Publisher: Little, Brown (2013)
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Shorecliff is a family drama set in 1928, when the trauma of the First World War still lingers, and when the gaiety of the Jazz Age has begun to slide toward the struggles and crises of the 1930s. The Hatfields, an old New York family with little money left, gather at their run-down summer home in Maine to renew their family ties. The book’s narrator, thirteen-year-old Richard, is the youngest cousin of all and the only one excited about spending three months with his relatives. At first the setting and the company seem idyllic, but as the weeks wear on, the family’s secrets and the wounds of the past begin to surface. Richard finds himself drawn into a tangle of intrigue and betrayal that ends in a moment he will never fully escape.
With a rich and varied cast of characters and a vivid evocation of both the Maine coast and the vanished customs of the 1920s, Shorecliff paints an unforgettable picture of a large family grappling with its own demons.
“Engrossing and exquisite. … Thirteen-year-old Richard’s retrospective account of a family gathering at Shorecliff, his mother’s old family home, is filled with longing, love, and regret.”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Everything about Cambridge-based Ursula DeYoung’s debut novel, Shorecliff, evokes the 1920s. … It’s true to itself, this novel, and to the experience of its young protagonist. DeYoung succeeds in reminding us of how it felt to be young, when the realization that adults had pasts and lives independent of their role as masters and caregivers came as a shock, and overheard conversations among teenage cousins were a gateway to wisdom.”
— The Boston Globe
“This is not a family saga so much as it is a family portrait of a pivotal time, one that exposes secrets of the older generation and reshapes relationships among the younger one. … This is primarily due to DeYoung’s talent at so fittingly connecting everyone’s actions and choices to the cultural mores of the era. … A reminder, written with grace and compassion, of what it feels like to yearn and stumble, and grow, finally, past thirteen.”
“Shorecliff is a classic coming-of-age story. … Part A Separate Peace, part I Capture the Castle, it’s the story of a momentous summer when illusions are dashed, family ties are tested, and secrets come spilling out. DeYoung effectively demonstrates how certain events, no matter how big or small, can imprint the rest of our lives forever.”