Brian and Margot Dunne live year-round in Seaside, just steps away from the bustling boardwalk, with their daughters Liz and Evy. The Dunnes run a real estate company, making their living by quickly turning over rental houses for tourists. But the family's future becomes even more precarious when Brian develops a brain tumor, transforming into a bizarre, erratic version of himself. Amidst the chaos and new caretaking responsibilities, Liz still seeks out summer adventure and flirting with a guy she should know better than to pursue. Her younger sister Evy works in a candy shop, falls in love with her friend Olivia, and secretly adopts the persona of a middle-aged mom in an online support group, where she discovers her own mother's most vulnerable confessions. Meanwhile, Margot faces an impossible choice driven by grief, impulse, and the ways that small-town life in Seaside has shaped her.
This is Katie Runde’s first novel, and she writes with a fluid sensitivity to detail and mood, hitting tough questions hard and head-on ... Runde is a writer with a great ear, and her portrayal of teenagers is pitch perfect ... Runde creates lovely moments with these summer romances and the quiet vigil over Brian’s final decline. Occasionally we flash to the future, rising out of the narrative for a glimpse of survival after this tragic summer. These passages connect the story to the larger arc of all lives ... Outcomes are never seriously in doubt in The Shore. Where the novel wobbles for me is in Runde’s decision to hang suspense on Margot’s plan to uproot her daughters without a word of discussion; it bespeaks a kind of blind selfishness that can’t be wholly explained by grief ... I had the feeling that Runde was casting about for a way to inject tension instead of trusting her material and her skill ... Runde is an expert at the fastball to the heart. What I missed was an occasional changeup. This does not interfere with the ultimate success of the novel. You can tuck it into your beach bag, but don’t expect a romp. The Shore is never sentimental; it is absorbing, lucid and true. Anyone who has lost someone by inches will recognize the struggle to push through despair and affirm the dogged endurance of love.
... an atmospheric, expansive look into the inner lives of the Dunne family as they grapple with sickness, caregiving, grief and their lives as permanent residents of a tourist dream spot ... At face value, Margot, Liz and Evy are simple, accessible characters who are easy to relate to and root for. However, they become transcendent for the ways they learn to exist within the contradictions and compartmentalizations of their survival techniques, forever aligning and realigning themselves to new normals. Runde’s portrayal of the pain of living grief, the horror at watching a person you love change before your eyes, and the daily charting of each loss and win is not only heartbreaking but masterly. Although little truly changes in her characters’ day-to-day lives, she allows them space to breathe and pushes their boundaries by delving deep into the darkest corners of their hurts, resentments and fears ... In the end, The Shore is not read but breathed, as life-affirming, natural and beautifully flawed as the world and emotions it embodies. Runde is a powerful, masterfully restrained writer, a keen interpreter of the human psyche, and a perfect comp for readers who enjoy --- and have had their hearts broken and repaired by --- Mary Beth Keane, Cara Wall and Ann Napolitano.
Runde has written a heartfelt family drama saturated with a sense of place and the passage of time. Brian’s decline occurs over the course of one summer, but the novel also explores the long, complicated history of Margot and Brian’s relationship. Along with the particulars of life in a Jersey Shore town and evocative sensory details of the beach, Runde vividly renders a portrait of a family on the edge. The novel occasionally moves into a more lyrical, meditative mode that imagines the Dunnes in the future, but there is also excellent use of more prosaic text messages and emails.