Book Review: The Shore

A few days before I started reading The Shore, I found myself lazily tracing my family history. I have been fortunate enough to have seen my great grandmother, but that is where the trail ends. I know nothing about who came before my great gandparents on either side of my family. I cannot help but wonder who they were, what they did and how much of them is in me. After I read The Shore, this desire to know has only increased.

The Shore by Sara Taylor is a series of thirteen interlinked short stories that together make up a complete novel. One could read the stories as stand-alone pieces or treat each story as a chapter in a larger tale that streches across time–from 1876 to 2143. A family tree given at the beginning is a boon to the reader, allowing him/her to keep track of the characters and the relationships between them.


The only constant in the book is the location–a group of isolated islands off the coast of Virginia. In that sense, it is the most enduring character, with a mysterious, brooding personality. This sense of surreality rubs off on the residents across the ages.

The first tale Target Practice, set in 1995, tells us the heart wrenching story of Chole and Renee, only to leave the reader hanging off the cliff of a truly twisted ending. Thankfully, the thread is picked up again in the penultimate story Missing Pieces, set in 2010, via the truly horrifying Skirt, set in 1981. Missing Pieces also ties together a characters from Rain (set in 1992), and Porter Mountain (1991). One of my favourite characters in the book is Medora, whose story begins in Out of Eden (1876) and continues in Many Waters (1885). Her shadow however streches across the book, through Rain, upto Talismans (2037). Boys set in 1984, and Sometimes it Hurts set in 1981, not only tell us the stories of their own characters, but also offer glimpses of people we have met in other stories. Wake, set in 1919, seems disconnected from the rest of the stories, but in the last chapter Tears of the Gods, set  in 2143, we see the connection. The stories themselves, taken individually, belong to a range of genres from romance to crime fiction to science fiction. When put together, they are a literary tour de force. Of all the stories, my favourites are Target Practice, Skirt and Tears of the Gods.

One of the things I love about the book is its treatment of women. There is no moralizing or preaching–just strong women doing what needs to be done, in ways that are sometimes controversial, but always with a raw and human honesty.

There is not a single thing that I do not like about this book. For me, it ended too soon. I could have easily spent a few more centuries with this book.

FTC disclaimer : I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

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