'The Shore' Review
Sara Taylor's The Shore is an incredibly ambitious debut novel. Unfortunately, that ambition kept it from being the great novel I wanted it to be. Spanning centuries, Taylor's novel tells the story of a family whose members spent generation after generation on the Shore, a group of barrier islands off the coast of Virginia. Taylor weaves together the stories of a 13-year-old murderess, a family who can control the wind, a mixed-race woman trying to free herself from the men in her life, and more. Each of these stories in turn is wonderful. The characters are wonderfully imagined and fleshed-out, the setting so real that if you close your eyes you're almost there. The problem lies in the connections between the stories.
At the beginning of the book is a family tree, and I found myself flipping back to it so often it became less of a helpful tool and more of a necessary guide. I flipped back more than once a chapter, at first to figure out whose point of view the new chapter was told from, then to keep track of who was related to whom. A few times Taylor introduces point-of-view characters who aren't on the family tree, and, while I could, after some rereading, figure out how these characters fit into the family, I got frustrated when they never appeared in the novel again. The family itself was massive. Why did Taylor bother introducing non-related characters who don't affect the family enough to warrant a second appearance.
That brings me to the second flaw: the size of the family. The idea of telling a story by moving through time and through the eyes of different characters is compelling; it's one of the reasons I wanted to read this book in the first place. That being said, Taylor's story spanned too much time, or rather, too many characters. If Taylor had either narrowed the number of years this family stretched or included the stories of fewer family members, The Shore would have worked so much better. I felt cheated, in a way. Taylor introduced me to these incredible characters and their beautiful, haunting stories, and then she took them away without further explanation. I wanted so badly to know more about certain characters and how they related to others in the family, but, instead of telling me that, Taylor told me about another character that would leave me wondering.
Even with it's flaws, I truly did enjoy this book. When I finished it I felt a bit cheated, but I also felt privileged to have been invited into the lives of this complicated family. Taylor's wonderfully skilled at weaving a story so real you can taste it, and she leaves you feeling a bit dazed when you return to the real world. Her tale is fraught with danger, mystery, violence, love, so packed with emotion you're not quite sure how Taylor does it. The Shore didn't come together quite as well as I'd hoped it would, but I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see what Taylor comes up with next.
* I received this book from Blogging for Books for review purposes. All opinions are my own.