Thursday, September 13, 2012

Review: Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah

Distant Shores
Distant Shores by Kristin Hannah

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Here's some free advice, worth the pixels it forms on your screen: don't read books about marriages on the verge of collapse when your own isn't doing too great. It's upsetting. I was hoping for an uplifting tale of a couple that makes it, despite the difficulties, to get some idea of what to do about my own situation. Instead, it just depressed me.

Distant Shores is a play on the last names of the main characters, Elizabeth ("Birdie") and Jackson ("Jumpin' Jack Flash") Shore. They are, indeed, distant, which is probably the first time I've found a title too apt. Jack is a former football star who injured his knee, got addicted to painkillers, and got thrown off Monday Night Football for getting into a car accident while high. Birdie is his wife of 24 years, mother of their two lovely daughters who are now in college. She's deeply unhappy. When Jack gets a job in NYC, she opts to stay behind in the house she thought she'd get to keep forever.

This is not well-written. It's trite, and absolutely stuffed with cliché. I thought about making a drinking game of one shot per cliché, but realized I'd be dead of alcohol poisoning before 20 pages were up. The sea is like a kaleidoscope, a tall, thin rock is a "monolith," eyes sparkle, people pop things into their mouths, hearts break, it's the end of the world. At one point, Birdie thinks that maybe there's a lesson in the spider who keeps rebuilding her web even after it's swept away every time, and I literally smacked myself on the head.

There is some grey area within the book, which is surprising. The separation is neither Birdie's nor Jack's fault, and they both have realizations to make before they can think of reconciling, or even know for certain if that's what they want to do.

But the majority of the prose is written with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. There's a subplot about a sports star raping young women, but it's there entirely as a springboard for Jack's career. The author is aware this causes controversy, but the reactions from the football star's defenders are flimsy, nothing like the actual remarks made about women who accuse sports stars of rape.

I didn't like the audio edition, and I don't know if that's because of the infestation of clichés, or because a third of the female characters, all the women that were supposed to sound sexy, sounded like they'd just had dental work done. When a third of the background characters are slurred, it grates. The narrator also had a weird lilt. She put emphasis in places where it didn't belong, making the characters sound like they were children, mentally.

In the end, I found the solution too simplistic, not worth the setup, and definitely not worth wading through all that cliché.

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