Wednesday, August 22, 2012

The Harbormaster's Daughter by Heidi Jon Schmidt

The Harbormaster's Daughter. Heidi Jon Schmidt. Penguin Group (USA).  August 2012. 368 pages. ISBN #: 9780451237873.

What's it like to be disliked and even bullied for being who you are?  How does one escape one's association with shame and murder?  How well can someone else substitute for the genuine presence of a mother and father?  These are all very real questions in this story about a young girl who has absolutely no idea of why she is viewed as so very different from the other girls in her small seaside town of Oyster Creek in Massachusetts.  All in all, she's sad, angry, and very confused about it all!

For initially, she doesn't know the whole story of how her real father became so disgruntled with his being passed over for the job of Harbormaster that he dallies with a woman, Sabine, and rejects her when she becomes pregnant.  That would be terrible enough but when her daughter, Vita, is very young, Sabine is murdered!  Vita is sent to live with LaRee Farnham and doesn't know about her father for quite a few years.

So continues this story that often rambles through Vita's very real mental and emotional suffering about her past and her future and then passes to the exposure of the truth and everyone else's attempt to make things "normal" again.  But life is never that easy, and Vita is never as comfortable as she is when she's watching theater or participating in it.  Still LaRee is doing the best she can, and Vita is coming to find her own comfortable identity through this difficult process.

There are also some other issues floating through the book, one about some snooty villagers who have always lived in this fisherman community and view all outsiders as "foreigners" and make them know it in speech and attitude as well.  While this may seem an aside, it quite clearly parallels the experience of Franco and his wife, Sabine, LaRee, and Vita.  It's not as far from our world as one may think and this book will make you think about your own backyard!

Although there's some choppiness to the plot in certain parts where one is not sure what's going on, overall this is a fine read, and Heidi Jon Schmidt knows her topic and characters well.  Different but more powerful for its everyday, ordinary, real qualities! Give it a read!

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