Sparrow Beach

Fiction - Literary
328 Pages
Reviewed on 04/16/2019
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    Book Review

Reviewed by Edith Wairimu for Readers' Favorite

Set in Long Island’s East End, Sparrow Beach by Shelby Raebeck shows the strain felt by locals as they try to keep up with the powerful force of commercialization while also exploring family relationships. As the real estate industry continues to grow, Willie, the oldest of the Dorian brothers, hopes to cash in on the fast-moving sector. Michael, his younger brother, is more reserved and less of a risk taker. He is also dealing with the breakdown of his marriage and his strained relationship with his daughter. Everyone around him, including himself, is struggling to keep up with the changes around and within them. Michael strives to remain authentic amidst the chaos, a task that is proving to be very difficult even for him.

In Sparrow Beach, Shelby Raebeck uses a genuine group of characters; each person dealing with their own set of issues. Michael’s family grapples with anxiety which results in an agonizing marriage and a difficult relationship between the parents and their teenage daughter. Willie, on the other hand, has his eyes set on the future, preferring never to slow down, only to move forward until he reaches a point where he is forced to stop and reflect on his life. Raebeck expertly explores family dynamics alongside the issue of materialism. He captures how people are made to choose between change and adaption or be left behind. This book is well written with its intricately created dialogues and themes that continue to linger long after the reading is completed. It is a contemporary story that is both relevant and eye-opening.

K.C. Finn

Sparrow Beach is a work of literary fiction penned by author Shelby Raebeck, and is set in the developing metropolis of the East End of Long Island. The central character is everyman Michael Dorian, a flawed but hardworking stoic of Long Island whose building business is being swamped by the Manhattan developers invading his home space. Though there are still chances for him to make it, challenges in his personal life will also play their role in whether he succeeds or fails. His daughter Tommy struggles with anxiety issues following the failure of her parents’ marriage, and there’s a dark shadow hanging over the ominous new landscape that awaits Michael, Tommy and the people around them.

Suitably dark and accurate to the struggle of modernity and progress, this interesting work of fiction presents real people in their real-life troubles without ever over-sensationalizing and over-dramatizing the affair. The locales of Long Island seemed to become characters in the story themselves as the tale unfolded, especially in the way they are altered by development and their beauty overshadowed by the sense of opportunity and progress which they represent. Michael and Tommy too are viewed this way, with author Shelby Raebeck creating a highly intelligent metaphor for the progression of society. This is encapsulated by Michael and the people who surround him as he struggles to find a new place in a new world. Overall, Sparrow Beach is a superbly written piece of literature which takes life at face value and has much to say in return.

Divine Zape

Sparrow Beach by Shelby Raebeck is a compelling novel that explores how a cast of sophisticated characters deals with the rapid changes occurring in Long Island’s East End. The protagonist is Michael Dorian, a local builder whose profession is threatened by developers from Manhattan, who seem to have more than just skills in the building industry. What does he need to do to survive the brutal competition?

Michael is a well-imagined character, a man who is genuinely flawed and, having had a failed marriage, he has a teenage daughter suffering from anxiety. I love characters that are strong and Shelby Raebeck infuses life into the characters by exploring personal issues, family backgrounds, and how the characters relate to other people and their environment. This is a gripping novel whose central conflict revolves around the theme of change and the pain people endure when circumstances force them to adapt and to be creative. Told in a clear and absorbing voice, Sparrow Beach is suspenseful and has the potential to enthrall fans of literary fiction.

The wonderful setting is enriched by the author's ability to infuse the plot with social and cultural commentaries, allowing readers to feel the soul, not only of the characters but also of where the narrative takes place. This novel is intelligently plotted and written to reflect one of the challenges that people face every day, the challenge of facing powerful competition. Do we accept change when it is inevitable or resist it? This book has surprising answers that reflect the human spirit.