Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea: A Novel

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Overview

“An authentic page turner…. Rogers [vividly] captures this era of Elvis records and small-town Maine fishing life.” —Down East

In 1963, twelve-year-old Florine Gilham enjoys an idyllic childhood in small-town Maine—until her beloved mother vanishes. Untethered and adrift in the wake of her disappearance, Florine finds her once-cherished joys—watching her father’s lobster boat come into port, baking bread with her grandmother, and causing mischief with the summer folk—suddenly ...

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Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea: A Novel

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Overview

“An authentic page turner…. Rogers [vividly] captures this era of Elvis records and small-town Maine fishing life.” —Down East

In 1963, twelve-year-old Florine Gilham enjoys an idyllic childhood in small-town Maine—until her beloved mother vanishes. Untethered and adrift in the wake of her disappearance, Florine finds her once-cherished joys—watching her father’s lobster boat come into port, baking bread with her grandmother, and causing mischief with the summer folk—suddenly ring hollow. When a figure from her father’s past comes calling, Florine must find the courage to lay down roots of her own.  Set against the gorgeous backdrop of the Maine coast, Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is an extraordinary snapshot of a bygone America as seen through the eyes of an iconic New England girl.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“Rendered first-person in confiding, colloquial prose . . . [like] the bittersweet coming-of-age movies (see: Stand By Me, The Last Picture Show) that don't get made much anymore." —Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly

“Deeply moving . . . Callan Rogers writes with a superb sense of place and period, delving deftly into true-to-life responses to unexplained loss . . . A realistic and resonant coming-of-age novel.” —Kirkus

“Callan Rogers ’ astonishing debut brilliantly illuminates deep loss, impossible longing, and our yearning to hold onto love no matter what, all told in the lake-clear voice of one remarkable young heroine. So rapturously moving, I could barely bring myself to close the final page.” —Caroline Leavitt, author of Pictures of You

“Rich in landscape and character, with regional dialect and phrases that will tip many mouths into grins.” —Annie Bostrom, Booklist

“Young Florine Gilham's mother disappears on her annual weekend getaway, leaving a large hole in Florine's life. This coming of age story is poignant and affecting. Set on the coast of Maine in the early sixties, Callan Rogers has portrayed a strong spirited young girl with sensitivity and humor. This is one to recommend to older teens as well as for adults.”
Sue Richardson, Maine Coast Book Shop, Damariscotta, Maine

“I highly recommend Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers. The author grew up in Castine, and the Maine setting, characters, and plot are so believable. I loved the book. The protagonist, Florine (“named after Daddy’s mother Florence & Carlie’s mother Maxine”) is born in May of 1951, the daughter of a waitress and a lobsterman, who are absolutely in love with one another. When the story begins 12-year-old Florine is being grounded for nearly burning down a summer cottage with some of her friends (accidentally—a prank gone wrong). Shortly after that Florine’s mother, Carlie, disappears on an annual weekend trip to a nearby coastal resort (think Bar Harbor). Florine is proud, stubborn and spunky, and not afraid to take matters into her own hands. She moves in with her grandmother, “Grand” when a conflict grows between her & her father. Her friendships and family relationships grow apart, and reconnect. There are heart-breaking moments in the book, but there is always the thread of strength, resilience, and humor that makes this novel a joy to read. This book will ring true for anyone who has grown up in a small town, where truth is always stranger than fiction.”
Debbie Taylor, Book Buyer, Sherman’s Book Stores, Maine

“Refreshing . . . A piercingly knowing portrait of the complicated thoughts and actions of a maturing teenage girl . . . with a one-of-a-kind setting and dialect straight from the shore.” —David Svenson, Portland Monthly

“Incredibly detailed, rich and real…You will find yourself drawn into this book quickly and fiercely.” —Katy England, The Maine Edge

“The young, prickly, and thoroughly endearing narrator of Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea got to me in a big way. Not since Ellen Foster have I rooted so hard for a fictional girl, whose losses, while deep and abiding, show us what she’s made of. I loved spending time with Florine, and I’m still thinking about her. She will break your heart and make you glad she did.” —Monica Wood, author of Any Bitter Thing

“At once very personal and very broad in theme and atmosphere, Red Ruby Heart is a lovely novel, long on heart. Morgan Callan Rogers has a confident, almost playful prose style, and she bears down on this story from the first paragraph, never faltering in her mission to convey her characters and their painful paths with honesty, compassion, and humor.” —Susanna Daniel, author of Stiltsville

Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea spun me deep inside its feisty, honest heroine, Florine. A classic story of paradise lost, this is a beautiful and wise coming-of-age story set on the Maine coast, where grief—harsh as the granite shoreline—is suffered, solaced and survived. I love this book, with its fresh-baked bread, stars and waves, wind-worn houses, mysteries and truths. A wonderful first novel.” —Beth Powning, author of The Sea Captain's Wife

“A heartwarming ‘coming-of-age-story’ set in what is arguably the continent’s most beautiful location.” —Ann La Farge, Hudson Valley News

“Readers who enjoy coming-of-age tales and small-town stories will appreciate this well-crafted debut novel that tugs at the heart without falling into sentimentality.” —Jan Blodgett, Library Journal

It’s the Maine voices that carry this book and make it an authentic page turner: fishermen and the women who love them, as well as a younger generation of girls and boys on the coast who skip town as soon as they get their diplomas. Rogers captures this era of Elvis records and small-town Maine fishing life so vividly that you may wish you’d grown up here.” —Susan Conley, Down East

“I read it straight through and flipped over it. Florine's voice is pitch perfect throughout, and the story is both poignant and heart-warming. I love the three-dimensionality of the characters—no pure bad guys or good guys. I love all the Maine stuff, the distinctions between the summer people and the year-rounders of course rang bells. Loved Grand, loved the father, was so happy and relieved that in the middle of all that loss, Bud and Florine found each other. Oh, and I just loved the food: bread, apple pie, mac and cheese, beef stroganoff, Stella's ‘gourmet’ cooking—both mouthwatering in the descriptions and adding another layer to the you-are-what-you-eat characters. Please convey to the author my profound admiration and my delight that she's a fellow Mainer. And to you, huge thanks for introducing me to such a writer. I'll look forward to her next.” —Mameve Medwed, author of Of Men and Their Mothers

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780452298637
  • Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 5/28/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 320
  • Sales rank: 742,831
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Morgan Callan Rogers is a native Mainer who grew up in the shipbuilding city of Bath and splits her time between coastal Maine and South Dakota. This is her first novel.

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Read an Excerpt

1

After we almost burned down a summer cottage, my friends and I were not allowed to see each other for the rest of July and August. It was 1963, and I was twelve.

After the fire, my parents decided that they should take me in hand lest I end up in jail. Grand, my grandmother who lived across the road from us, usually took care of me while they worked. Daddy made his living as a lobsterman and had to haul traps every day. My mother, Carlie, was a waitress at the Lobster Shack. She cut back on her shifts to keep me out of trouble.

Being under Carlie’s playful eye wasn’t the worst thing that had ever happened to me. I had her pretty much to myself for the last two weeks of July, and we did something different every day. We got ice cream cones at Ray’s General Store up the road and sat on our front steps eating them and watching the water wink at us from the harbor at the end of The Point. We hiked from our backyard through the woods to the nearby State Park and ate snacks at the picnic tables there. We hung out at the Lobster Shack, we window-shopped in Long Reach, the town closest to The Point, danced and sang to Elvis records, played cards, sunned ourselves, and goofed off.

On the day I was to remember best, we packed a picnic, piled into Carlie’s 1947 Ford coupe, Petunia, and set off up Route 100. We passed through Long Reach, went over a bridge spanning a wide river, and drove toward Mulgully Beach, which made up the nail on a thick finger of land.

We were to meet Patty, Carlie’s friend. Patty waitressed with Carlie. Her hair was buttercup yellow, her eyes were light blue, and her dimples were so big she could have hidden marbles inside of them. She didn’t take any crap, either. Rude customers had glasses of water accidentally spilled over their laps, or they’d have to wait a minute too long for her to serve them. Once, a table of ten didn’t tip her and had the nerve to show up again. “I’m getting them good,” Patty told Carlie and me. In between smiling and serving, she went out into the parking lot and let the air out of one of their car tires. As they stood outside wondering what to do, Patty went out and demanded, and got, her tip. I liked her style, although Grand might have said, “Two wrongs don’t make a right.”

Carlie always got her tips. Whereas Patty flirted and giggled and made it known that she was full of hell and proud of it, Carlie didn’t have to flaunt it. Carlie lit up a room like a bright light and people were drawn to her. I thought the sun and moon circled around her. So did Daddy.

I always called her Carlie, never mother, mom, mommy, mum, or ma. She was eighteen years old when she drove Petunia up from Massachusetts. Daddy told me that she swept him off his feet in front of Ray’s store. “I was done hauling for the day,” he said, “and I thought I’d walk up to Ray’s for a six-pack of ’Gansett. The sun caught on the bumper of a car parked outside the store and I was pretty much blinded by the shine. Then someone blocked it. It was this girl, and she smiled at me. Pretty eyes, red hair. Skinny, but that didn’t matter.”

Carlie told Daddy that she was working up the road at the Lobster Shack for the summer. “I had supper with Ma that night,” Daddy said, “and even though she made me her finnan haddie, Carlie’s being down the road was the only thing I could think of.”

They got married in August 1950 and I was born on May 18, 1951. They named me Florine, after Daddy’s mother, Florence, and Carlie’s mother, Maxine.

That day, on our way to Mulgully Beach, Carlie tapped her pink fingernails against Petunia’s steering wheel. Her hair curled like red ribbon over her shoulders. Ah lewie lewa, Oh whoa, I saida we gotta go, thumped on the radio. My best friend, Dottie Butts, and I spent one afternoon listening to “Louie Louie” every time it came on, because we’d heard it was dirty. But it was hard to figure out the words. Dottie said the singer sounded as if his tongue had been cut to ribbons and he was trying to sing through the blood. We came up with the words, “Every night, at ten, I lay her again. I chuck that girl then I went away.” I asked Carlie about what she thought the words might be, but she shrugged. “Dunno,” she said. “It’s all about the beat, I guess.”

When we reached the beach, Carlie paid a fee at a booth and we parked in a dirt lot. The sun bounced off the paint on the cars and made me squint.

“Don’t do that,” Carlie said. “You’ll get a line between your eyes and look old before you’re twenty. We’ll get you sunglasses at the snack bar.” She looked into the rearview mirror as she layered on bright pink lipstick, then we got out the picnic basket along with an old blanket and our towels and we headed for the bathhouse. When Carlie pulled off her panties, her thatch shone like copper. Fire crotch. I’d heard those words spoken about my mother one day as I waited for her to get off work. Two men were sitting close to me and one said to the other, “Redhead. I’ll bet she’s got a fire crotch.” Now, when I saw Carlie naked, that’s what I thought. She pulled her suit up over her hips, worked it over the penny-sized nipples on her small breasts, then wrestled the straps up over her back. I rolled my suit up over my skinny, hairless body, wishing something would bump out or curve in so I could say I was becoming a woman. Carlie had told me, not too long before when I’d been whining about my girl’s body, “Pretty soon you’ll be so dreamy the boys will walk into walls.” Because she had said it, I held some hope of it in my heart.

“Let’s go,” Carlie said, and we gathered our belongings and headed for the snack bar. Carlie bought me sunglasses with pink cat rims and we hopped and squeaked barefoot up over the hot boards covering the tarry, hot boardwalk.

“Run!” Carlie said. We pounded over the boards to the top in a rush and took in a strip of sun-beaten sand and curly, bottle-green breakers below us. More people than I would see in a year sprawled on blankets or jumped and screamed in the waves.

About halfway down the beach, a woman in a black bathing suit stood and waved at us from a yellow blanket. When we got close enough, Patty hollered, “Hey Florine,” and Carlie and I threw our picnic basket and beach bag down onto the blanket.

“Hot,” Carlie said. “I’m going to cool off right away.” She grabbed one of my hands and Patty grabbed the other one and they ran me down toward the waves. Before I could scream, a wall of water flung me down, tumbled me like laundry, scraped me along the sand bottom and spat me back onto the beach, where Carlie grabbed me.

“Scared?” she asked. Of course I was, and back we went, time and again, until we were scratched and beat up. We dipped into the backwash between breakers and cleaned the sand from our suits as best we could. We staggered back toward our blanket, me trailing behind the two most beautiful women that I knew. Even though they both were small in height, they walked tall and carried themselves high and proud. They tossed their heads at the same time, and their wet hair flung sprays of salty water into the air. When I tossed my head, I tripped over my big feet and almost fell over.

Back on our blanket, we ate peanut butter and grape jelly sandwiches, chugged root beers, and looked out at the ocean.

“You behaving?” Patty asked me. “Haven’t started any fires lately, have you?”

“We didn’t mean to do it,” I said. “It didn’t burn down all the way.”

“I’m joshing you,” Patty said. “Rich bastards deserve a little smoke in their eyes from time to time.”

“Well, let’s talk about something else,” Carlie said. She took a deep breath and let it out. “Ain’t this grand,” she said. She pulled her bathing suit strap away from her shoulder. “Do I have a burn?”

“You just got here,” Patty said.

“I burn easy,” Carlie said. She poured baby oil onto her legs and rubbed it in.

“What about me?” Patty asked. Carlie snorted. Patty was golden in all the places we could see her.

“Am I tan?” I asked. Carlie took off her sunglasses and looked at my shoulders. “No,” she said. “You have my skin. Your father, now, there’s someone who tans easy.”

“How is the old man?” Patty asked. I wanted to say he isn’t old (even though he was twelve years older than Carlie) but Patty saw my look and gave me the gift of her dimples. “It’s just an expression, Florine,” she said. “Your daddy’s a stud.”

“What’s a stud?” I asked.

“He’s fine,” Carlie said. “Hauling.”

“Same old same old,” Patty said. “Oh, by the way, someone’s missing you.”

“Who?” Carlie asked.

Patty grinned like a cat. “You know,” she said. I couldn’t see Carlie’s face, but she must have given Patty a look, because Patty glanced at me and her smile got smaller. She grabbed a yellow-knotted string purse from beside her on the blanket and fished out a dollar. “How about you get an ice cream, my treat,” she said to me. “Okay?” she asked Carlie.

“I want to stay,” I said. I wanted to hear about who was missing Carlie. But Carlie said to me, “You get an ice cream and you come right back,” and I went. Mostly she was easygoing, but when she asked me to do something, I did it.

I traveled fast over the hot sand and skimmed up and down over the boardwalk to the snack bar. I stood in line for what seemed hours but was most likely minutes. I got a chocolate jimmy cone and headed back, paying attention not to get it all over me.

I was halfway back down the beach when I noticed the man with Carlie and Patty. He was a darker gold than Patty, and he had black hair. He was stretched on his back on the blanket, hiked up on his elbows, talking to Carlie, who sat facing him, her knees up near her chin, her hands wrapped around her legs.

I crunched the nubbin end of my sugar cone as I walked up to them. The man turned toward me, shutting one eye to keep down the glare of the sun. When he smiled at me, one tooth snaggled out of the left side of his mouth. “Hi,” he said. “You Florine?” His hair was slicked back, shiny. His eyes were blue. He looked at Carlie. “Looks like the old man, I guess,” he said. “She’s got some of your coloring, but she’s going to be bigger in every way.” Patty giggled. My ears felt hot. I swallowed the rest of my cone and decided I didn’t like him. “Can we go for a walk?” I asked Carlie.

She looked at me over the top of her sunglasses. Her face was turning pink. “Sure,” she said. She got up and brushed herself off. The man looked at her legs. He shifted his hips on the blanket and moved himself up onto his elbows a bit more.

“Who’s that?” I asked as we walked out of earshot.

“Mike,” she said. “He comes into the Shack. He’s a customer.”

“Is he the someone who misses you?” I asked.

“What do you mean?” Carlie asked.

“Patty said someone missed you.”

Carlie shrugged. “I don’t know,” she said. “It doesn’t matter. I don’t miss him.” She stopped and stretched, looked out over the ocean. Then she said, “Come here. Stand in front of me.” I did, and she bent down and pointed toward the line between the sea and the sky. “See the horizon?” she asked.

“Yes.”

“If you could walk through that line and come out on the other side, you would be somewhere completely different. Wouldn’t that be a gas?”

“Yeah, I guess,” I said. A seagull landed nearby, cocked its white head, and studied us with a yellow eye. Carlie waved it off.

We walked toward a pile of rocks and sat on a black one with a flat surface that fit both our butts just fine. We looked out at Carlie’s horizon for a few seconds, then she said in a dreamy voice, “When I was a kid, before I’d go to sleep, I’d put myself to flying. I’d go to all these places and touch down, look around, see if I recognized anybody. Then I grew up, drove up here, and there was your father, walking towards me with the sun hitting the back of his head like a halo. Blue eyes, big smile, big shoulders, big man, and I said to myself, ‘Well, here he is, Carlie. This is where you stop.’ He’s a good man, Florine. One of the best men I’ve ever met.”

She looked at me and said, “What do you think about before you drift off?”

“I don’t know,” I said.

“’Course you don’t,” she said. “You’re your father’s girl. And that’s not a bad thing.” She patted my arm and I winced. “Oh shit,” she said. “Honey, you’re sunburned. We’ll go back to the blanket and pack up. Then let’s go home, okay?” It was fine with me.

Patty and snaggletooth Mike were jumping around in the waves. As we came closer, they waved at us and ran for the blanket.

Patty shook drops of cold water on me. “Want to go in some more?” she asked.

Carlie said, “We’re going home, Patty. Florine has a sunburn.”

Mike lifted the bathing suit strap near Carlie’s shoulder and ran his finger along the line between white and red skin. He said, “You got one too.”

“Stop it,” Carlie snapped.

Mike backed away. “You got to tell me the rules, Carlie. Just gotta know the rules.” Head down, he walked toward the pile of rocks we’d just left.

“I’ll talk to you later,” Carlie said to Patty, and we left her stretched on her back on the blanket, one leg bent, looking toward the rocks where Mike had gone.

We were both quiet on the way home and we didn’t play the radio.

About halfway to Long Reach, I saw a boy about my age swing out over a pond on a thick rope that hung from the branch of a large tree. When he was over the water, he let go of the rope. His baggy orange bathing suit flapped against his chopping legs as if he wanted to take it all back. Maybe he never hit the water. We passed him before I could see him fall.

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Reading Group Guide

INTRODUCTION

It’s 1963. Twelve–year–old Florine Gilham is enjoying an idyllic summer in her Maine village — goofing off with her three best friends, baking bread with her grandmother, and swimming at the beach with her lively mom, Carlie, while her lobsterman father, Leeman, is busy making a living. Everything is as it should be until Carlie leaves for her annual weekend trip up the coast with her best friend, Patty. They have been gone two days when Patty calls to say that Carlie has gone missing.

As soon as they hear the news, Leeman launches a desperate search while Florine waits for news, both to no avail. Police conduct interviews and investigate suspects, the Coast Guard searches offshore, but nothing turns up. As summer passes into fall, and then winter, with no news or word from Carlie, it becomes obvious to Florine and her father that they must establish a new sense of normal. Lee takes up drinking to cope with his pain. Although the sincere support and offers of assistance from their neighbors help, it is clear that Florine and Leeman are the only ones who must learn to work through their loss and carry on.

Much to Florine’s chagrin, her father begins dating a former flame, Stella, and a relationship forms as she brings order back into Leeman’s life. But Florine resents this woman who has invaded her mother’s home — and she lets everyone know it. Florine is so upset at this development that she moves in with her unflappable grandmother.

Even as she expresses her outrage, Florine is swept along with the turbulent decade that was the 1960s. She discovers rock n’ roll, experiments with drinking and sex and, with the support of her friends, tries to formulate plans for life beyond high school. Isolated by her grief, the strong–willed and fiercely independent Florine continually tries to learn the truth about her mother. Nothing can stop her from believing, hoping, and praying that Carlie is still out there, even as her limited memories slip away.

Told through Florine’s point of view in her wry, wisecracking dialect, Morgan Callan Rogers’s debut novel is anchored by a lovable protagonist. Lyrical descriptions of the Maine landscape, where every tide and every snowfall touches its villagers, lends a dramatic backdrop to her characters’ authentic struggles. Engaging and quietly powerful, Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is a beautiful, heartbreaking story about learning to live with loss.

ABOUT MORGAN CALLAN ROGERS

Morgan Callan Rogers is a native Mainer who grew up in the shipbuilding city of Bath. She splits her time between coastal Maine and South Dakota. Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is her first novel.

A CONVERSATION WITH MORGAN CALLAN ROGERS
Q. The voice in your debut novel is pitch–perfect. Where did the character of Florine come from and how did you bring her to life?

She brought herself to life! I read a letter to the editor by a local woman outraged by the theft of one of her neighbor’s lawn ornaments. The letter writer wrote as she would speak, in a southern coastal, small–town Maine dialect, and it was priceless. She spoke of what the lawn ornament had meant to her neighbors, how they missed it, and begged for its return. I decided to write a story from the point of view of the woman who had lost the ornament. Her name, Florine, came to me immediately. Her voice did, as well. I know these people. I grew up with them. Several of them began to speak through her voice, with her humor, and with her outlook. I was born with that voice in my head. I just started typing and she talked. And talked. And talked.

Q. In another author’s hands the story of a woman gone missing might have turned into a mystery novel. Did you always know what kind of book this would be, and did that change at all during the writing process?

I know that it drives some readers crazy that the mystery of Carlie’s disappearance is left unsolved. But think about people in real life who never know what happened to a loved one. How horrible and frustrating is that? I wanted to explore the issue of what it’s like to grow up, or live, one’s life when someone is missing. How does that affect growth in a child? How does a person move on without closure? That theme was my intent, and it never wavered.

Q. You’re a native Mainer, and from the descriptions in this book, it’s obvious that place—and knowing where one comes from—is important to you. Can you talk about your relationship to the region and how it informed this story?

It’s in my bones. My father’s family settled in Maine early. If you ask my Yankee father when, exactly, he will say that we were here, before the rocks. And I have a trace of Mi’kmaq Indian in me, so perhaps part of that is true. I’m an observer and I always have been one. Scents, sounds, color, all get absorbed. I was lucky enough to grow up during the summers in a cottage in a place not so different from The Point. Those summers formed my soul. I wandered and dreamed all the time. I hung out with a gang of siblings, cousins, and friends who became, and still remain, family. It was idyllic, in many ways. As I’m writing this from my desk in western South Dakota, I can hear the wind through the pines and smell the salt from the water. The Maine coast and woods have always filled me up and that love and innate knowledge of it spills onto the page through the eyes of a character who also knows it, inside and out.

Q. The wicked stepmother is a common trope, yet Stella is one of the most interesting characters in the book. What’s your secret for making a familiar storyline seem fresh?

I had my characters do the opposite of whatever would be cliche´. When I wanted Stella to yell at Florine, I muted her. It was about action–reaction. It was something I discovered during the middle of the writing process, and it changed the course of the book, considerably. Providing humanity to all of my characters gave them more options to ’explain’ themselves to the reader. Plus, Florine is an unreliable narrator, being so young and so wrapped in grief. It would have been unbelievable and wildly boring to make Stella a ’wicked stepmother’. I’ve read books where the figures were all–mean, all–scary, and I didn’t

want to go that route. It is much more interesting to me to figure out what makes them tick. Also, I was an actress for about twenty years. On stage, one is multi–dimensional, and it’s important to display those dimensions within the frame of their motivation to the nth degree. That may have informed my writing, as well as the dialogue and timing that go with that.

Q. Told through Florine’s perspective the narrative must be deliberatively limited to what a twelve–year–old would understand. As the author, how do you find the balance between what she knows and what the reader knows?

Unless the reader is twelve, one can look back at what one thought and understand that one probably didn’t have all the information about life and experience at that age. But the information one does have at that age is fraught with intense belief and conviction. It is also a seminal time period, when old truths are discarded. Passion is forefront and wisdom hasn’t had a chance to show its compassionate face. It’s when one becomes aware of complexity of the world, one becomes aware of one’s body, and one is fighting both childhood and impending adulthood through a mask of confusion and hormones. Writing her at twelve was a mirror for what I remember about being twelve. As an older reader with the benefit of experience, one knows what she doesn’t know, yet.

Q. Writers often talk about how hard it is to make awful things happen to their characters. In this book, Florine is repeatedly faced with loss and conflict. Describe your emotional experience while writing this book.

I know many things knocked Florine down and she had to find a way to get back up again, but I had faith in her ability to do that. I thought about each one of the major traumas, a lot, during the writing of this book, and yes, they had to happen. I actually tried to soften one of the traumas by taking a different path, but it became obvious to me that that wasn’t going to work. I physically could not type it out. So I went back to what I had originally planned, and we went on, Florine and I. Some people, in real life, have big karmas - things just happen to them. Florine, during this time period in her life, had big karma for some reason. I still cry when I read certain parts, by the way.

Q. Florine’s grief over her mother never goes away but takes different forms as she grows up. Did any insights surprise you in the process of writing this novel?

Oh, many, many insights and surprises happened to me during the writing of this novel. The character of Daddy — Leeman Gilham — was a particular revelation. I was as surprised as Florine was to learn more about her father. He broke my heart! I was also privileged to be allowed to follow the course of Florine’s grief and note the things that kept her going — minute interruptions, little bits of humor, the arc of anger, the passage of time and culture, her own feisty personality, the way that love is expressed in various ways that aren’t necessarily mushy, and the changes, yet timelessness to tides and seasons. This was a remarkable experience and I am grateful to have had it.

Q. What are you working on now?

Two novels, some essays, and a few short stories. I’m also learning to live in a new place that has names like Deadwood and the Badlands. But I will always be a Mainer. It is, as I said, in my bones.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  • Shortly after her mother goes missing, Florine recalls meeting her grandparents six years earlier. Why is this memory important?
  • Florine is not particularly welcoming to Stella when she starts dating her father. How does this relationship change Florine’s life, for better and worse?
  • What does Florine know about her parents’ relationship? What might she be missing?
  • The setting for this story is 1960s coastal Maine. How does Florine’s hometown weather the changes of that revolutionary decade? Which aspects of the era are important to the plot?
  • Florine is twelve when her mother disappears, a transformative time for any child in any situation. How does the event shape who she becomes?
  • Why does Florine throw her grandmother’s glass heart into the sea?
  • There’s a strict divide at The Point between the summer visitors and the locals. Why does Florine cross this line and what happens to her?
  • There are many things Florine doesn’t understand when her mother disappears. What changes over the course of the book, and what does she learn?
  • Before she goes missing, Carlie calls Florine her “little criminal.” Do you think Florine sees herself that way?
  • What do you think happened to Carlie?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 9, 2012

    Couldn't Put It Down!

    I loved this book. When I try and give a description to people it seems so depressing, this is anything but. It's a book about love and family and friends and small town Americana, in a simpler time that is now missed. I have never reviewed a book before, although I have read many, but when I saw only 3 reviews, I felt compelled to give my review so that if you on the fence about it, you'll give it a shot, you'll be glad you did. It's been a few days since I've finished the book and the characters have stayed with me and are deep in my thoughts. It's been quite a while that I enjoyed a book as much and wasn't so predictable that halfway through, you pretty much know how it's going to end.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 6, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    First novel has heart

    Twelve year old Florine has always felt safe and loved, and she adores her vibrant, red-haired mother and her lobster fisherman dad. But when her mother fails to return home from her annual girls' weekend with a waitress friend, Florine and her dad's lives are forever changed. A 1960s Maine village, complete with the ritzy summer people and the steadfast year-residents, serves as the perfect setting for the devastated Florine to grow up as she tries to cope with her mother's disappearance. Grand, Florine's name for her grandmother, is the strength that keeps Florine and her dad from going under. I must warn you that this is a novel of losses and disappointments, but Rogers also treats you to survival and strength through Florine and her friends, as they navigate the years toward adulthood.

    I received an advanced readers copy of this title. All comments and opinions are my own.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2012

    Loved this book.

    I absolutely loved this book. The characters are so real. It is full of emotions from joy to sorrow. I laughed and cried. It brought back to me so many wonderful memories of the beautiful state of maine.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 27, 2012

    One of the most enjoyable books ever!

    The writer really seems to get the flavor of the Maine Coast. The characters are very believable, and the plot is interesting and somewhat unusual. This is definitely a book to keep in my permanent library, one I will read and read again.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2012

    Good Read

    I found this book to be pretty dark and depressing at times, but it was a good book. Florine's mom disappears without a trace when she is 12, her dad takes a girlfriend that Florine does not like, so she ends up living with her Grandmother (who lives across the street). The story centers around Florine's teenage years and the struggle of missing her mother and always wondering what happened to her.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 17, 2013

    What can I say about this book? It made me cry three times! Ever

    What can I say about this book? It made me cry three times! Every character in this book is well written. You immediately become invested in their lives. Its authentic, its Maine. I loved it. I didn't want it to end. I don't want to take the book back to the library. I can't wait for another book by this author!

    Monica Wood, author of Any Bitter Thing said 'I loved spending time with Florine and I'm still thinking about her. She will break your heart and make you glad she did.' And I can't say it any better than that!

    I loved the writing style and her way with words...

    Read it! If you don't already love Maine, you will.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2012

    No text was provided for this review.

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