The Shore Sara Taylor Book Review

The Shore by Sara Taylor

The Shore by Sara TaylorThe Shore by Sara Taylor
Published by Crown Publishing Group on May 26th, 2015
Source: Publisher
Pages: 320
Buy from IndieBound


The world of Southern Gothic literature was once well populated with women; Flannery O’Connor, Carson McCullers, and Dorothy Allison are regularly mentioned alongside William Faulkner and Tennessee Williams. But in recent years, the genre has shifted away from its ghostly Gothic roots toward new Grit Lit sensibilities—and it’s overwhelmingly male.

Enter Sara Taylor. Don’t be fooled by the beachy scene on The Shore‘s cover—the islands off the coast of Virginia are beautiful, but their stories are grim. Taylor’s characters encounter drugs, extreme physical and sexual violence, and murder of the kind that’s common to Grit Lit, but here they’re braced by the feminism and sense of magic realism the genre has been lacking.

“Maybe one day you’ll learn to read his moods better, learn to sense when he’s running out of patience, learn to stop pushing him until the storm comes. There will be bruises, on your arms and other not so visible places, in the morning, and neither Stella nor Ellie nor any of the people you see throughout the day will say a word about them, the way you never say a word when Ellie’s skin blooms purple-green. Even so, you know they’ll see and wonder what you said, what you did, and how you failed to keep it together this time.”

The Shore works as both a novel and heavily connected short stories. Starting in 1885, the book follows a community on the Shore for over 200 years, dropping hints and names along the way; a minor background character in one chapter could be central to the plot in another, sometimes 100 pages or 100 years later. While this will certainly be frustrating for some readers, thinking and theorizing can sometimes make a book a reading experience instead of just a story.

An absolutely immersive experience, at that. In many ways, pulling apart the layers of The Shore calls back to close examination of classic work—both challenging and rewarding. At just 24, Sara Taylor has blended the best elements of Grit Lit and Southern Gothic with a completely original spin and left her first, powerful mark on the literary world.


  • Lindsey Stefan

    I sort of love that style of writing where a minor character suddenly has major importance. I have this one on my tbr list – I think I will wait for a day when I am emotionally ready to tackle it!

  • Man, this book was goooooood. I read it in less than a day, couldn’t put it down. BUT – I can’t wait to discuss the final chapter. I’m still deciding what to think about that….

    • I get that…it kind of came out of nowhere, and it wasn’t the easiest. I had to read it twice to really appreciate it, but then it totally clicked.

  • This sounds fantastic! I have been seeing it around, but I didn’t realize what the structure of it was like – right up my alley!

  • I like the phrase ” thinking and theorizing can sometimes make a book a reading experience instead of just a story.”
    My primary reason for reading has always entertainment, but there are times when I like to think about the structure of the writing, author’s motivation, etc.

    • Totally agree. Sometimes it can be just as entertaining to work at a book a bit, and I definitely found that with this one.

  • Yesss! Nicely done. I think my review will be short because spoilers and all. It’s just one of those books that the reader has to experience and then visit TSS to discuss.

  • Kay

    I love your phrase ‘an absolutely immersive experience’. Honestly, that’s why I read, to be immersed in the story. Lovely!

  • Fantastic post as always. Beautiful review.

    I couldn’t get into this story. After the first murder, it was a little too gritty for me.

    I would like to come back for the discussion. :)


    • It’s definitely not for everyone, so I totally understand. More than worrying about the plot in my review, I’m hoping I’m warning people of that ;)

  • JoAnn @ Lakeside Musing

    I keep going back and forth on this one, but you make it sounds very appealing! Definitely not a beach read though ;-)

  • It’s definitely on my TBR, after hearing lots of comments from Sarah (Sarah’s Book Shelves) while she was reading it and then in her post today; I told her that I’m ready to “work” this much while reading right now (ha!), but I’ve got to read it. Now that I know it’ll be on The Socratic Salon, well…that pretty much sealed the deal. :) Thank you Shannon!

    • You’ll definitely have TSS to work through the bits and pieces with! I think we’re aiming for the third week of June, so you have time :)

  • I find the islands off Virginia and Maryland really interesting and can see how one of the islands would be a great setting for a story. I’ve been wondering about this book. Your review is really great and gives me a sense of what this book is about.

    • It’s definitely a really isolated, interesting area and Sara Taylor does an amazing job with the atmosphere.

  • Grit Lit. You’re a genius.

  • Our review scheduling ears must have been burning – ha! I remember that quote and it made me so sad reading it…then and now. I had no idea Taylor was 24…wow. Will be interested to see where she goes from here.

    And – about all the work involved with this one – my life right now is conducive to quick snippets of reading throughout the day (and usually while multi-tasking or in a strange place…i.e. while pushing my daughter on the swing), which was just not the way to read this book. I really want to give it another go at a time when I can devote an hour or two at a time…and without distractions. I ended up really liking it (and maybe loving would be 4/4.5 stars for me), but I think I could 5 star love it with the right reading environment.

    • I’ve been going back through the chapters one at a time as I was writing stuff for The Socratic Salon and this review and it’s actually pretty great to go back that way. I think just looking at it a second time really helps solidify the connections, so I hope you get a chance to read at least a few :)

  • Wow, never heard of Grit Lit. How interesting. And how interesting that a woman is already crashing the party. I’ve already added it to my list.

  • 24? That’s impressive. All these young pups make me feel like such a loser…! I’ve got this one to read; I’m looking forward to it. It’s been on a few prize longlists/shortlists, in the UK anyway, so it’s definitely on a lot of people’s radars. Some intriguing comments here, too.

    • It kills me that she’s so young! I just have to remember that means we could potentially have a much greater body of work from her :)

  • I’m so, so excited for this now. It wasn’t on my radar and I sadly judged it by the cover (house on the water + the title just sent my mind straight to chick-lit – for shame), but now this sounds exactly like what I would read (and love).

  • Susan W

    I’ve been waiting, very impatiently, for this one since you mentioned it last month. The fact she is under 25 is an added bonus, as I’m trying to fit my books into the Read Harder Challenge!

  • Ok, this sounds RIGHT up my alley. Like Alice Hoffman’s Blackbird House, but brutal!

  • Ti Reed

    I heard from another blogger that this was way dysfunctional. Not a bad thing in my eyes but Grit Lit? Never heard that term before. I like it.

  • I got this galley because of you, just started reading it today and came back to your (excellent) review, and basically read it word for word to my boss to show him why he 100% needs to read it. I’m not quite halfway done, but I’m obsessed. I think I would’ve read it all in a day if I hadn’t needed to take notes haha.

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  • Wow age 24. That’s amazing. Good for Sarah!

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