On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light

Strube, Cordelia

  • From the acclaimed author of Lemon comes a clever and heartbreaking new novel of love and revelation

    Harriet is 11 going on 30. Her mixed-media art is a source of wonder to her younger brother, Irwin, but an unmitigated horror to the panoply of insufficiently grown-up grown-ups who surround her. She plans to run away to Algonquin Park, hole up in a cabin like Tom Thomson and paint trees; and so, to fund her escape, she runs errands for the seniors who inhabit the Shangrila, the decrepit apartment building that houses her fractured family.

    Determined, resourceful, and a little reckless, Harriet tries to navigate the clueless adults around her, dumpster dives for the flotsam and jetsam that fuels her art, and attempts to fathom her complicated feelings for Irwin, who suffers from hydrocephalus. On the other hand, Irwin’s love for Harriet is not conflicted at all. She’s his compass. But Irwin himself must untangle the web of the human heart.

    Masterful and piercingly funny, Strube is at the top of her considerable form in this deliciously subversive story of love and revelation.


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  • Cordelia Strube is an accomplished playwright and the author of nine critically acclaimed novels, including Alex & ZeeTeaching Pigs to Sing, and Lemon.  Winner of the CBC literary competition and a Toronto Arts Foundation Award, she has been nominated for the Governor General's Award, the Trillium Book Award, the WH Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award, the Prix Italia, and long-listed for the Scotiabank Giller Prize.  A two-time finalist for ACTRA's Nellie Award celebrating excellence in Canadian broadcasting, she is also a three-time nominee for the ReLit Award.  

  • Published: April 2016

    ISBN: 9781770412965

    Dimensions: 5.5 x 8.5 in.

    Pages: 376


“I fell in love with Harriet from the first chapter. She has the most unique way of looking at the world and the book is nearly laugh-out-loud funny at parts, but in the most morbid of ways. I was so moved by Harriet’s story and, even as my heart was breaking, I was so delighted to get to ‘meet’ her brother Irwin. This is a must read for me this year.” — Insomniac Bibliophile

“This is one of the BEST books I have read in a very long time. . . This is one of those rare books that works much humour and lightheartedness into some really heavy subject matter in a completely appropriate and realistic way. Bravo, Cordelia Strube!” — Lit. Wit. Wine & Dine.

“Strube captures a madcap sense of momentum and consequence that never falters or overwhelms. Each character is part of Strube’s deliberately constructed card tower, the building of which, as readers anticipate its eventual fall, provides the narrative with a tremendous amount of strength and personality.” — Publishers Weekly, starred

“Dark, funny, crushingly sad, and breathtakingly hopeful.” — Becca in Halifax

“Strube masterfully breathes life into her dynamic characters, allowing us to feel love, hate, and confusion with them. . . Thought-provoking and emotional, this novel is a must-read.” — Sad Hat Diaries

“The novel turns, subtly and heartbreakingly, on questions of hardship, parenting, love, and resilience. I was not prepared for how hard this book would hit me. . . This book is one of the most human stories I've ever read.” — A Bookish Type

“Touching and cynical, deeply sad and very funny, On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light is the work of an author in full command of her art. If On the Shores is not on awards shortlists this fall, it will be both a surprise and a grievous error.” — Beach Metro Community News

“Harriet, in On the Shores of Darkness There Is Light, is a many-splendored, singular creation, and the novel goes and goes and never falters.” — Pickle Me This

“Quietly elegiac and despairing, the novel keeps true to Strube’s singular vision.” — Maclean’s

“In her feisty protagonist Harriet, Cordelia Strube has created one of the most forceful and unsettling voices in contemporary CanLit narrating the experience of being an angry and emotionally abandoned adolescent.” — Quill & Quire

“I also loved Cordelia Strube's On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light, which broke my heart, but was just as funny as it was sad.” — The Walrus

“Fantastic.” — The Lost Bookmark

“A masterful blend of comedy and tragedy . . . The tapestry of humanity that Strube presents is richly detailed and profoundly moving.” — Quill & Quire, starred review

“Strube is the dark horse favourite to succeed Alice Munro as a chronicler of melancholy stories about teen girls.” — Toronto Life

“In some parts it’s funny, other parts poetic, others tragic. All of it very realistic.” — A Novel Haul

“It’s this sassy voice and not really like an 11-year-old would actually speak but it completely works. What is so beautiful about this story is that – at its heart – it’s a story about the relationship between siblings.” — CBC Radio’s Day 6 “Should I Read It”

“I have seldom seen such a beautiful book with so many unlikeable characters.” — Book-Stuffed Blog

“Strube creates an entire world of love and loss, humour and heartbreak . . . The writing, on a line-by-line basis, serves as a reminder that Strube is one of Canada’s more expressive and creative prose stylists. It is, at heart, a uniquely intimate exploration of the perilous fragility of the human body, and the indomitable strength of the human soul.” — Toronto Star

“I would recommend On the Shores of Darkness, There Is Light to anyone who craves a good story full of emotion. . . I give this story a solid 4 out of 5 stars because I loved it and I know you will, too.” — Nimrod Street

“Strube’s true talent, which was as readily on display in her last novel, 2012’s Milosz, is for layering characters and situations and subplots on top of each other, one by one, until the entire Shangrila apartment building buzzes like a beehive.” — Globe and Mail

“At nearly 400 pages, the novel is long, but swiftly paced and never dull. The bleakness of its considerations are broken up with incredible humour, from the cacophony of the voices in the background to the sheer audacity of Harriet herself, her nerve, all the things she is willing to do and say.” — Pickle Me This

“Alternately laugh-out-loud funny and tear-jerking, On the Shores is a masterful exploration of being flawed and human, and finding grace and light ‘on the shores of darkness.’” — EVENT