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A Gift Upon the Shore

3.91 of 5 stars 3.91  ·  rating details  ·  655 ratings  ·  88 reviews
A Gift Upon the Shore is a lyrical, haunting story of two women, an artist and a writer, surviving in a dark near future. Driven by rich and fully drawn characters, this is a powerful, compelling story of a friendship that survives the devastation, only to face a more difficult test from the ‘gift’ found upon the shore… It is also about remaining human under the worst of ...more
Paperback, 388 pages
Published October 1st 2000 by (first published 1990)
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The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins1984 by George OrwellThe Giver by Lois LowryDivergent by Veronica RothBrave New World by Aldous Huxley
Best Dystopian and Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
233rd out of 1,927 books — 17,025 voters
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Best Post-Apocalyptic Fiction
155th out of 722 books — 2,224 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,999)
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Dec 05, 2013 Checkman rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Fans of PA genre
A Gift Upon The Shore is a post-apocalyptic novel that owes much to Walden by Henry David Thoreau, Earth Abides by George R. Stewart and A Canticle for Lebowitz by Walter M. Miller Jr. This is not a tale of gun-battles, epic struggles, mutants or invading hordes. Nor does it feature (predominately) male heroes who are are brave, resolute, resourceful and armed to the teeth. It doesn't even have all that much in common with the classic post-apocalyptic/nuclear war novel Alas, Babylon by Pat Fran ...more
With her Phoenix Legacy, M. K. Wren did for science fiction romance what Mary Stewart did for fantasy - except that fewer people noticed. That's a shame, because the Phoenix trilogy is terrific.

Despite that, I didn't pick up A Gift Upon the Shore for many years, mostly because I'm not much of a post-apocalyptarian. But with its recent reissue, and Wren's confounding failure to write any other books (This is her only other SF novel, though she also wrote a series of mystery stories.), I decided
Another novel of the nuclear apocalypse, focusing on the attempt of two women to stockpile as many books as possible in order to bequeath some semblance of culture and civilization to the descendants that they hope will some day rebuild humanity (note: based on everything else in the novel, this is a 100% foolhardy hope). The narrative is presented as a frame story where Mary Hope, aged 65ish, is telling a child the story of Mary Hope, aged 25ish, and her misadventures around the time of the col ...more
Jul 03, 2008 Michael rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who loves books
I first read this book in the early 1990s, I think, and I was struck by the beautiful story that Wren tells of a post-apocalyptic time in the near future set in a small town on the northern Oregon coast.

The characters are magnificent. The reader comes to care deeply what happens to these people, particularly as the love the main characters have for each other is revealed.

And the central premise of the story is... books. Thousands of them, preserved for the future as best they can amidst the re
4.5 stars really. What kept it from being a 5 star book for me was that there was a preachy quality to the book that, at times, bothered me. The women in the book were just as set in their thinking at times as the religious folk were and yet unable to see the hypocrisy of having disdain for another's viewpoint while thinking their's was the only viewpoint that was correct was bothersome. The very behaviour that they found disturbing in the people of the religious sect, they themselves exhibited ...more
Nov 12, 2012 Charity rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: free thinkers and those looking to immanentize the eschaton
Recommended to Charity by: Chloe
As you already know, I love a good post-apocalyptic novel involving religious zealots, especially when it also involves rational, free-thinking bibliophiles on a mission to save books (and knowledge) for future generations. A Gift Upon the Shore is fantastically crafted story filled with friendships, hardships, philosophical discussions, drama, hope, and despair. I loved the epigrams M.K. Wren selected and saved a few as favorites. So thought-provoking and epic, this story just sucks you in and ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
I received an electronic copy of this from the publisher via NetGalley.

The entry for M.K. Wren in the "Encyclopedia of Science Fiction" aptly describes this novel as ambitious and eloquent. I was unfamiliar with her work before coming across this ebook reissue, but now I will eagerly pick up the "Phoenix" fantasy trilogy for which she is apparently best-known.

"A Gift Upon the Shore" uses the post-apocalyptic scenario to delve into two unique responses to wide-scale tragedy where civilization ha
As I read this book, I thought about why it is that I've read so much "apocalyptic" fiction. In the past, I enjoyed watching the world shrivel and burn up; I didn't believe that such a thing would happen. I still don't. I think that the world continues on, maybe without me or you, maybe without all of us, but still here for someone or something else. I don't enjoy the death throes anymore. I find them vulgar and sad, and often eye-rolling. It's what comes AFTER that intrigues me the most. For in ...more
Johnathon Neist
Originally published in 1990, it seems like the publisher is re-releasing this title in the midst of Hunger Games hysteria. It will play well with readers that can handle more character development and a slower pace than the aforementioned series. It may not play well with those sensitive to criticism of the Christian religion.

The story is set after a large nuclear explosion occurs in the United States, and the narrative focuses upon how the character not only survives the loss of nearly everyth
I received this book on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. I really wanted and expected to like it; it's a reissue of a book published in 1990, and offers a more female viewpoint on the story of nuclear apocalypse and survival, even regrowth. Unfortunately, I just couldn't get into it: the pace is slow, the writing feels stodgy, and it feels more than a bit judgemental about Christianity -- or Christians, at least. I don't see any reason why the more Christian a character professes to b ...more
A book for lovers of books, A Gift Upon the Shore sets the scene after Nuclear war and plague have wiped out most of the human population and torn civilization apart. Against this backdrop, two women struggle with essential questions of what is valuable, and what parts of ourselves we can save.
I really disliked this book. It was heavy-handed, flat yet terribly over-written (I had to start skimming descriptive passages, as it was just way overdone, yes, it's a beautiful field/ocean/flower but get on with it), and not engaging. Mary and Rachel's story is a poorly disguised allegory against the Bible-thumping Christians who basically ruin everything. I'm as atheist as they come, but howdy I wasn't expecting to be force-fed a dissection of all the ways Christianity Is Completely Super Stu ...more
Vince Darcangelo

It’s interesting reading M.K. Wren’s classic novel nearly a quarter century since its release in 1990. For one thing, a nuclear apocalypse sounds downright quaint and makes me eerily nostalgic for my childhood fears of nuclear annihilation.

Aside from that, A Gift Upon the Shore is timeless—and even prescient. Following a wave of destruction, two women begin building a library in coastal Oregon, dedicated to preserving the great works of literature, history
Amanda Caldwell
The only problem I had with this book is how Christian were portrayed. Just because you're a Christian (or any other religion) doesn't mean that you have a cult-mentality nor hate people of other religions... nor see science as blasphemy and so on and so on. However, in this context of nuclear holocaust I could see how with the right ingredients such as fear and desperation it could come to something of that sort.

I did think this book was great, it was amazingly written. The prose was beautiful
This book has teeth! For being a post-nuclear-apocalyptic story, this was very original. I loved the idea of people collecting books for the education and regeneration of humanity. This was a concept that really appealed to my love of books throughout this entire story and made me keep turning pages in order to support the characters.

These are characters that are deeply written, with a lot of personality traits that make you want to get to know them better. One of the things that I found enjoya
When I first read this book (nearly 20 years ago) I was in my twenties... I was young, I was idealistic, I was in love with books, and I thought I had come across something very special.

I have re-read it several times in the ensuing years, and have noticed my view on this work shift. Having read it again, now in my forties, I struggled to find that same connection. Now I see it as rather hypocritical. The author speaks time and again of having expanded views, of how being dogmatic can harm, how
Rachel takes Mary into her home and together they live through the end. Day by day they endure. Until Rachel comes up with a plan: they will preserve the thousands of books they've scavenged, their gift to the future. With this, they start to live.

Forty years in the future, Mary takes on an apprentice and tells him the story, Rachel's story. And with this conflict in the community in which she lives comes to a head. Some ultra-religious members, steeped in their own brand of post-apocalyptic Chr
Brenda Pike
Feb 08, 2008 Brenda Pike rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Brenda by: Sharon
I give this four stars and not five only because I was a little disturbed at how preachy it could get in its anti-religion. However, it's refreshing to have a book in which that's the main theme. And it hits notes that are close to my heart: love of books and post-apocalyptic futures.

I loved the frame of an old woman telling her story to a child—it was a very convincing perspective, and it surprised me that it drew me in so much. I also loved the character of Rachel, idealized though she is. I a
This is one of the best books I've ever read. I'd recommend it to anyone.
WOW this book was completely amazing, written 17 years ago, in a world where the world as we know it has ended due to fever plague and a nuclear war. Two women are left, Rachel and Mary. This is their story of survival. I sobbed at the end, it felt so real, it felt as if this is a possibility for us all. I URGE you to read this.
I would have given this novel 3.5 stars but that isn’t an option, I did enjoy A Gift Upon the Shore, a post-apocalyptic/dystopian novel. I liked the characters and like the story. It seemed a bit heavy handed with the anti-religious overtones but I liked the structure and flow of the novel. The story of the struggles of two women after a nuclear attack is a bit dated but this was written almost 25 years ago so this end of civilization scenario was plausible. I found Rachel and Mary’s obsession i ...more
Her Royal Orangeness
Earth is nearing the End - a deadly new strain of flu, cataclysmic natural disasters, overpopulation, famine, wars. Mary Hope, a 20-something aspiring author, flees the city hoping to find refuge and solace at the beach house she inherited from her aunt. But disaster is everywhere and Mary nearly dies when the bus she is traveling on is attacked by a gang of road rovers.

She is rescued by Rachel, a reclusive artist who gives Mary a home when she learns that her aunt’s home is a derelict ruin tha
The most realistic post-apocalyptic story I have read.
Of all the post-apocalyptic genre stories I have read, this one seems the most likely to occur in reality.

This is Mary's story, although she calls it the Chronicle of Rachel. We first meet Mary as a sixty-five year old, a very old woman in post-apocalyptic times. She is telling her life story to a boy so it can be remembered and passed on. Her personal story begins when she's in her twenties and living in Portland during very bad economic times - much worse than they have been in recent years. S
I loved A Gift Upon the Shore. It combined some of my favorite elements in fiction: a post-apocalyptic theme with theological debate. It did it so realistically and expertly that I spent the hours after the read ruminating over Wren's cautionary tale.

After attempting to locate other survivors during the "Long Winter" following the nuclear blast and a pandemic which Rachel and Mary refer to as "The End", the ladies of Amarna gradually lose hope and determine to offer the world the only thing rema
I rate this book at 2.5 stars.

A Gift Upon The Shore was originally published in 1990 and has been out of print for a while, it has just been released in ebook form and I was given a copy by Netgalley to review:

The novel starts just before Armageddon (a nuclear war followed by a plague type virus) when Mary Hope is travelling along the American coast on a bus that is attacked, she manages to get away but is injured. Rachel Morrow finds Mary and takes her back to her house to look after her and th
A Gift Upon the Shore is a post-apocalyptic tale written in 1990. It is, first and formost, a tale of women both good and bad, about their strengths, their beliefs, and their role in this new post-apocalyptic society. Rebecca and Mary have fought off other attackers, have survived alone in Rebecca's farmhouse, and believe it is their duty to save and preserve any books they can find; Miriam, a member of a religious group which survived several miles down the shore, believes it is her duty to pro ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Really good but it also made me very angry and anxious. The descriptions of "The End" were chilling from the initial breakdown of society to the graphic depiction of nuclear winter and the following period of high UV radiation with its devastating effect on wildlife and nature in general. What really wound me up was the ultra conservative religious group that comes into Mary's life and tries to impose their beliefs on her, preferring ignorance and "faith" to Mary's attempts to keep learning aliv ...more
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Martha Kay Renfroe is an Oregon writer, author of mystery and science fiction under the penname M.K. Wren. Her work includes the "Conan Flagg" mystery series and the post-apocalyptic novel A Gift Upon the Shore, set along the Oregon coast.
More about M.K. Wren...
Shadow of the Swan  (The Phoenix Legacy, #2) House of the Wolf (The Phoenix Legacy, #3) Sword of the Lamb (The Phoenix Legacy, #1) Curiosity Didn't Kill the Cat (Conan Flagg, #1) Seasons of Death (Conan Flagg, #5)

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