Morgan Callan Rogers has written a coming-of-age novel with a sympathetic yet tough young protagonist, enticing small-town coastal Maine setting, and a mystery. What happened to Florine’s mother? Even more to the point, will Florine do alright without her?
To tell the truth, we almost missed this one. This January title has flown under the radar for the most part, although Entertainment Weekly gave it a strong review (and a B+ rating), comparing it to movies Stand by Me and The Last Picture Show. I like our own reviewer’s comparisons even better!
ROGERS, Morgan Callan. Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea. 305p. Viking. 2012. Tr $26.95. ISBN 978-0-670-02340-0. LC number unavailable.
Adult/High School–Twelve-year-old Florine is carefree, roaming her small Maine fishing community with her band of lifelong friends—Bud, Dottie, and Glen. She adores her big, practical father, Leeman, and her beautiful, charismatic mother, Carly, even though the two argue over Carly’s restless nature. Nothing prepares Florine for the tragedy to come. Carly and her best friend go for a short getaway up the coast, during which Carly disappears without a trace. Florine and her father are left with open wounds that torment them with possibilities: Is she hurt? Did she leave on purpose? Or is her body left somewhere…? The novel spans the course of Florine’s adolescence, during which the Carly mystery overshadows each celebration and each tragedy. Florine is touchingly herself throughout. When Leeman seeks comfort from a local woman, who then insidiously makes her way into his home, Florine determinedly moves in with her Gran. She stubbornly maintains a mad crush on her childhood friend, Bud, despite his lengthy romance with another girl. Like Ava in Karen Russell’s Swamplandia (Knopf, 2011), Florine increasingly finds herself creating her own rules for survival, whether they appear rational to others or not. Recommend this to teens who like coming-of-age novels with strong characters and a vibrant sense of place, such as Bonnie Jo Campbell’s Once Upon a River (Norton, 2011) or Ivan Doig’s The Whistling Season (Houghton Harcourt, 2006).–Diane Colson, Palm Harbor Library, FL