On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light by Cordelia Strube (ECW Press, 2016, 372pp.)
Life hasn’t been fair to 11-year-old Harriet. The adults in her life are too consumed by their own thwarted desires to pay attention to her needs, and her hydrocephalic little brother, Irwin, faces a life of pain. Just as unbearable is her mother’s insistence in dating the awful Gennedy, a man convinced that Harriet is trying to kill her brother—which might be true, but when everything she’s faced in her too-short existence has convinced her that a life of pain is not worth living, how could she not try to free the brother she loves? The story, divided into two parts, first covers Harriet’s unhappy living situation, and then follows her brother years after a devastating family tragedy. On the Shores is a book that is as hard to read as it is to review. If I had to cover my opinion of it in a single sentence, I’d call it an incredibly bleak, though sometimes redemptive, tragicomedy. While some parts of it are very touching and almost subtly quirky, some readers will be unable to see past its slow-moving pace and depressing content. Readers who encounter this unusual novel will either treasure its discovery, or discard it before they even reach the story’s half-way point.