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Anxious Hearts Reimagines “Evangeline”

April 15, 2010

Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw
will be published by Amulet Books on May 1, 2010

Ye who believe in affection that hopes, and endures, and is patient,
Ye who believe in the beauty and strength of woman’s devotion,
List to the mournful tradition still sung by the pines of the forest;
List to a Tale of Love in Acadie, home of the happy.

from “Evangeline” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Tucker Shaw took his inspiration for this unique young adult romance from Longfellow’s classic poem about a young couple separated when Acadian people were banished from their land, by British troops, in 1755. You can read more about the history behind “Evangeline” here.

Two parallel stories run through Anxious Hearts. One is the tale that inspired “Evangeline” from the perspective of her beloved, Gabriel. The second is a modern story of two teens, Eva and Gabe, living in a part of Maine whose cultural roots are tied to the world recreated in “Evangeline.” Eva and Gabe were friends in childhood; after being separated for many years, they come together again. Eva falls in love with Gabe, a quiet, troubled, rather mysterious boy. When he vanishes from her life, she persistently searches for him, believing he may be the only person she will ever be able to love.

Evangeline’s and Gabriel’s story, set in the past, is actually the more compelling one. The characters are lightly drawn, but captivating, and authentic historical details help bring this colonial setting to life. The author effectively captured a man’s yearning for the woman he loves. I found myself drawn into Gabriel’s suffering and eager to see what would happen next.

This story was interwoven with the modern romance between Eva and Gabe. Gabe jotted down Gabriel’s and Evangeline’s story in a notebook; this device tied together the two narratives in a way that seemed a bit awkward and confusing.

The contemporary story, narrated by Eva, didn’t work for me. Eva never had a clear voice.  To the author’s credit, Eva and Gabe seemed like people I wanted to get to know better. But I never connected with them. In fact, Gabriel rarely spoke throughout the novel. Their relationship was never fully developed, their love never seemed believable or compelling, and I found myself not caring. And in order for this novel to work, both threads needed to engage the reader.

One thing the author accomplished, throughout both stories, was using beautiful language and luminous imagery — he really is a master of his craft. Both settings were exquisitely described, with precipitous cliffs overlooking the sea, lush forests, and heavy fog, in a way that was vividly real and, at the same time, had a dreamlike, mystical quality. There were times when I slowed down just to savor the words and images, which were a fitting tribute to Longfellow’s poetry.

Though this novel didn’t entirely work for me, Tucker Shaw is a gifted writer and an author I’ll be watching. Many readers will probably love Anxious Hearts. For a glowing review, see Harlequin Twilight’s Book Blog.

I borrowed this book from Around the World Book Tours.

Read Other Reviews: Harlequin Twilight’s Book Blog, Ellz Readz, Book Chic Club, The Hiding Spot


One Comment leave one →
  1. April 18, 2010 3:01 am

    Just came over to check out your new wordpress site…very nice! It looks really clean; I hope you are happy with the move. I’ll definitely still “follow” you.

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