Don’t forget to check out my recent post about my Anne of Green Gables Read Along going on now!
So I finally caught up on posting my reviews a few weeks ago. And suddenly, I am several books behind again. How does this happen?! I guess I just keep reading and the reviews keep coming.
I am really excited to share some thoughts about my latest read from Elizabeth Camden. I actually received this book as an ARC in the mail (in exchange for an honest review) which totally made my day! To the Farthest Shores is a lovely addition to her collected works and again transported me to a new time in history that I hadn’t discovered before.
- I always find myself completely immersed in Camden’s worlds. This was no different. Suddenly, I want to be a pearl farmer and live in an idyllic California coastal town for the rest of my life.
- One of my favorite aspects of Camden’s books is the dual perspective she often uses. I love getting inside both protagonists’ heads and learning what they think and why they act in certain ways.
- Such beautiful romance in this book, as always. The first kiss in the novel is especially swoon worthy 🙂
- I also want to learn how to make true Japanese food after reading this.
To the Farthest Shores by Elizabeth Camden follows the dual stories of Jenny Bennett, an army nurse in San Francisco who had a unstable childhood she keeps secret, and Ryan Gallagher, a US spy with a web of secrets of his own. After Ryan broke Jenny’s heart six years ago when he disappeared on a top secret and dangerous mission overseas, Jenny never thought she would see him again. But when Ryan unexpectedly returns to the army base, she wants answers he isn’t prepared or allowed to give. Ryan thinks he has found a solution to allow the mission to continue but also to allow him to stay in America. But he cannot succeed without Jenny’s help. When she agrees, they find themselves revisiting old feelings and trying to uncover old secrets. Can they find happiness and love again or are they destined to be apart for good?
Jenny is an intriguing protagonist because of her intense work ethic in a male dominated setting and her complex past. She isn’t perfect. She’s made mistakes–big ones. She has a really hard time forgiving people (especially Ryan). But I loved her even more for that. She wants to find a better life for herself and those she loves. And she will fight for that life. I admired her passion and her determination to do what she felt is right. But I also thought her stubbornness and intensity were vices at times that nearly ruined her chances at true happiness. Her priorities got mixed up. And she kept making mistakes right until the end of the novel. But those weaknesses made her more realistic for me. I appreciated her complexity.
Of course, I assumed that the main characters would end up together. This is a historical romance, after all. What surprised me was the twists and turns that kept coming all along the way. I thought Ryan and Jenny had figured out their feelings for each other and then another unexpected twist pushed them apart. While I completely admire Camden’s storytelling, I wanted a bit more romance in this novel. It seemed like Ryan and Jenny were rarely on the same page. And a few more swoony kisses wouldn’t hurt either 🙂
There are some truly beautiful quotes in this novel about love and some absolutely swoon worthy moments too.
“She was looking at him the way she used to, like he was Robin Hood and Hercules rolled into one person. As though he were a man worthy of her. It stirred old hopes he’d long since abandoned. Hope was a dangerous thing, for it unleashed his inhibitions and prompted him to speak straight from the heart.”
“He lowered his head and kissed her. She stood frozen, but after a moment she rose on tiptoes to return his kiss. He treated her with the care of delicate, hand blown glass, and she felt as if the last six years had dissolved.”
“Whether I become a fisherman or a scientist or a pearl farmer, you are the one I want walking beside me. In my eyes, you are perfect. I love you and want to heal the wound I gave you. Jenny, will you forgive me?”
To the Farthest Shores, pages 131, 234, and 319
The most surprising aspect of this novel was the darker tone. Jenny has a complex and difficult past, including a harsh childhood. We get a lot of details about that past as the novel progresses. And I think it’s important to note that some of those details are intense and could be uncomfortable for some readers (especially younger ones). Ryan has his own share of difficulties in life. I found myself feeling sorry for both these protagonists. Their lives are hard! But what makes this novel beautiful is the ways they both move forward and work for a better life, a life that they can be proud of and happy in.
I love that Camden’s novels don’t just give us beautiful romances but also deeply rooted themes and morals. She brings faith and God into her novels so seamlessly. The threads of forgiveness and repentance that intertwine throughout the novel are gorgeous and profound. How do you forgive someone who broke a promise? How do you forgive yourself for a past mistake? How can you move forward in a relationship or simply into the future where so many things are unknown? These are weighty–and potentially–difficult questions. I admire the ways Camden interacts with these questions through her characters. And I especially love that they find ways to forgive each other and to forgive themselves through humility, patience, and faith.
A few of my favorite quotes are about such themes as forgiveness, faith, and God
“I know you’re afraid, but there are going to be times in life when you have to stand up to fear, because fear kills more dreams than anything else in the world. Fear kills hope. Fear can paralyze people. Don’t let fear make you blind.”
“It felt good to be alive. This spontaneous celebration of a good catch seemed abnormally exuberant, but Jenny didn’t care. Sometimes God gave them glimpses into the sheer joy of the ordinary, and this was one of those times. Friendly people, a bountiful catch, and a beautiful summer’s day.”
“Forgiveness could not be demanded, could it be rushed. It could only be freely given.”
“Forgiveness was a choice, and if she withheld it until the wound vanished without a trace, she would wait until her dying day.”
To the Farthest Shores, pages 53, 215, 297, and 315
The masterpiece of this novel is the metaphor of the pearl used throughout the story. Ryan is an aspiring pearl farmer (which is really cool) and I found ways to compare the process of creating perfectly round pearls to ways people are molded and shaped into their best selves throughout their lives. I think it’s a beautiful metaphor.
A favorite quote about this idea:
“Jenny, I am in awe that you found your way out of that life. He said. I think those old wounds made you what you are today. Compassionate, giving . . . and yes, a little tough. You’ve been tested and hurt since childhood, but instead of turning you bitter, it has made you luminous and strong. A pearl. A radiant pearl that adds beauty to the world even though it had a tough beginning. That’s who you are to me.”
To the Farthest Shores, page 234
For me, the ending felt a bit rushed. We had so many secrets and unknowns coming into it–who was trying to kill Ryan? Will he go back to Japan? Can Jenny move on from her past? Will they end up together? And suddenly everything resolved itself quickly and neatly. Despite that, I felt satisfied after finishing the novel. And look forward to reading more great novels from Camden.
What are some of your favorite historical fiction settings?