Rebee Shore's life is fragmented. She's forever on the move, ricocheting around Alberta, guided less than capably by her dysfunctional mother Elizabeth.
"The Shore Girl" follows Rebee from her toddler to her teen years as she grapples with her mother's fears and addictions, and her own desire for a normal life. Through a series of narrators--family, friends, teachers, strangers, and Rebee herself--her family's dark past, and the core of her mother's despair, are slowly revealed.
This was quite an amazing book. I liked both the story and the structure. The book tells the story of a young girl and her mother, as the girl travels around Alberta. The chapters are told by different people- the girl herself, who is named Rebee, her aunt, her neighbour, a random stranger.
All of the stories come together to tell the girl's story, and uncover the truth about her parentage.
The book is set in Alberta and there are lots of Albertan references. I like the style, which was poetic and lyrical, and definitely influenced by the structure (and vice versa).
“It isn’t possible to love and to part. You will wish that it was. You can transmute love, ignore it, muddle it, but you can never pull it out of you. I know by experience that the poets are right: love is eternal.” ― E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
Each of us, no matter how seemingly put together, is broken. We are all parts of a whole, and we spend our entire lives looking for people who fit together with us—even momentarily—to form something that feels complete. If we're really lucky, we find that missing piece and they stay with us forever. But sometimes—a lot of the time, really—people stay broken. There is no piece that fits together with them. In Fran Kimmel's The Shore Girl we inhabit half a dozen of these broken souls, and if they don't exactly form a whole with each other, then as an ensemble, as a cast, they most certainly do. The Shore Girl feels complete.
The Shore Girl is told through a series of perspectives, all of which centre around young Rebee Shore. Rebee, on account of her dysfunctional mother, lives a nomadic life. Rarely is she settled in one place for long, always is she grappling with her mother's addictions and fears. The story repeatedly jumps between Rebee and temporary influencers—her aunt, her teacher, a beneficent stranger, a neighbour—each of whom are different, but all of whom struggle with the same issue: the ultimate cost of love.
If The Shore Girl is about anything it's about the burden that love brings. It is the most complicated, messy, infuriating, and instinctual feeling we experience, and as people we have no idea what we're doing with it half the time. Our feeble attempts at expressing it often fall flat and when it comes to receiving it the results are even worse. Love leaves us vulnerable, and when things don't work out, it fucking hurts. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth it. Sometimes it isn't worth it. But most of the time, no matter how grim things seem, love pulls us through.
What The Shore Girl illustrates better than most books is that love isn't simple. It isn't a zero sum game. It's not always absolute. There are grey areas. Not everyone's good at it. But trying means so much. Trying is sometimes enough. Even when love isn't perfect, it's still there, fighting.
"I thought about the men in this world who settle next to the rhythm of a woman, one woman, their whole lives ... I’m a believer. I just don’t know how it’s done is all. What kind of chromosomes, hormones, cyclones bring all that together? Do you fall hard for a woman because of the light in her hair? The look she gets when she’s looking at you? And if you fall for one reason do you stay for another, until there comes a time when you can’t remember why you fell in the first place but you don’t even notice because it no longer matters. Somewhere between your falling and landing, what floats in between? What anchor drops to hold a man steady?"
Despite never having a narrative point of view of her own, this story is, arguably, about Rebee's mother, Elizabeth (or Harmony, as she prefers to be called). Ill-fated from birth, Harmony can do nothing but play the hand she's been dealt much of the time. Her cards aren't good, and she plays them even poorer than most. We should loathe her for the life she's left her daughter, but through bits and pieces of backstory we come to learn that judging her is more complicated than it first seems. At the end we understand that Harmony was never good at loving her daughter, but she tried, and in this case, trying was probably enough.
The Shore Girl is not a happy story. Instead, it's a hopeful story, a resilient story. It makes wonderful use of perspective (the best I've read in some time), and absolutely justifies the conceit. It's not a gimmick. It's a necessary device in order to tell a multi-layered story.
What's best, though, is that Kimmel never resorts to sentimentality. In lesser hands, this story would have been irredeemably maudlin. It would have been easy to focus on the pain and the tragedy of Rebee's life, but Kimmel simply documents what's happening. She shows, and rarely tells—in the best way! Her restraint is exceedingly impressive for a first time author (she has the balls to describe a mother handing her twelve-year-old daughter a beer without a word of judgment).
The Shore Girl is that special book that gets better with each reading. Much is left under the surface, which allows us to mine gems during a second or even third reading. Some readers I've talked to have claimed that Kimmel left too much on the table, that she left her story unfinished. That couldn't be further from the truth. Any ambiguity is there by design, and cheers to her for writing a story that actually gets better with time. In a literary world that's becoming more akin to Hollywood every day, a book like Kimmel's—one that asks a little from its readers—should be held dear.
I think Fran Kimmel's The Shore Girl is quite a remarkable high-wire balancing act.
The writing is evocative and poignant, wistful at times, but never succumbs to sentimentality. Diction remains grounded in voice and point-of-view. No big literary epiphanies; the narrative picks up camp and moves on. I also love it that Rebee is part of a constellation of fellow-travellers. Kimmel has chosen a masterful way of showing that, far from being an isolated case study, Rebee's life is ceaselessly formed and framed by the stars and forces around her.
Kimmel's depiction of rural Alberta, especially the off-road world of campsites, is exquisitely poised between compassion and unflinching realism; no sepia-toned idealizations of western Canada here. I also thought Kimmel was astute to continually steer the narrative away from Rebee's mother, Elizabeth, letting her remain an enigma, both to Rebee and the reader (and everyone else in the novel). To me, this seems pitch-perfect.
I have to admit Miss Bel almost stole the show for me. Kudos to Kimmel for not fulfilling my own sentimental readerly wishes by staging a reunion between Rebee and Bel somewhere on the road. Kimmel went for something far more subtle and powerful in The Shore Girl, and achieved it through her writing style and a series of perceptive decisions.
I was very excited to crack this book open, not only did the premise appeal to me, but I know the author personally. That fact also made me a little nervous, as I really wanted to like this book and knew Fran wanted to hear my opinion on it! Well, I did indeed really like this book. It did take me a little while to get into the story of Rebee, but then it really took off for me by mid point. I really liked how the book came together in the second half and the way the big revelation played out. What was best about this book was the way Fran captured the voices of the varied cast of characters, I found each to be very authentic. I enjoyed the structure of this story and the creative way we got to learn about Rebee and Harmony and their not-so-ordinary lives. I look forward to the next one!
I can't wait to read this. Fran lives in my neighbourhood and I've heard great things about the book from another neighbour. PLUS she's coming to our book club!!!!! AWESOME!
LOVED the book. The story of Rebee and her mother is told through the stories of several characters dropping hints throughout. It's one of those books where you keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. I kept thinking something bad was going to happen and hints would make me more curious about what the history was for the characters. And then at the end--boom! There it is. Unexpected and perfect. Great ending. Great characters. Tight writing. Love the fresh voice and descriptions such as referring to wooden ducks as looking like tattooed chickens with birth defects. What's not to love?
Solid 4 or a 5 for sure. Recommended. (Also a GREAT book club book as there is lots to discuss and has wide appeal.)
I really enjoyed this book. This book is about Rebee Shore and her less than normal life. She and her mother lead a nomad's life, never staying in one place too long.We meet a few of the people who come into her life and through them we learn about Rebee- a little lost girl who has no one to rely on. We learn in a roundabout way what happened to her mother and why she is as she is. All who meet Rebee are drawn to her as the reader becomes the more we read about her. I will definitely remember Rebee Shore. Would definitely recommend this book.
It's been a long time (since my pre-mothering days, 11 years ago) that I read a book in one day. Because of flying to a funeral without children, the time on planes paired with how captivating Shore Girl is, I read it all in a day. Devoured it. The prose is sometime stark, appropriately, visually lush, vivid; the narrative is as compelling as the writing. A desperately devastating story written with passion and skill (as opposed to saccharine sentimentality) is a rarity; Kimmel achieves it. It has vaulted to my top ten. Looking forward to another novel from Kimmel.
I really enjoyed this. The story is told in an interesting, different way (through the perspectives of different characters who drift in and out of Rebee's life) and it works very smoothly. A widely appealing book that I think that most readers will really like.
I really enjoyed this book. I would give it a 3.5. It took me a few pages to become engaged with the characters but they were authentic and well written. A great ending. Well done Fran! (PS I am very stingy with stars.)
Loved this book. I have an amazing ability to randomly pick both complete crap or shock and awe(some). This deserves a second read and I suspect it will become a treasured favourite. I'm a book whore so that says something.
The Shore Girl is a moving and beautifully written story of an Alberta family. Fran Kimmel has used a unique structure to give voice to different characters who encounter the family, and most of all to the daughter Rebee, who is unintentionally caught up in the dysfuntion of her mothers life and suffers the most collateral damage.
Rebee is a very sympathetic character-her life on the run with her mother is no fault of her own. She shows remarkable resilience and occasional hope which makes her seem honest and endearing. The fact that her mother Elizabeth (or Harmony as she prefers) does not speak her point of view makes the book even more intriguing-we can only see her and piece together her story through other peoples eyes.
The way that Alberta is portrayed in this book seems so accurate. Also wonderful was the kindness that the other characters, such as Jake and Miss Bel, showed to Rebee and Harmony, despite having difficult lives of their own. Even when their efforts were rebuffed, they still tried to help and that made the story more heartening, even though over all the subject matter is quite dark and intense.
Kudos to Fran Kimmel for this great book and I hope she continues to write and publish her stories.
2017 reading challenge-a book set somewhere you'll be visiting this year
This is a coming of age novel; I thought it was successful in this. However, it's also the style of literary fiction that I've often called "Oprah books." To me, these are often depressing books to read, even if they are uplifting by the end, and I prefer to read fiction that is more optimistic or fun. Not that I mind a tear-jerker now and then, but there is enough to be depressed about in the daily news, so I want to read something else.
But, to be fair, I think this will be of interest to many readers. Mainly following the nomadic lives of a young mother and her daughter, there is a question for readers. Are there reasons for this nomadic lifestyle? It's amazing that our young MC actually turns out pretty well, all things considered. I've always felt that children can often be extraordinarily resilient.
I added this novel to my TBR list after reading Fran Kimmel's No Good Asking, another novel that I wouldn't usually have discovered or read. I believe Kimmel is an author to watch for many readers.
I heard Kimmel interviewed on CBC & the same day I picked up this book (looking for red cars, all you see is red cars). She lives in Lacombe, Alberta: just a heartbeat away. It’s an interestingly styled book about Rebee Shore and (sometimes) her incompetent parent mum who pulls up roots every few of months. The interesting part is that it’s told in chapters by different people that Rebee interacts with from preschool to 16 years. While half of these are from Rebee, it doesn’t feel like he said-she said. And none are from her mother.
Rotating POV takes you through the life of Rebee Shore. Fran tugs at the heart strings as we follow Rebee and her single mother, Harmony, through numerous small towns and the people they meet. Each person that comes into contact with them tells the story of the Shore Girls until the reader is let in on the dark family secret that affected their lives. Great descriptions of characters and settings, Fran uses all five senses to build the world of her novel.
Fran Kimmel tells a poignant story of family love behind the backdrop of depression and poverty. But, like Alberta’s Rocky Mountains rise above, so does Rebee Shore. Fran keeps dropping nuggets of hope as she lays bare Rebee’s journey through and then out of the shadow of her mother. Fran is able to keep a light shining on this dark topic. Which is why you can’t put her novel down. Sensitive storytelling. A great read.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
It's not a challenge to follow the storyline, as revealed by multiple narrators, but the book has a ragged structure and a disjointed narrative. Perhaps this is another case of an author needing a better editor.
It took me a bit to get into, it started off a bit more adult than I was prepared for, but I was charmed by Rebee. It seemed everyone in her world ended up charmed by her and her older than her years persona. I appreciated Kimmel's lack of sentimentality when it came to offering up her character's insecurities and bumps. There is a lot of subtlety when it comes to Kimmel's exploration of family and the repercussions of broken bonds. Renee's commitment to her mother, to endure, was honourable in a tough situation. She may not have had a choice but she showed strength of character to survive and to be able to stay when afforded the opportunity. She knows what she needed even though it took her from everything she had known. Once that fell into place, people fell in too.
Family can be where you find it when you admit to yourself what you need.
It picked up near the end, as things began to get more intense. Joey was my favorite narrator.
My biggest complaint about this novel is that it doesn't really have a plot structure. While I like several other books that also don't, I feel like in this book it really is necessary because of the changing narrator. Without a story arc, there is little holding this book together. The characters aren't fully developed, due to the changing narrator, and the setting is constantly shifting, which is a central part of the theme of the novel. So then... A plot is pretty necessary.
I appreciate what Kimmel was trying to do, showing the regular "life" of this transient and broken family, but I also feel like I didn't have a lot of sympathy for them until the end, because there was no conflict to follow, no reason for me to root for them.
Good little read, I really enjoyed this book however I would have wanted the author to develop the characters and storyline a bit more. It was great to read about the characters and how they came in and out of this teenager's life, the mother's strange behavior, the grandfather's story. I felt like I was left hanging as if the author could have written a lot more but just didn't know how to end it. So its a good review because I enjoyed the story and the writing, just wanted more.. :)
A very strange thing happened when I finished this book - I cried. Okay that is not strange, most books make me cry - what was weird was that I didn't cry or even come close while reading, even though I should have; this is harrowing stuff. It just all built up and I didn't see it coming.
This is another treasure of Canadian YA literature. The wandering and finding home is a solid narrative. Although it is a story that has been done before, this book takes a new and different stab at it, making the story feel fresh and new. It is very well done and I think will be popular with young adults.
A melancholy tale told from the perspectives of different people who come in and out of the life of a young Albertan girl. Interesting to read a novel based in the province where I currently live. Highly recommended!