Cover Image: On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light

On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light

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Member Reviews

I was struck by the title of this book as it is both sad and hopeful and after reading it a perfect reference for this unforgettable story.  I immediately fell in love with Harriet, an 11-year-old who is wiser and more clever than most of the adults around her.  She is a talented artist though her art is often misunderstood and she dreams big of a future for herself away from the strain of parental and sibling expectations.  She has complicated feelings for her younger brother Irwin, who has medical challenges but loves Harriet deeply and unconditionally.  There is a host of quirky and loveable characters who inhabit the rundown apartment building that Harriet lives in, and Harriet's best friend is downright funny and tough.  Harriet is the perspective used to explore the intricate relationships of the adults around her, their challenges, their imperfections and their fears.  It has a twist you won't see coming and it will leave you breathless. So brilliantly written, this story will resonate for a very long time.
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I wrote this review and then lost it by closing the webpage before saving, so this is my second attempt. This story is told mostly from the point of view of Harriet, an 11 year old girl growing up a little too fast. I have to be honest and say that I was a bit taken aback by the vulgar language of Harriet and her knowledge of things that were well beyond her years. I know this is the case with many children growing up too fast in a very dysfunctional home, but I found it a bit off-putting and excessive at times.

Harriet’s parents are divorced and her father is pretty much an absentee father. He is focused on fertility treatments and working on getting his current wife pregnant. Harriet‘s younger brother, Irwin, who is six years younger than her, is disabled due to encephalitis that he developed as a baby. Harriet mother and her boyfriend Genady spend most of their time and attention on Irwin, because of his special needs. Harriet is left on her own a lot of the time because of this. She and Genady do not get along, as he thinks she is selfish for wanting the normal things a preteen girl would want. He thinks that she should be more sensitive to the needs of her disabled brother, and the fact that her mother is exhausted from caring for and worrying about him all the time. Genady never seems to have work and her mom is always laser focused on Irwin, so she no longer works a job outside the home. This puts them in a tight financial situation.

Harriet loves spending time with her grandmother whenever she can and feels more loved and cared for with her than when she is at home. She does odd  jobs for her elderly neighbors to make money. Her art and getting her needed art supplies are things that are most important to her. She knows that if she wants certain things she’s going to have to work to get them, even if that means dumpster diving for Art materials. Her relationship with Irwin is complicated, as she loves him because he’s her little brother, but also resents all the attention that’s paid to him. She also doesn’t like to see him suffering and wishes he didn’t have to live with the life-changing condition that he has.

This book is told mostly from the perspective of Harriet (by the way I think the voice of Harriet in this audiobook is perfect for her), and the last part of the book is told by Irwin as he is growing up and becoming a young man. Overall, this book kept my interest. I would recommend that if you are easily offended by vulgar language or talk about sexual things/situations, then you may want to avoid this one. 

Thank you for allowing me to listen to this audiobook and give my own, unbiased opinion.
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Wasn't really my cup of tea.  Although through the description I anticipated it being a hit.  I was not in line with the writing and didn't connect to the story or the narrator.
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On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light by Cordelia Strube
Narrated by Michelle Monteith and Scott Gorman  

Eleven year old Harriet had to become "the" adult in her family once her brother Irwin was born with hydrocephalus, six years ago. First her mother quit her job and lived at the hospital while her dad used excuses to never go there. Later Irwin is in and out of the hospital and emergency room, living with the ever present threat of seizures and infections. From the time that Harriet's mom refused to allow Irwin to die, Harriet no longer had someone to take care of her and put her first. Instead she is taking care of them, the residents of Shangrila, full of old people, her absent minded grandmother, and Irwin, who adores Harriet with all his heart. Dad is now on the sidelines with his new wife and their expensive IVF treatments. 

Harriet is a dumpster diving mixed media artist and everyone but Irwin is disturbed by her violent, strange artwork. I loved hearing about her art, her reasons for creating each piece, the meaning of the colors she used to create her masterpieces and her plans to run away so she can live alone and create art in peace. Somewhere in all of this, she is ready for Irwin to die, he's going to die anyway, and she thinks the time is very close. She knows she shouldn't think this way but Harriet is a worn out and used up and she wants to leave this world, one way or another.

This is an extremely snarky, caustic, crude, gross, funny, sad, profanity laced story of a young girl whose five year old brother is her world and her albatross. She struggles through each day with the chorus of pleas, admonitions, and demands from the elderly poor citizens of her apartment building and being ignored in the most important ways by parents that she most desperately needs to notice and care about her. I love  Harriet and her five year old brother and can see the bright future ahead for this smart, creative, precocious girl. 

Something happens and things change, some things continue the way they always have, other things are gone forever. The profanity and crude body talk was almost too much for me but the story is worth any discomfort. For all the arguing, complaining, and absentminded neglect in the story, there is also love. 

Thank you to ECW Press Audio and NetGalley for this ARC.
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