Follow Here To Purchase Shelter: A Novel

Author: Frances Greenslade

Publisher: Free Press, a division of Simon and Schuster

ISBN: 978-1-4516-6110-1

After I read the synopsis for Shelter, I expected a depressing story that would leave me feeling sorry for the heroine. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the story did not unfold that way. What I got instead was a satisfying read that highlighted a life that could have been dreary, that could have devolved into misery and heartache, but was made upbeat by the spunk and resourcefulness of Maggie, through whose eyes the story is told.

One of the discussion questions included in the reading group guide asks if there is any reason to doubt Maggie’s reliability as the narrator. My answer to that is a firm no, as she exhibits so much confidence and capability that there’s little to quibble about with her viewpoint. Although she is not omniscient, and possibly most unskilled at recognizing what motivates others, what she does see in people is their redeeming qualities. She’s accepting of others and their quirks. It allows her to be adaptable to the unlikely situations in which she finds herself and it makes her a very likable character. Her nonjudgmental nature is probably what I admired the most about her. She doesn’t even seem to judge her mother for abandoning her two young daughters.

It was interesting to see the profound differences between Maggie and her sister Jenny and how they faced their circumstances. It seemed to illustrate the adage about predicting how a person will react when faced with a particular situation, because the two sisters went in divergent directions with their lives, one choosing a path fraught with trouble; the other staying on the straight and narrow. Thankfully, the stronger character prevails in this case so that the story ends on a promising note.

The locales which the author describes were all unfamiliar to me, but I came to understand that the Chilcotin region of British Columbia encompasses a rustic and raw terrain. I think Greenslade’s familiarity with the area created an authentic picture, although her description didn’t make me want to venture there! What she shows of its attributes is enough to prove Maggie’s mettle.

I skip-read the short forays into fantasy/folklore, such as the sighting of the “child of nature” and the legend of Chiwid. The author may have been trying to root the story in a native backdrop, but the inclusion of the supernatural elements felt forced and didn’t fit with the plot or in keeping with the character of Maggie, who is made of sterner stuff. She is a survivor and she proves it in her approach to whatever life throws at her.

Follow Here To Purchase Shelter: A Novel