About this book: (from the publisher) Catherine and Zoe are sisters, but even their mother, Eve, admits her daughters are nothing alike. Catherine is calm and responsible. Zoe is passionate and rebellious. Nobody is surprised when Zoe gets pregnant, drops out of college, and spirals into drug addiction.
One night Catherine gets a call from Zoe’s terrified daughter, Willow, saying her mother has abandoned her in a bus station and disappeared. Eve blames herself, while Catherine, unable to have children, is delighted to raise Willow as her own.
Now, five years later, Eve is grieving her husband’s death and making reluctant plans to sell the family’s beloved summer home on Prince Edward Island. But a series of unexpected revelations will upend the family and rock three generations of women.
About the author: (from her website) Novelist, journalist and celebrity ghost writer Holly Robinson is the author of several books, including The Gerbil farmer’s Daughter: A Memoir and the novels Beach Plum Island and Haven Lake. Her articles and essays appear frequently in The Huffington Post, More, Parents, Redbook and dozens of other newspapers and magazines. She and her husband have five children and a stubborn Pekingese. They divide their time between Massachusetts and Prince Edward Island, and are crazy enough to be fixing up old houses one shingle at a time in both places.
Genre: Fiction/Contemporary/Women’s Fiction
Why I read this book: To better understand my world
If this book were a movie, I would rate it: R
Content advisory: profanity, non explicit premarital and extramarital sex, homosexuality, alcohol use, discussions of addictions and rape.
Reminds me of: an edgier version of Rainy Day Sisters
Will especially appeal to: Not that these would likely be the same readers, but as it’s partly set on Prince Edward Island, fans of L.M. Montgomery’s novels will appreciate the references.
First Impressions: I like what the cover hints at–the bleak shades of gray that convey conflict and ambiguity, the splash of red that promises happiness and resolution.
This story matters to me…for its celebration of family bonds and the healing power of forgiveness and second chances.
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My take: Novels like this one prompt an evaluation from me on two levels. From a quality standpoint, everything is stellar. Character development, descriptions that put me right in the moment, marvelously complicated relationships that I feared would never get sorted–all of that is there in spades. On top of this, the author holds it all together with her deft handling of story complexity, the narrative flowing from one scene to the next, into and out of various characters’ viewpoints. Plus, there were one or two truly poignant and unexpected scenes that moved me. These things, I loved.
On the other hand, I found it tough to root for characters making choices that I see will hurt them in the long run. Not that I can’t handle bad behavior, not at all. Real conflict is what makes for some unforgettable stories, especially when it reaps thorny consequences that must be addressed. But in this case, what I found was that some of the characters’ choices alienated me from them. I grew less enamored with them as the story went on. And really, I did not need all the language. This might have been a PG-13 novel except for the profanity that I felt went over the top.
So there it is–in my opinion, Chance Harbor is fine women’s fiction featuring characters mired in muck. But on the other hand (again), isn’t that life? Though I wouldn’t make the same choices, can I still say I liked these characters? Yes–mostly. Did the story help me better understand people who aren’t just like me, who don’t share my values? Again, yes. From that perspective, Chance Harbor is an eye-opening, engaging read, which I do appreciate.
Thanks to New American Library for providing me a free copy to review. All opinions are mine.
After words: How does a novel’s value system affect your enjoyment of it? Are you able to overlook that part of it enough to appreciate the story? Or is it too intrinsic to your overall experience?