When my husband’s cousin (Monica) emailed me that she’d finished reading The Shore and shared her thoughts, I immediately thought they were something others might be interested in given Monica’s unique perspective and the lively discussion this book generated among book bloggers.
Although she wasn’t born there, Monica has lived on the Eastern Shore of Virginia (specifically, about 40 miles from the setting of The Shore) for many years and is entrenched in the community there. Her husband’s mother (like my husband’s father, they were siblings) grew up there and much of their extended family remains there today. And, Monica is a voracious reader who I love talking books with every time I visit!
Here are Monica’s thoughts…
Taylor captured the feeling of the shore
- In so many ways, Sara did an incredible job of capturing the feel of the Eastern Shore: the colors, the smells, the landscape, as well as the poverty and lack of jobs. There has always been a bit of a wild west quality to the shore and drug running, like rum running during prohibition, has certainly thrived in certain areas of the shore and its barrier islands.
- She also captured the sense of connection that those who are “born here” feel for the shore, the draw of feeling that marsh mud between their toes. Each year, there are stories of young people born and raised here who have left for college only to drop out and return to the shore within a year. They just don’t thrive anywhere else.
But, some details weren’t accurate
- Sara obviously lived on the shore, and uses real town names, even the name of a restaurant (now closed) that was a bit of an icon for years. So, why does she change things about the geography and small facts? The Eastern Shore is a peninsula of two counties (Accomack and Northampton) with 23 barrier islands, but Sara instead refers to it as 3 islands of Accomack, Chincoteague and Assateague, and mentions North Hampton and Norfolk as two cities.
- Why does she say the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel (CBBT) opened in 1967 when it opened in 1964?
- Why does she talk about the stench of chicken plants hitting you as soon as you cross the CBBT when you have to drive one hour before you get to the chicken plants?
And, a major historical event was left out entirely
I had also been hoping that Sara would draw on the important historical aspects of this area, like the 1933 hurricane that affected the entire region, washed out homes and entire villages. In fact, she set a chapter in 1933 but there was no mention of the hurricane, even though weather is an important theme in the book.
Overall, The Shore and Bull Mountain struck similar chords
- I just finished reading Bull Mountain this weekend and find so many similarities in how the books made me feel. There is certainly a commonality in the gritty realism of the alcohol, drug and physical abuse that permeates the books. And, the connection to the land is so important.
- But, even though both settings offer a bleak picture of life, The Shore brings in magic and an ending that really takes the book into a different genre.
- Sara Taylor’s book was very compelling. and well worth the effort of referring to the family trees. I was drawn to it because of the setting, and was probably a tougher critic because I am familiar with this area. I think the word I would use in reference to Sara’s descriptions of people, scenery and situations is powerful.
For me, The Shore‘s sense of place was one of my favorite elements of the book, so it’s fascinating to see how that translates for a local. What do you think when details of a book aren’t exactly true to real life? Does the inaccuracy taint the book for you or are you generally able to look past it?