Review

Distant Shores

by Kristin Hannah



The DISTANT SHORES in the title of Kristin Hannah's new book are
Elizabeth and Jack Shore, a long married couple whose relationship
is in crisis. Outwardly successful, with two bright daughters in
college, each wonders where the passion has gone and whether it can
ever be rekindled. Elizabeth, called Birdie by her friends, has
devoted her life to her children, her husband, her house, and
volunteer work. And although Jack's television jobs have taken them
all over the country, now, in the small town of Echo Beach on the
Oregon coast, she finally has a house that feels like home.

Jack is restless in his job as a noontime anchor in Portland,
Oregon, and continues to hunt the big story that will give him
another chance in the media big leagues. He blew his first one
following the knee injury that ended his football career and left
him addicted to painkillers, but he won't let that happen again. A
hot story about a star college athlete and date rape lands in his
lap, followed closely by an aggressive, beautiful young assistant
named Sally. Jack is wooed away to New York and renewed fame as a
sports broadcaster.

Birdie follows him once again --- reluctantly --- but when her
beloved father dies she returns home to the Oregon coast to figure
things out. A friend has suggested a Women's Passion Support Group,
and Birdie promises to attend one meeting. There, she finds the
encouragement she needs to begin to paint again. In college she was
always told she had talent and now, as she handles the brushes, she
feels exhilarated but doubtful about her abilities. Her cute
painting instructor pressures her into a new gallery, where the
eccentric proprietress talks her into contributing five paintings
to an Arts Festival. Meanwhile, lying to the girls about their
parents' separation becomes onerous. But when Birdie's stepmother
Anita, with whom she's never gotten along, comes to stay, Birdie
discovers there is a lot more to Anita, and to her own past, than
she ever knew.

Ms. Hannah handles the threads and characters of her story
expertly, making Jack and Birdie believable and sympathetic. We get
to know enough about their past and their children to really care
about whether their marriage survives. Both of the main characters
grow --- Elizabeth must learn not to give up on painting, even when
none of them sell, and Jack discovers the value --- and the
necessity --- of putting his family before his career. By the time
they do get back together, readers will have long since mutilated
three or four Kleenexes.

So is this book a romance? Or "women's fiction?" I don't read many
romances but I recognize a couple of conventions --- there is no
concern about finances, for example. And when the cute painting
instructor kisses Birdie, she feels nothing; nothing like those
fiery kisses Jack used to lay on her. "I guess I'm more married
than I thought." Whereas Jack follows his, um, passion right into
bed with Sally, numerous times, until he gains the wisdom to tell
her, "I don't want to be sleeping with a woman simply because I
can." This is the good old double standard that has been pissing me
off for years, but that's my problem, and in terms of the book,
it's a very small problem. In addition to a satisfying story, there
is much good writing here. I enjoyed DISTANT SHORES and I imagine
millions of other women will too.

Reviewed by Eileen Zimmerman Nicol on January 21, 2011

Distant Shores
by Kristin Hannah

  • Publication Date: November 30, -0001
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books
  • ISBN-10: 034545071X
  • ISBN-13: 9780345450715