characters. This intergenerational family drama hops around through time at a steady clip, yet every single character—even those we meet only briefly—is developed enough that you get them; it’s like they are right in front of you. Each chapter has a slight short story kind of feel, and as soon as I came across the apocalyptic/future chapters and dashes of magical realism throughout, I was in reader’s heaven to the end!

When I see words like abusive home, methamphetamine, ravaged families right up front in the synopsis, I tend to feel nervous that these themes will overpower the novel or worse, be merely a plot device. Not the case here. Taylor’s storyline is complex and multilayered; it’s obvious these themes are an important, vital part of its greater meaning. And everything about this novel shows how messy and complicated life is; clarity is a luxury.

“I hate this place and I love this place and I don’t know if I want to go as far away as possible or never leave.”

How is it that I loved this book when I finished, but the more time that passes, I love it even more? The Shore continues to spin around in my mind, revealing more and more of itself and causing me to come up with all sorts of theories. I’m glad we’ll be discussing it on The Socratic Salon later this month (June 18) because there is so much to talk about!

  • I’m looking forward to the TSS discussion! And, I go to this area every summer (my father in law grew up about 30-40 miles from Parksley Island) and the sky really does turn to indigo. The Eastern Shore of VA is one of the only places on the East Coast where you can see the sun set into the water (obviously, this is usually a West coast thing) and it’s absolutely gorgeous…and often does turn purplish.

  • I’ve totally had the experience of this book just getting better and better for me. Part of that is due to the discussions we’ve had, and part is due to re-reading sections and drawing connections. I just really think this is an amazing piece of work and I’m so excited to see what else she comes up with.

  • I just got the physical, published copy, and it was SO FUN to compare my doodled family tree to the “official” one!

  • GAH! I really want to read this one, Monika! There are so many exciting books to read right now…I think I just need to quit my job – ha! 🙂 Thanks for another great post!

  • I can’t even tell you how much I want to read this! It’s waiting for me. Just need to finish some things currently undone.

  • The quote you shared really sums up what I loved about this book; the simultaneous feeling of connection to the place you came from and the desperate desire to escape. It’s so complex and beautiful!

  • As I’m the only TSS member who hasn’t read this book I should be ashamed but instead, I’m just going to look forward to reading this book next month and then hopping into the discussion!

  • I love books that stay with me after I’ve finished them. This sounds great!!

  • The description of this book was too dark for it to appeal to me, but the more reviews I read, the more I think I might like it! I have a hard time saying no to magical realism 🙂

  • I know this review is ancient in blog-time, but I just wanted to stop by and say that I completely agree with you about the harder themes not overtaking the book or simply being a device. This felt like a real, fleshed-out world, and it’s so hard to believe that this is Taylor’s debut!