Book Review of Distant Shores

Distant Shores
Distant Shores
Author: Kristin Hannah
Genre: Literature & Fiction
Book Type: Hardcover
reviewed on + 16 more book reviews
Helpful Score: 3


The novel's cover, featuring relaxed painted toes lounging in a hammock on what looks like the warm Carribbean, is no way to judge this moving and sometimes dark novel about a 46-year-old woman facing an empty nest, an absent husband, and forgotten dreams in middle age. Our heroine doesn't jet off to a tropical island to get her groove back, but rather simply chooses to stay in the house she loves on the rugged and rainy Oregon coast and face her darkest fears - of being alone, of being not good enough, of finally figuring out something you love beyond your family and risking failure to try to reach it.

Although I have no husband or children, as I face the decade starting with a 4- in my age, I can relate to so much of what Elizabeth Shore confronts in "Distant Shores" -- breaking decades-long habits of putting others' needs first, feeling paralyzed by not knowing what you want but knowing that you need to want something, feeling the sadness of finally remembering a forgotten talent, and facing the risk that the grief and regret about lost years will get in the way of the years you have left. Add to that the loss of a beloved parent, a marriage drifting in halfhearted habits of affection, and a handful of fully realized minor characters, and Kristin Hannah pulls together a contemporary set of problems that will become familiar to many readers. Hannah does not allow readers to have an easy, perfect happy ending where everything is resolved neatly and triumphantly, but the light at the end of the tunnel is strong, warm, inspiring, and well worth the journey.

Interestingly, although the novel is not even 10 years old, its anachronisms are surprisingly jarring -- no one emails one another, there is no talk of texting -- so what is otherwise in every way a "contemporary" novel feels slightly off. Nevertheless, it's an enjoyable read.