Anxious Hearts by Tucker Shaw

Anxious Hearts

“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.

          Henry Wadsworth Longfellow has been a study subject of nearly every English literature class I've ever taken (and I've taken quite a few!). This book was based on one of his more famous works, the poem "Evangeline." I'm sure I studied it at one point or another in my academic career, but prior to reading this book I couldn't recall the story. That was actually a blessing in disguise, because it gave me the chance to rediscover Longfellow's poem with fresh eyes through this book.

          The way Tucker Shaw retells the classic story is interesting - we are taken through it chapter by chapter, character by character, in a fast-paced but effective parallel. Eva tells the modern version of her story with Gabe, while Gabriel recounts his history with Evangeline.

          This constant switching of viewpoints could have easily turned bothersome and confusing, but Shaw handles the narrative deftly, by keeping chapters brief but clear. Another thing that greatly assists the mind in making the sudden time period transitions is the internal printed layout of the book, which I adored. Not only are there lovely little decorative swirls and vines on every page, but the modern chapters are on white pages, and the historical chapters are on grey pages. This alone gives you the sense of floating into a mist, back through time, to another place altogether. Also, I love the cover art - the girl is gorgeous!

          One minor issue I had was the modern Gabe - he acts in a puzzling way at times. For example, though we realize he is grief stricken, who would leave his girlfriend alone in the woods, miles from home, and on more than one occasion? He is a bit too flighty for my taste; I much prefer the devoted Gabriel, because his faith and love for Evangeline never wavers.

          I did appreciate that the author was confident enough to diverge from the original ending of "Evangeline." I won't spoil the story for you (or the poem, if you haven't read it), but I will say that the modern ending in Shaw's book was quite satisfactory.

          Another thing I liked was that this book was a true romance, without the cheesy trappings of most romance novels published these days. Reading it felt like floating through a dream, one of those dreams where you wake up smiling and peaceful but can't quite remember why.

          All in all, this was a great retelling of a classic story. I'll definitely be looking for more of Mr. Shaw's books in the future.

For those of you who are curious about the original poem "Evangeline," you can go to Project Gutenberg and download the full text for free.

Note: This book was a complimentary Advance Review Copy courtesy of the author or publisher.
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