Friday, September 30, 2016

The Shore by Sara Taylor

The shore is a collection of three islands off the coast of Virginia--Accomack, Chincoteague, and Assateague. And the aptly named The Shore by Sara Taylor is a collection of stories about the inhabitants of these islands, ranging from 1876 to 2143. The stories jump back and forth by decades, only vaguely connected by characters with a common ancestor--Medora, daughter of a wealthy plantation owner and one of his Native American servants. Medora employs violence and alcohol to escape from two abusive men, her father and her first husband, thus setting a connecting theme for the stories of many of her descendants--alcohol, drugs, and abuse. Most of the inhabitants of Accomack are poor and poorly educated. Many turn to sex, drugs, and alcohol to relieve the boredom of life in a small community. Women and children suffer most from the resulting neglect and violence, beginning with thirteen year old Chloe who must use every shred of her resourcefulness to protect her younger sister from violent men, including her own father. Other young women make poor choices, particularly regarding the men they associate with. They wind up living in fear, in poor circumstances, tied down with unwanted pregnancies. Yet they, or their children, survive and Medora's line continues. The stories, which move disjointedly for present to past to future and back again, prove this. One of the greatest pleasures in reading this book is connecting characters in one story to those in other stories. Ultimately, far in the future, a pandemic leaves the population of the shore isolated, returning to a primitive, communal lifestyle, basically relying on fishing and gathering to sustain life, only barely in touch with the past. However, when an artifact from the twentieth century is discovered and its use is puzzled out, it seems history may eventually repeat itself.