Difficulties are not all for nothing in Rock Solid, a historical saga about human resilience.
Carolyn Muir Helfenstein’s historical family saga Rock Solid reveals the tenacity it took settlers to survive and thrive in colonial beginnings, spanning several decades to show the resilience of individuals, families, and communities in early 1800s Newfoundland.
Shipwrecked off the coast of Newfoundland after a long journey from England, newlyweds James and Alicia are rescued by settlers Ted and Marion and are welcomed into their new community. The story begins with their rescue and recuperation and continues on with the story of their settling into the fishing and farming landscape, with Ted and Marion teaching them the ways of the Newfoundlanders.
After the initial drama of the shipwreck, there is little overarching plot. Chapters detail important events over the course of the lives of the two couples, such as the births of their children, the children’s marriages and job prospects, and the changing health of members of the community. Without much in way of drama, it is the forward motion of time that pulls the story onward, rather than distinct character motivations or events.
While characters narrate alternating chapters, there is little shift in voice, which inhibits character development. New characters are introduced and begin narrating chapters without much fleshing out of their personalities before they are given this responsibility. It is difficult to sympathize with such figures, even with characters who die, experience betrayal, or move away.
James, Alicia, Ted, and Marion remain at the center of the novel, however, and are lovely characters to root for. Their children, in adulthood, transition into the protagonists of the later parts of the story. The best characterizations of these individuals take place within their dialogue, which functions not only as a method of revealing personalities but also as a way to explain what is happening in the characters’ lives.
Typos abound, and many sentences and paragraphs feel cluttered, with the imagery that might have bolstered the beauty of their scenes obscured. Awkward turns of phrase and tense changes crowd out the flow of otherwise well-imagined scenes.
The resolution of the story is cathartic for the characters and provides a sense of fulfillment despite the lack of a forward-moving plot. Difficulties are not all for nothing in Rock Solid, a historical saga in which the unrelenting toughness required to live off of the land unites disparate characters.
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