Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Review: Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea

Summary: A captivating debut, introducing a spirited young heroine coming of age in coastal Maine during the early 1960s. 

When her mother disappears during a weekend trip, Florine Gilham's idyllic childhood is turned upside down. Until then she'd been blissfully insulated by the rhythms of family life in small town Maine: watching from the granite cliffs above the sea for her father's lobster boat to come into port, making bread with her grandmother, and infiltrating the summer tourist camps with her friends. But with her mother gone, the heart falls out of Florine's life and she and her father are isolated as they struggle to manage their loss.

Both sustained and challenged by the advice and expectations of her family and neighbors, Florine grows up with her spirit intact. And when her father's past comes to call, she must accept that life won't ever be the same while keeping her mother vivid in her memories. With Fannie Flagg's humor and Elizabeth Strout's sense of place, this debut is an extraordinary snapshot of a bygone America through the eyes of an inspiring girl blazing her own path to womanhood. -- Viking

When I was looking for a book to read a few days ago, I decided to try RED RUBY HEART IN A COLD BLUE SEA by Morgan Callan Rogers. One of the reasons was because Caroline Leavitt, author of PICTURES OF YOU (a book I loved!), gave it very high praise calling it an "astonishing debut." However, it was also because the description of the novel referred to it as a coming-of-age story; and you know I can't resist a good one of those.

I liked RED RUBY HEART IN A COLD BLUE SEA, but I don't know if I had quite the same reaction that Ms. Leavitt did. It's one of those books that I enjoyed reading, but I don't think it will go down as one of my favorites of this year. Having said that, I do see the appeal of this story and I do think many readers will absolutely love it. In a nutshell, RED RUBY HEART IN A COLD BLUE SEA tells the story of Florine, a young girl whose mother leaves town for a weekend and never returns.

Without a doubt, I thought the best thing about this novel was the character of Florine. The story is told through Florine's eyes and I thought Ms. Callan Rogers captured her voice perfectly. In fact, the author created a very memorable character in Florine and she has remained in my thoughts long after finishing this novel. Naturally, Florine is a very complex young girl. She has lost her mother, whom she idolized, at a time when every girl could use some motherly guidance. She is also hurting and extremely bitter and she just doesn't know how to handle all of her pain and heartache. As a mom, my heart broke for her over and over again... even when she was a little difficult to like.

Another terrific character in this novel was Florine's grandmother Grand. She can actually be credited with providing the nurturing that Florine so desperately needed and she taught Florine some very valuable skills like baking bread and knitting. But most importantly, Grand gave Florine the strength to survive all of the pain in her life as well as the ability to still love.

RED RUBY HEART IN A COLD BLUE SEA takes place in a small Maine town and I most definitely appreciated the setting of the novel. The story takes place in the 1960s and I thought the author did a wonderful job of including details of this time period. However, I thought the one of the best things about this novel was how Ms. Callan Rogers brought the small Maine coastal town to life. Her descriptions of the rocks and ocean as well as the community were so vivid and real that they added an extra element to this story.

RED RUBY HEART IN A COLD BLUE SEA would make an interesting book club discussion pick. There is a reading guide available with ten thought-provoking questions. Some of the topics you might want to explore include love, loss, parent/child relationships, first love, and healing. Florine, as well as her parents, are fascinating characters, and I'm pretty sure most book clubs would enjoy dissecting their personalities and behaviors.

If you are a fan of coming-of-age stories, then I recommend RED RUBY HEART IN A COLD BLUE SEA. There is no doubt that Florine's journey will deeply touch your heart.

Thanks to the publisher for providing a copy of this novel.


bermudaonion said...

Florine does sound like a wonderful character! I love books set in the 1960's. This one sounds like it's worth checking out.

rhapsodyinbooks said...

Ugh, wouldn't that be awful if your mother did that?!!! I've read a number of books with that theme, so I wonder how common it really is!

Carol said...

It doesn't sounds like a book I necessarily want to read, but I do love the title and the small town Maine setting sounds like a place I could love.

Alyce said...

I've learned not to trust author endorsement blurbs regardless of who the author is.