Title: On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light
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
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.