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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw


“Evangeline,” he repeated, calling at a whisper. “Evangeline.” He was not calling that she may hear, he was calling that somehow her soul might know that he was devoted entirely to her, only to her. “Evangeline, I will find you.” 

Eva and Gabe explore the golden forest of their seaside Maine town, unknowingly tracing the footsteps of two teens, Evangeline and Gabriel, who once lived in the idyllic wooded village of Acadia more than one hundred years ago. On the day that Evangeline and Gabriel were be wed, their village was attacked and the two were separated. And now in the present, Gabe has mysteriously disappeared from Eva. 

A dreamlike, loose retelling of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s famous love poem “Evangeline,” Anxious Hearts tells an epic tale of unrequited love and the hope that true love can be reunited.

With a beautiful cover and the promise of an equally beautiful story, I had high hopes for Anxious Hearts. Unfortunately, those hopes were dashed.

In Anxious Hearts there are two fundamental stories – a modern one and a historical one – that parallel each other. I’ve read books with similar set ups before, but the romances normally only played minor roles in the plot. The expansion of the idea into the sole plot of a novel seemed promising.

Shaw begins by introducing a beautiful landscape and then dives into the two stories that are at the forefront of the novel. The first two chapters switch off time periods and narrators, giving the reader a taste of both stories. At first I liked the switch, believing it to enrich the novel. However, as the switches went on, I quickly grew to hate them.

The constant switching from one period to the next makes the novel a choppy read. This is not helped by the fact that the modern portion of the novel is written from first person POV, while the historical side is written from the limited omniscient POV. Equally frustrating is the length of the chapters. They span anywhere from two to five pages, just allowing you a glimpse of one story before jostling you to the next. Without a main story to ground to the novel, there is no time or development to tie the reader to any of the characters.

The constant changing of the narrative also caused the book to move at breakneck speed. A great deal of it was spent on descriptive prose, which, while lovely to read, had little to do with the story. This only caused the book to feel even more rushed. Many of the big milestone moments in the book were buried beneath waxing prose and, when they finally came, passed quickly, barely letting the reader grasp them before being tossed into the other story yet again. In addition to this, there were big gaps of time missing, many of which encompassed important moments, which led to a lot of summary.

My final issue with this novel was the characters. They weren’t developed enough to lead to any attachments and, while trying to conform to the details of the story, they were simply unbelievable. Their traits were quite peculiar, so much so that their relationships seemed far-fetched and unbelievable. There was not one character I genuinely liked or cared for.

In the end, Anxious Hearts was a disappointment. Choppy and unbelievable, even a bit creepy at times, it was nowhere near the read I’d hoped for.

1 Star* 

Source: Purchased 

*As with any review, my opinion of the book may not reflect those of other reviewers and readers. I would strongly urge you not to take my review as a final sentencing on the quality of the novel. It is always a good thing to read other reviews and, if you are so inclined, read the book yourself and develop your own opinions. This is simply my thoughts on the book and something to be considered. I commend anyone who chooses to read this novel and enjoys it. 

3 comments:

  1. I have to agree with you here. I had a really hard time with this one.

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  2. Aww. I was looking forward to this one. But thanks for your review!

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  3. I took this book in vain and really thought it was going to be an interesting read because of the cover, however, after your review, what immediately switched me off about it was as you said the "two to five pages, just allowing you a glimpse of one story before jostling you to the next." I cannot possibly after the story if every other page is going in a different direction. I thank you for your review, it definitely opened my eyes for this book.

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