Friday, March 15, 2013

Book Review: Distant Shores

I like Kristin Hannah's writing.  I think I was headed to the shelves looking for another book (The Things We Do For Love or Home Front), missing that day, and stumbled upon this one instead.  While it wasn't one of my favorite of Hannah's books, it did give me things to think about and lessons to absorb, so it was still a worthwhile read.

I must be thick because I was over half-way through this book before I understood the significance of the title.  I kept expecting the main character to run off to "distant shores" or something.  Instead, the two main characters (a husband and wife) share the last name of "Shore" and are distant from one another throughout the book.  Ah, I see.

Elizabeth and Jackson Shore have been married for twenty-four years.  Let's face it, that's a long time and things can get rather stale at that point in marriage.  Then the husband is offered the job of his dreams in New York and Elizabeth must decide whether she will follow him there or decide to chart out in the unfamiliar territory of following her own dreams and life-goals (primarily that of painting).

I could fully relate to the idea of a woman losing herself in the daily demands of caring for everyone else's needs in a family.  I think the presentation of this element was reliable and enticing to women who have faced the same dilemma.  I also gleaned a lot from the discussion centered around following one's dreams.  You have to name it and claim it!  You cannot wait for it to roll over and ask you to scratch its back.

Moreover, I loved the lesson the character learned about not giving up, despite set-backs and the disinterest of others.  I am trying to incorporate this lesson into my own views about my novel writing.  Getting a novel published is hard work.  It won't come easily and I cannot fold because several agents queried aren't knocking down my door to read the manuscripts.

I cheered for Elizabeth when the narrator said, "One little setback and she'd folded into the old Birdie.  She'd considered quitting.  As if the point of art could be found in supply-and-demand economics.... Even if no one ever liked her work. It would be enough that she did."

This idea was hammered home again this morning when I read this quote from William Zinsser which said: "There are many good reasons for writing that have nothing to do with being published.  Writing is a powerful search mechanism, and one of its satisfactions is that it allows you to come to terms with your life narrative.  It allows you to work through some of life's hardest knocks - loss, grief, illness, addiction, disappointment, failure - and to find understanding and solace."

If you are looking for some encouragement in following your own dreams... if you are feeling stagnant in your marriage and wonder what havoc or blessing a separation could wreak on your relationship with your husband and children ... if you just want to escape into the life of a woman who is finding herself for the first time after many years of submerging her own visions and goals, then this book would be a suitable read.  And if you're worried that the tale may end badly, don't despair, there is a happy ending and hope for the future.

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