Review: On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light by Cordelia Strube

Title: On the Shores of Darkness, There is Light
Author: Cordelia Strube
Pages: 372
Genre: Literary Fiction
Source: Free ARC from ECW Press

Rating: B+

Note: As stated under the Source (above), I received this book for free from ECW Press via NetGalley in exchange for my honest review (and trust me, honest is always what you’ll get).

Review: There is so much to say, and yet I struggle to define how I feel about this book in a cohesive way. I have literally just put it down, and I’m working very hard to not lose it. To say this is a very raw and emotional book would be an understatement. But, also, I think maybe it hit me harder than it might others because I can relate. As the mother of two children with unique challenges (not hydrocephalus though) and two healthy children, I get it all too well.

And what happens to Harriet, the way her brother’s illness changes her family life, the way she becomes a ghost overnight, these are things that parents like me worry about, that we’ll get so consumed by caring for our special needs children that we’ll forget the needs of our normal needs children, that they’ll be left to their own devices and who knows what that leads to. Well, this book certainly gives us a glimpse into one possible future, of how it feels to be the child who is essentially left behind, of what the costs could be to everyone involved.

Of course, it isn’t really that simple because there is so much more at play than one child’s illness. It’s also about how our failings can be passed on from generation to generation if we don’t take the time to self-examine, to make adjustments, to stop the cycle.

Honestly, the whole story was so tragic. Not in an extreme way like Yanagihara’s A Little Life, but certainly in a more realistic, and therefore almost more painful, way. So much struggle for this family, for these children. As if Irwin’s illness wasn’t enough. It’s almost overwhelming. Until you start to really look at the whole story. There were a lot of people who tried to make up for what these kids were lacking, for what they weren’t getting at home. And maybe with Harriet, it was subtle, the interventions were small because no one wants to be accused of getting into someone else’s parenting business. But after what happened to Harriet, they really step up their game for Irwin, do what they can to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.

So, yeah. The book is very heavy and for me especially heartbreaking, but there is a ray of hope in there. When the right people do enough, maybe most of us can be saved. Never underestimate the power of “the village”.

Oh, and the writing was excellent. Truly. Gut-wrenchingly excellent.

My only advice is a) have tissues on hand and b) have a “palate cleanser” ready for afterwards.

P.S. The cover is just so inviting. It tells you nothing about the contents of the book, but it made me want to read it so badly.

P.P.S. I saw this novel categorized as Young Adult or Cultural Fiction – Canada on Goodreads, and ummmm, yeah. NO. I suppose it could be Young Adult, but if that was the intent, it reads nothing like what I’m used to and it’s certainly a lot heavier than the usual YA fare.

As for the Cultural Fiction – Canada, yes I could tell early in that the writer was likely Canadian, and the story takes place in Canada, but I don’t think the intent of the book is to share Canadian culture and I don’t feel like I learned much of anything on that subject, so it seems a bit of a stretch.

In my opinion, it belongs under Literary Fiction. Period. That is all. 😉

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