Author: Tucker Shaw
Publisher: Amulet Books
Genre: Historical Fiction
Release Date: May 1, 2010
How Received: Library
Summary: “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 weens, 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 to 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.
I sat on this review for a while, because I had nothing other than “beautiful” to describe it as. Here I am, a week later, and still only have that one basic adjective to describe such a profound and heart-breaking story.
Anxious Hearts is a retelling of the poem “Evangeline” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. I mention this because I have not read the poem (though I have every intention to because of this book), so my only understanding and interpretation of this story is based on what went on in the book.
At first, I treated Anxious Hearts as I do with any other book: with harsh criticism and a questioning mind. I had to go back several times in a few passages and remind myself that what I was reading was primarily historical fiction, and that the characters and personalities weren’t going to be as realistic as some other books. Because truly, there were a number of things I could have complained about: the lack of description around Gabe’s absence, the implausibility of his personality, and Eva’s odd, barely realistic attraction to him all were at the top of my list. But this book isn’t about realism or character development.
It’s about love. Short and simple. It’s about the beauty of love and the desperation two people will endure to remain together. It’s also about overcoming all odds and reuniting with the one you truly belong with. These two stories were so descriptive and emotional – I was really moved by it. I personally enjoyed Evangeline and Gabriel’s romance more, because it was more fleshed out and their passages were longer than Eva/Gabe’s. Not only that, but Evangeline/Gabriel were the 18th century couple, and you could tell from Gabriel’s character that he respected and adored her, and reading about their love for each other was definitely sweet.
The story of Anxious Hearts covers two different narratives – one from Eva (present) and one from Gabriel (past). I personally liked the dynamic of this narrative, but it left so much to guess about with Evangeline (past) and Gabe’s (present) characters. Then again, that might have been its purpose: to keep the readers guessing, because that’s essentially what this book does. Every time I thought something was finally going to be explained, more questions arose. But on the other hand, this type of narrative made it slightly awkward. Gabriel’s passages would pick up where Eva’s left off storyline wise, and vice versa, and you’d have to piece two and two together. Other times, Gabriel’s story would end, and then Eva’s story would begin, and then we’d get back to where Gabriel’s story left off last time. Does that make sense? No, I didn’t think so. It didn’t while I was reading, either.
My highest praise for this book (aside from the love/romance) was in the descriptions and prose. It wasn’t the most wonderfully descriptive novel out there, but I felt like I was in that “golden” forest filled with birch trees and yellow wood lilies, and could smell the ocean air atop the cliffs. If there was one color I could describe this word as making me feel, it’d be yellow. Or golden. The prose also wasn’t the best I’ve come across, but it was up there. Tucker Shaw had a knack for making me feel both as if I was in the story, yet as if I was also detached from it as well. I think the summary describes it best – it was very dreamlike. His writing captured the mood well, and he used it to his advantage for the story.
Cover Musings: I can’t even begin to tell you how much I love this cover. So I won’t even try. I just love it. The yellow, the leaves, the models hair and eyes, the mood is sets. (I don’t think you can tell without a copy in front of you, but the model has a tear-drop plummeting down her face). Also, on the back is what I’m guessing the rendition of Eva (the front is Evangeline), and it was equally as pretty. But it was blue. Oh, I found a picture of it. Like so:
Gabriel knew he should go. He wasn’t supposed to be here in the first place. He would see Evangeline later tonight for the signing of the contract, and then, after tomorrow, they would be together, always, forever, and his ever-tossed heart would be peaceful at last. But Gabriel had meager faith in tomorrow. Life had taught him well: Tomorrow doesn’t exist until it arrives. (pg. 11)
“Cry, Evangeline,” he says. “Cry today.”And I do. I cry.I cry, hard at first, then softer with short, baby-girl sobs, Gabe’s hand resting on my cheek. I have always imagined what it would feel like to cry and not have to explain why. Now I know. It feels like home. (pg. 34)
All I know is that I’ve never felt anything better in my life.It takes over everything in me, and I wonder if I’ve ever felt anything at all before.What I’ve wanted so badly that I couldn’t say it out loud was to be connected to Gabe. And in this moment, I am. I feel alive. Not happy, really, because there is so much sadness in him, in his eyes, his voice, his lips. But he is so alive, and I am so alive.“Home,” I say, when our lips finally separate. (pg. 62)
“And do you so promise, forever?” Asked Pere Felician. He stood behind the flower-strewn alter.“I so do,” answered Gabriel, kneeling before Evangeline. “Forever.”Gabriel stood up and gingerly lifted Evangeline’s veil. Every corner of her face smiled at him. He kissed her, and the crowd cheered. Michael’s bow hit his strings, giving rise to a cheerful tune.And Gabriel, proud and complete, his beloved aside him forever now, finally knew what it was to be alive. (pg. 101)
A twig snaps in a glade of birch trees. You turn. Is that a shadow concealed in the wood? A deer? A man? A ghost?The sea breeze, salty and pure and whispering, fills your lungs and mind with memories you haven’t formed yet. You inhale deeply. The yellow wood lilies at the edge of the forest beckon you back to the path in the woods, back through the pines, back to your old life. You wonder how long you’ve been here, and worry how you’ll get home.Another breath, deeper now, and your anxious heart slows again. You are not alone. Many have disappeared down this path, struggled, and found their way home again. Many stories surround you.Perhaps you will linger here atop the bec awhile longer, lying on your back and tracing the sun’s path against the sky, and waiting, watching, listening, hoping for the return of the distant tide. (242)
Overall Thoughts/Final Comments: I loved this book. I thought it was beautiful and very emotional. I have to admit that I did cry at the end – I didn’t even know I was so attached to the story that I’d start crying; I didn’t even anticipate crying about it, even though I knew where the story was headed. The descriptions and prose in the book were lovely, and I absolutely loved the varying fonts they used for Eva’s/Gabriel’s chapters, and the designs on the sides of the pages. I don’t know what else to say other than it was beautiful and it played with my moods, and it made me feel “golden”.