Rummanah Aasi
  I know many books that retell a classic novel, but I've never heard of anyone retelling an epic poem before until I read Tucker Shaw's Anxious Hearts. Shaw's novel is a retelling of a famous poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow's epic love poem called Evangeline. I've read a summary of Evangeline and know it's plot, but I was curious to see how an author takes poetry and converts it into prose. Poetry is known for its succinct word choice and imagery, which is why many people seem to have difficulty in either reading it, enjoying it or both. How do you expand it without losing the poem's power?

Description: Longfellow's epic love poem, Evangeline tells the story of two Arcadian young lovers named Gabriel and Evangeline who are separated on their wedding day due to extraordinary circumstances. After years of longing and searching for one another, their story comes to a tragic end. Anxious Hearts retells Longfellow's poem as well as gives a modern twist in the story with two contemporary teens living in Maine. Will the modern Gabriel and Evangeline have a tragic ending like their predecessors or a happy ending?

Review: I thought Anxious Hearts was a pretty good read. The story is told in two different time periods and from two perspectives: modern day Eva and Gabe's story is told by Eva, while Gabriel and Evangeline's tale is told by Gabriel, some hundred years earlier. Both perspectives are easily distinguishable due to the character's voices and Shaw's writing style. While reading this book, I enjoyed Gabriel's perspective much more than modern's Eva's mainly because I could relate to Gabriel much more. His emotions are raw and tangible whereas we are told what Eva feels and her emotions, for me at least, seems less authentic. I cared for Gabriel and Evangeline, but not so much for Eva and the aloof, brooding Gabe.
  My main problem with the book is the lack of character and plot development in the modern day story line. While the plot of the modern day mirrored the past, I didn't feel like it was flushed out. While I think I understand Gabe's aloofness, it doesn't really make sense. He never really connected with Eva bases the few flashbacks that we are given of their history together. Also Eva's complete acceptance of Gabe after ignoring each other since they were children was also hard to understand and particularly the end also didn't make sense to me. Additionally, Gabe's touch and go actions made me wonder if he truly loved Eva or if she was his last resort in making peace with his past.  
  What I did love about this book is its imagery of nature. Longfellow's descriptive imagery in his poem are beautifully captured by Shaw. There were lots of lovely passages describing the forests and ocean that I loved in this book. Shaw's descriptions are so vivid that I could easily picture both story lines easily in my head.  
  I was not aware that Longfellow's poem is actually a retelling of a historical event until reading Shaw's author note. Whether or not Gabriel and Evangeline really existed is still unknown. I would recommend readers who are unsure of reading the original poem to read this book first. It's easily accessible and captures the heart of the original poem quite well. A good choice for those who like historical fiction and romance.

Rating: 3.5 stars

Words of Caution: There is a small sex scene in the book. Recommended for Grades 9 and up.

If you like this book try: The Clearing by Heather Davis or The Braid by Helen Frost
2 Responses
  1. Jenny Says:

    I can't say I'm familiar with the poem, but I do love an epic love story:) I've read a couple of books lately where the characters could have benefited from a little more depth, so I completely understand what you're saying.

  2. Nat Says:

    Very nice review! I love books that are retellings. Glad you enjoyed this one! :)

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