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On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  581 ratings  ·  135 reviews
From the acclaimed author of Lemon comes a clever and heartbreaking new novel of love and redemption

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 an
Paperback, 372 pages
Published April 12th 2016 by ECW Press
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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  581 ratings  ·  135 reviews

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Diane S ☔
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am not going to rehash the plot, the book description is a good start. Harriet is a very original character, a self sufficient young lady whose observations of those around her are vastly amusing. She sees and thinks things most people do not and her crude language will make many a parent cringe. They live in Sangrida apartments, a low income place with single moms, or moms with rotters for husbands and a large assortment of senior citizens. Many characters, all we come to know in the course o ...more
Dorie  - Cats&Books :)

This is another one of those books that I had to wait a few days before writing the review. It is so very astonishingly good in so many ways. From the first few paragraphs until the very end I was engaged in the story, in the characters, in the very constricting and oppressive lifestyle that Harriet had to life with.

Don’t let the beginning of this novel, in which Harriet is funny, witty and precocious, fool you, this is a very serious, intuitive an
Elyse  Walters
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley
Tomorrow the bird gets stuffed. People all over the United States are *stuffing-the-bird*.
Me: I'm stuffed now ....over-flowing with move-over,
Jonathan Tropper...( favorite comic/tragic funny man), 'The Tropper', has met his MATCH!
Cordelia Stube, ( new author to me) THE BEST FEMALE comic/tragedy author I have EVER had the pleasure to read!!! Hot Damn! I honestly have not laughed this hard in a book 'since' reading Jonathan Tropper or ...maybe since reading "Hope A Tra
Ann Marie (Lit·Wit·Wine·Dine)
This is one of the BEST books I have read in a very long time! I'm going to put it out there and say I believe this book will really put Cordelia Strube, who I was previously unfamiliar with, on the map in a BIG way. She certainly deserves any awards, accolades, screenplays, etc. that come her way as a result of writing this beautiful and meaningful book. I should stop gushing now. I rarely gush but I'm admittedly restraining myself even after that uncharacteristic outburst.

On the Shores of Dark
Angela M
Nov 25, 2015 rated it it was amazing
What makes this incredibly sad story bearable is that at times it is incredibly funny. What makes reading about the unbelievable irresponsibility of Harriet and Irwin's parents bearable is that they are beside these children , who are the light of this story and who had my heart from the beginning. The moments when I laughed mostly were at the comings and goings of the senior community at the Shangrila apartment building where Harriet and her brother Irwin live with their oblivious mother (maybe ...more
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
It seems like a special skill to be able to write a book that is both funny and achingly sad at the same time. At times, I couldn't quite figure out whether On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light was satire, comedy or tragedy. But in the end it doesn't really matter, because it's just a really good and compelling read. It made me laugh out loud, and it made me horribly sad. The first half is told from Harriet's perspective. She is 11 years old -- her 6 year old brother Irwin was born prematur ...more
Cynthia Corral
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: netgalley
Well, this book was fantastic.
It stars Harriet, an amazing little eleven year old who is tough as nails on the outside but sensitive and artsy on the inside. Also starring her brother Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus and is unable to do most anything that Harriet can. Irwin loves and idolizes his big sister, but Harriet's life changed dramatically when Irwin was born so she has a very intense love-hate relationship with him.

Their parents, who are woefully unable to cope with the precocious
Feb 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Harriet may technically be considered a child in terms of years at the age of 11, but she is well beyond her years when you count her disappointments in life, in her parents and in some of her neighboring senior citizens. Harriet’s savvier than average, knows how to read people pretty well, and has her own little money making enterprise going on. Maybe a little conniving with her senior citizen neighbors, but no more than the seniors trying to get her to help them all the time for free. Time is ...more
Emily Ferko
Nov 02, 2015 rated it it was amazing
My favourite book of perhaps all time.
Nov 25, 2015 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book which was both sad and hilarious at times. The story is about an 11 yr old girl Harriet and her developmentally challenged younger brother Irwin. I just loved Harriet and her spunk and how she got on with the seniors in the apartment building in which her family lived.
When I started reading this book I wasn't sure if I was going to like it. I had read several reviews that raved about it, but for me it was a slow start. I wasn't sure about any of the main characters: Harriet, her mother, her father, her brother, the seniors...
But there was something that made me keep on, and I'm grateful I did.

Harriet is 11 years old. She lives with her mother, her "stepfather" and her little brother, who is ill. All around her are adults that deep down are more immature than
Apr 13, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2016
Thank you Angela for you recommendation !

Characterization in this story is outstanding ! The author takes you into the mind of an 11-year old shaped by the chaotic misdirected minds of her parents and those around her.... proof that those who appear tough and prickly and who don't reach out in a straight-forward manner are the ones that need the most love, guidance, direction. Harriet and her situation made my heart ache....drew out that 'rescuer' part of me that I suppose will never go away an
Stella Wenny
Jan 14, 2016 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
I requested the ARC of this book from netgalley because of the gorgeous title and cover. And I didn't regret it at all. Reading this book is a great experience. At first, I was wary about this because it contains some profanity and there seems no decency in the life of the characters. All the characters don't seem likable too. But it gets better, way much better. I understand why Harriet hated her life and wanted to escape. I understand why Irwin can't move on after what happened with Harriet. I ...more
Kerry Clare
Apr 19, 2016 rated it it was amazing
This book starts and just goes and goes and goes, and never ever falters. It devastates and uplifts, and made me laugh and think, and Cordelia Strube is amazing.
2.5 stars rounded up without enthusiasm.

While I liked the book well enough, I did get bored and I didn’t understand why there were two parts, Harriet’s story and Irwin’s story.

Harriet is an interesting character, both bratty and needy, free-spirited and frustrated. She’s 11, an artist...she’s a Judy Blume character with much rougher edges. She's a little adult who is a little crazy because she's really just a kid but she needs so much more than kids need and no one understands that, not her dist
Barbara Rohde
Nov 28, 2015 rated it really liked it
What happens when your family life is disrupted by a child with a chronic condition? Harriet is 4 years old when her brother Irwin is born with hydrocephalus which gives him a large head and frequent seizures. The impact of the illness splits the family and we come to meet Harriet when she is 11 years old. Harriet has had to learn to be very independent as her mother's attention is always on Irwin with frequent hospital stays. Harriet is very smart and speaks bluntly confounding the adults aroun ...more
Debbie Gascoyne
This novel focusses on Harriet, a precocious eleven year old, and her brother Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus. Their parents are divorced, their mother has a lover whom Harriet thinks is a loser, and Harriet is obsessed with saving money earned from the seniors in her apartment complex, money that will finance her escape to the woods to live like Tom Thompson. No one understands Harriet's art, which reflects the turmoil in her life.

Strube does a great job of capturing the voice and thought
Jan 11, 2016 rated it really liked it
Crazy good.

Cordelia Strube nailed the frustration that kids have with the patronising bullshit adults tend to feed them. Most of the younger people are far wiser and together than the adults in this book, ultimately leading to despair and loneliness for all involved. Heart-rending, witty and astute.
Barbara McEwen
Jul 13, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
I have a thing for books with weird kids, having been, or being, a weird kid myself. I simply loved this book. Over the top but very lovable characters. No glossing over the tough realities of life. It is a messed up book but so is life! Will definitely be reading more of this author, although I will miss my friends from this book.
Apr 13, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: canadian
It has been awhile since I have been so moved by a work of fiction. How to describe this incredible book? This is no romantic tearjerker, though there is plenty for one to cry about. It is such a sad but relatable tale - with plenty of darkness and little light. Thankfully, this tragic story is infused with the (mostly) lighthearted personalities of the seniors who live in the Shangrila apartment building, which made it bearable to continue reading.

This cast of memorable characters is going to
Mar 11, 2016 rated it it was amazing
I started reading Cordelia Strube’s On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light at about nine o’clock on Friday night. The next thing I knew, it was almost one o’clock in the morning. Only the fact that I had to be at work the next morning prevented me from staying up until I had finished it. I was hooked from the very first chapters—partly because the book reminded me sharply of events in my own life and partly because there are so many brilliant character studies. The novel turns, subtly and hea ...more
Jill Robbertze
Aug 23, 2016 rated it really liked it
Wow this book was really heart-wrenching and yet somehow also very funny in places and filled with such interesting and quirky characters. A bit depressing in parts but redeemed by an important message and an uplifting ending. I loved this book !!!!
Andi (A Literal Hottie)
Mar 07, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: audiobook, 2017
This book was so great until it sucked... I am trying to figure out if I could even recommend it because once the POV changes 2/3's of a way in it went from a 5 star gem and plunged to maybe 1 star. Not at all what I was expecting. ...more
Liana Cross
Jan 01, 2016 rated it it was amazing
beautifully written, I understand the comparison to Alice Munro. A great Canadian writer.
Harriet is 11 years old but her family circumstances have made her wise beyond her years. She’s living in a low-income apartment with a very dysfunctional family: her younger brother Irwin was born with hydrocephalus and is constantly in and out of hospital, leaving little time for her mom to devote any sort of attention towards Harriet. Her mom’s deadbeat boyfriend also lives with them, and he makes no effort to hide his true feelings towards Harriet. And Harriet? She’s kind of spunky on intens ...more
Stephanie (aka WW)
Harriet is a street-wise 11-year-old with artistic aspirations. Unfortunately, she gets no support for her art from her mother, who is distracted with Harriet’s 6-year-old brother, who has hydrocephalus and needs near constant supervision. Harriet is protective of her brother, but also secretly wishes he would die. She has beyond-her-years views on life that are both funny and sad. Watching Harriet become more and more isolated from the adults in her life is like watching a train wreck in slow m ...more
Jul 10, 2017 rated it liked it
Still figuring out how I feel about this novel. It deals with so many elements pertaining to family, feelings of self-worth & belonging, illness and loss. I enjoyed it, but it is one of those books that lingers after you've closed it's pages. ...more
Jan 14, 2017 rated it really liked it
made me cry - beautiful story.
Tanya Desjardins
Sep 27, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really think this book is quite the hidden gem.

If I could offer one word of wisdom, it would be to not read too many reviews before reading it. I say this because (view spoiler)

I was originally intrigued because I love books with humour, and this book seemed to be teeming with it. This book however, is that and so much more. I
Jul 02, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This was another favorite this year. I literally did the whole “I laughed, I cried” thing through the whole book. I cannot recommend this one enough.
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Read an interview and an excerpt of Cordelia's new novel, On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light, in Numéro Cinq Magazine:

Watch a video of Cordelia interacting with students at York University's Canadian Writers in Person here:

Cordelia Strube is an accomplished playwright and the author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Alex & Zee,

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