The Shore: A Novel
Dealing with a terminal illness is grueling, not just for the one who is ill but also for their loved ones. When Brian Dunne's persona changes, Margot, his wife, is gravely concerned, especially after his being diagnosed with brain cancer. Margot and their two teenage daughters, Liz and Evy, are trapped in this maelstrom causing frayed nerves and grief.
Brian and Margot own several properties in the coastal town of Seaside, NJ, which they rent weekly to visitors. They have spent years building their business. Though the girls and another employee pick up the slack, Brian's prior involvement is missed, for he is not to be trusted doing turnarounds due to his erratic behavior. Margot is stressed and worries about how she can single-handedly take care of things—for now, it seems watching Brian is a full-time job.
Liz, the oldest daughter at 17, spends most of her time at a place that rents beach umbrellas and hangs around with an older guy of whom her parents would not approve. Sixteen-year-old Evy makes her escape from the turmoil by working at the local ice cream and candy shop. She feels staying away from home as much as possible will keep her from thinking of her dad's ultimate demise. The sisters are close and can confide in and console each other, yet they still grapple with their own demons.
They learn Brian's fate in October, and now it's late spring, and the whole family travels to Philadelphia to meet with Brian's physician, Dr. Zimorodi.
"Margot followed the end of Dr. Zimorodi's pen across the screen, staring as it traced the gray-on-gray between healthy tissue and the creeping decay. The tenor of his voice was a soft, legato, his eyes steady and watery brown, but his language was direct: the treatments had stopped working, the tumor would take over now. He said it again, his phrasing free of metaphor to avoid any chance of misunderstanding. There's nothing else we can do.
"Dr. Zimorodi left the screen open to the images. He filled the beats of silence with more professional, relevant follow-up details she didn't hear. Evy interrupted him to ask, 'How long, exactly?' He said some never knows, and every case is differents, a few anything can happens, but then he said: by the end of summer."
Margot, who has always loved her little community, now considers selling everything and moving away after Brian's death. She joins an online chat group for those with family members going through brain cancer. Evy chances to stumble on this site and reads her mother's comments about leaving town. This is her home, and causing her to panic, she devises a false name as though she has a husband with this disease. This way, she hopes to find out Margot's intentions. Margot does not mention anything to her daughters, so Evy decides to do all she can to dissuade her from leaving.
Soon, Evy confides in Liz, and the two plot to learn Margot's plans, especially as Brian's illness progresses and they realize the end is near. The sisters are distressed that she had not confided in them, yet they are angry that she has no problem discussing it with strangers. How can they deter her from going so they can stay in the town and the home they love?
For the last few weeks of Brian's life, a hospice nurse comes to help him and the family. Their rental business declines, and fear, anguish, and depression sink in mostly with Margot. What does she have to look forward to when her beloved husband is gone?
Katie Runde's debut novel touches on a disheartening topic, which she pens with grace and sympathy. This tale is not only about someone's passing with a horrendous disease, but it depicts how family members deal with the agony of it all. Does it pull them apart, or does it bring them together? While the daughters try to hide their anguish in their jobs, spending time on the beach, or with their friends, it's understood they are all hurting. All this brings to light the reality of our own demise or of a loved one and how we would handle it. All the very relatable family members are not without quirks, making this a tender read about dealing with the pain of loss.