Off the coast of Virginia, a cluster of barrier islands called the Shore are home to both millionaires with their yachts and blue-collar workers leading hard-scrabble lives — and as in many small, isolated communities, nearly all of the locals are related to each other on some branch of the gnarled, sprawling family tree. The Shore by Sara Taylor spans generations as it tells the story of two families that are both haunted by and irrevocably tied to their marshy patch of earth pitched between the mainland and the wild sea.
We meet a wide range of characters, including a 19th century matriarch who masterminds a marriage that takes from her mainland home, only to find herself wed to a man who wants her dead; a young girl who takes justice into her own hands when tormented by her meth-addicted father and a dangerous neighbor; and a man trying to win the hand of the woman he loves in a post-apocalyptic future.
The Shore presents a bleak portrait of life on the islands; violence, drugs, unwanted pregnancies, and abusive relationships are the gritty reality for many of the characters. And yet, as some characters leave to pursue a brighter future, they are irresistibly drawn back to the place they call home.
“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.”
The cover blurb compares this novel to the work of David Mitchell and Jennifer Egan, and I think it’s a really apt comparison. Taylor weaves an intricate web of linked stories in the style of both of these authors. Also like Mitchell and Egan’s work, this novel presents an eerily prescient character and ventures into an unrecognizable future.
A novel as harsh and beautiful as the land it is based on, The Shore is an atmospheric ode to the unbreakable bonds of family and the feeling of home that can’t be shaken.
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