Review: On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light by Cordelia Strube

Author: Cordelia Strube
Title: On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light
Format/Source: eBook/NetGalley
Published: 12 April 2016
Publisher: ECW Press
Length: 372 pages
Genre: General fiction
Why I Read: Net galley browsing; liked description and cove
Read If You’re:  Looking for a realistic character-driven story
 Rating★★★½
Links: GoodReads IndieBound Chapters | Amazon 
 I received a complimentary copy from the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Harriet is 11 going on 30. Her mixed-media art is a source of wonder to her younger brother, Irwin, but an unmitigated horror to the panoply of insufficiently grown-up grown-ups who surround her. She plans to run away to Algonquin Park, hole up in a cabin like Tom Thomson and paint trees; and so, to fund her escape, she runs errands for the seniors who inhabit the Shangrila, the decrepit apartment building that houses her fractured family. Determined, resourceful, and a little reckless, Harriet tries to navigate the clueless adults around her, dumpster dives for the flotsam and jetsam that fuels her art, and attempts to fathom her complicated feelings for Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus. On the other hand, Irwin’s love for Harriet is not conflicted at all. She’s his compass. But Irwin himself must untangle the web of the human heart.

I adored Harriet. Although she finds herself in a bleak and seemingly loveless home life, she has a strong go-getter personality. She makes the best of situations you’d wish children never found themselves in. It’s definitely heartbreaking how most of the adults in her life are so clueless about her. It sobered me up to think there are many adults in the world who must be just like the ones in this book, so self-absorbed and ignorant. I wonder what would happen if someone like Uma or Gennedy read this book…That being said, there are moments when you realize the adults might have more going on to explain their vapidity than Harriet can understand. The characters (which include a motley bunch of seniors and a welcoming Filipino family) are what I enjoyed most about this novel. Strube knows her craft well. Harriet is the star, of course, so unfortunately I found the novel lost some of its appeal when the third person narrative shifted from Harriet’s perspective to Irwin. He doesn’t have her perspective or spunk so the narration slowed down for me in his half of the book. I find this a difficult book to review without spoilers. If you have read anything by Strube, or about her works, I think I can just say that it seems this one falls in line with the others.

  The Bottom Line: A vivid and moving read distinguished by clearly drawn characters, but not for those who prefer more light than dark in their stories.

  Further Reading:

Reading Recap: February and March

I’ve been reading a lot more than I thought I would be able to while travelling, so here’s a recap post with some quick thoughts on each read.

  1. Understanding Exposure by Bryan Peterson – A gift from my parents a few, uh, years ago >.> I’d read bits of it but never the whole thing. A valuable read for a beginning photographer.
  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – Reread in anticipation of the sequel, which was published at the end of February. I have the hardcover waiting for me at home and I’d hoped to get an ebook for cheap through Shelfie, it’s ‘not eligible yet’ so I still haven’t read book two 🙁
  3. Dreambender by Ronald Kidd – Review here
  4. What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty – Book recommended to me by my host. Easily digestible chick lit about a woman who temporarily forgets the past ten years of her life.
  5. Winter Garden by Kristin Hannah – Another recommendation by my host. Not really my sort of book, but I wanted to know what happened so I kept reading. I thought I recognized the author, but it wasn’t until I looked her up on Goodreads did I realize she wrote The Nightingale. Totally different cover here! I added that to my TBR some time ago…hopefully it’s better/different than this one.
  6. Essentially Japanese: Cooking and Cuisine by Hideo Dekura – Owned by my host. I liked reading recipes for some of my favourite foods in Japan and learning more about Japanese food history.
  7. Wild Garlic, Goodeberries…And Me by Denis Cotter – Owned by my host. Not a very practical read, with the ‘exotic’ ingredients he uses, but still intriguing. I did make the rosehip syrup!
  8. Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates – Library ebook. Put this on hold just before I left Canada. Read in in two sittings. Made me realize just how difficult/impossible it is for me to understand what it’s like growing up black in America, all the implications and challenges that go with that.
  9. On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light  by Cordelia Strube – Review forthcoming. Liked this much more than the other fictions I read thus far.
  10. A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab – Soooo happy to see my library wasn’t too slow to acquire the book! I’m a few weeks behind, but I finally got to blaze through this one. 
I’m also currently reading The Lord of the Rings, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, The Road to Middle-earth, National Audubon Society Guide to Landscape Photography and Finding Yourself in the Kitchen. I think I’ll have to update my Goodreads goal when I get home to account for all these books!