Title: Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea by Morgan Callan Rogers
Florine Series Book One
Publisher: Penguin Group USA
Genre: Fiction, Coming of Age, 1960s
Length: 320 pages
Book Rating: A
Complimentary Review Copy Provided by Publisher Through NetGalley
A captivating debut, introducing a spirited young heroine coming of age in coastal Maine during the early 1960s.
When her mother disappears during a weekend trip, Florine Gilham’s idyllic childhood is turned upside down. Until then she’d been blissfully insulated by the rhythms of family life in small town Maine: watching from the granite cliffs above the sea for her father’s lobster boat to come into port, making bread with her grandmother, and infiltrating the summer tourist camps with her friends. But with her mother gone, the heart falls out of Florine’s life and she and her father are isolated as they struggle to manage their loss.
Both sustained and challenged by the advice and expectations of her family and neighbors, Florine grows up with her spirit intact. And when her father’s past comes to call, she must accept that life won’t ever be the same while keeping her mother vivid in her memories. With Fannie Flagg’s humor and Elizabeth Strout’s sense of place, this debut is an extraordinary snapshot of a bygone America through the eyes of an inspiring girl blazing her own path to womanhood.
Morgan Callan Rogers’ debut novel Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is a beautifully written coming of age story that is poignant and moving. Florine Gilham’s carefree and sheltered childhood comes to an abrupt end with her mother’s disappearance while on her annual getaway with a girlfriend.
Until her mother’s disappearance, Florine lives a charmed life in a small fishing community on the coast of Maine. With her father falling apart and desperately trying to cope with her own grief, Florine depends on her small circle of friends and her paternal grandmother, Grand, as she enters into her tumultuous teen years. Grand is a practical, no nonsense, down to earth woman and Florine moves in with her when her dad turns to another woman for comfort.
The other constants in Florine’s life are her friends Dottie, Bud and Glen. Dottie is a close confidant who is always there for her yet she does not let Florine become mired down by her grief. While she is not as close to Bud and Glen as she is to Dottie, the two young men are always on the periphery of her life and when Florine experiences other losses, they provide unwavering support for her.
Forced to grow up too fast, Florine is sometimes rebellious and she does not always make the best decisions. Her relationship with her father is often contentious but they do eventually come to terms with one another. Carlie’s presence is felt throughout the novel and while we come to know bits and pieces of her character, she remains elusively out of reach both literally and figuratively.
Red Ruby Heart in a Cold Blue Sea is a compelling character driven novel told in first person from Florine’s perspective. The characters are well-drawn and appealing and the plot is engaging and realistic. Never bleak or depressing, there is a strong undercurrent of love and Morgan Callan Rogers deftly balances this sometimes heartbreaking story with wry and unexpected humor. The ending of novel is surprisingly hopeful as Florine finally begins to find her way.