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Sunday, January 9, 2011

Book Review: Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

Anxious Hearts
Reading level: Young Adult 
Hardcover: 272 pages 
Publisher: Amulet Books (May 1, 2010) 
Purchase: Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Indiebound

“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.

Book Opening:
"I hate reading.
All those words. It's painful. Give me biology. Gym. A frog to dissect. Some laps to run. Anything but English. All those words.
Anxious HeartsWhat have words ever done for anyone anyway?"
Notable Quote:
"Her image appeared before him, hanging in the air just above the bow of his canoe, beckoning him ever forward. "Come, my love. Come." He saw her, curls cascading softly around her shoulders, midnight eyes shining with comfort and love. He imagine her alone, waiting for him, quiet and content, carefully tending to their house, to the goats and cider and garden, scanning the seascape of the bay for her beloved like a sea captain's widow in the years after battle. He would not disappoint her." – Page 197

ANXIOUS HEARTS alternates between two couples whose lives intertwine over hundreds of years.  It's an achingly romantic book, narrated by characters similar to one another but shaped by the era in which they lived and loved. 

The segments devoted to the Evangeline and Gabriel of the past made my heart ache and I was choked up more than once over the depths of their loss. The intensity of Gabriel's love for Evangeline initially seemed over-the-top to me, but he quickly won me over.  That passion he truly felt for her jumped off the pages and practically burned my fingertips. Sensing that these two lovers were ill-fated right from the start, their saga became emotional and personal to me.  I loved their story and did not close the book with a dry eye. At the end there was a note describing how a French-speaking Acadian community in Nova Scotia was really removed from their lands and dispersed to different locations during the time period depicted in the book. I wasn't familiar with this bit of history prior to reading ANXIOUS HEARTS, nor was I familiar with Longellow's poem. So learning that their story could've really happened actually endeared this book even more to me.

On the other hand, the modernized pairing of Eva and Gabe was definitely the weakest link  in my opinion. I often felt confused by Gabe. I didn't understand what his issue was with the way he'd just wander off, leaving Eva alone. I'm afraid that Gabe and I just didn't connect and often wondered whether he was really good enough for Eva.  I did love Eva's vitality and strong sense of self, but I kept wondering what it was she saw in him. While I didn't dislike their chapters, it was Gabriel and Evangeline's story from the past that kept me bound to the book with such rapt attention. I devoured it in one evening, knowing I had so many things I should be doing, but not caring one bit.  I just couldn't stop until I knew if Gabriel found Evangeline. 

I would recommend the book to readers who enjoy dual narratives and romantic historical fiction that alternates from the past to the present. I know many reviewers have mentioned that the alternating perspectives were jarring for them. I've always been a fan of multiple points of view and this was no exception.  I think a single narrator would've been too overwhelming, especially with someone like Gabriel. His feelings for Evangeline were so intense that it would've been almost suffocating to live inside his psyche the entire length of the book. 

Tucker Shaw's prose was beautiful; it melted off the page like honey. For hopelessly romantic readers, ANXIOUS HEARTS will be a great novel to curl up and enjoy. It's about what happens when love is pushed to the limit. And I guarantee you won't walk away without wiping away a tear or two.   Tucker Shaw's  lush depictions of nature, coupled with the strength of Gabriel and Evangeline's love, was worth this moving journey of love, loss and redemption.

Cover Comment: ANXIOUS HEARTS has one of the most romantic and well-suited covers I have ever seen- it really captures the mood of the book with its autumn hues and gold typeset.  I found myself constantly flipping between the front portrait cover of the past Evangeline and the back photo of the modern-day, feisty Eva as well.

Other Books by Tucker Shaw

Flavor Of The WeekThe GirlsConfessions of a Backup Dancer

Tucker Shaw, who has been featured on The Today Show, is the author Everything I Ate and many popular books for teens, including Confessions of a Backup Dancer. He lives in Denver, where he is a food editor for the Denver Post.


Alex Bennett said...

I almost bought this a few months ago, but didn't. Now I'm regretting it!

Anonymous said...

This is a great review! I've never heard of this book before, but I must say that I want to read it now.

Juju at Tales of Whimsy.com said...

Sounds good. I'm still on the fence about this one :) Great review though!

Bere said...

Wonderful review, Kim! I love the cover too. It really sounds great. I might just have to check it out. Thanks =D.

Anonymous said...

I have almost bought this one four times but changed my mind because I was eh-meh about it. Great Review!! Still bit eh-meh whether Ill pick it up but Im swaying more the getting,

Jess :)