Liz Johnson pens Beyond the Tides, a novel set on the shores of beautiful Prince Edward Island. It is a story of Meg Whitaker, a brilliant scientist who gives up her education and career to come home to care for her sick mother only to find her high school nemesis, Oliver Ross taking over their family business. With themes of sacrifice, grief, and forgiveness, Johnson reminds us that people are redeemable and to be brave enough to cherish what you have before it is too late.
This novel mirrored, too closely, one of my favorites series of all time: Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Anne, the heroine, is strong and brilliant, destined for higher education and career who gives it all up to come home and be a local teacher when a beloved parent falls sick. Anne abandons her opportunity to make it big opting instead to come home to support her parents and help run the family farm. She is then shocked to find her childhood nenemis, Gilbert Blythe, helping her from a distance. Agreeing to lay the old feud aside, the two develop a begrudging friendship that grows into love, which is only revealed through his personal sacrifice for her. It’s an incredible series.
While in Beyond the Tides, Johnson differs from Montgomery with her focus on themes of grief and forgiveness, the basic plot structure is the same. And the parallels between the two made it feel not original. At one point I wondered if Johnson was aiming to modernize the classic but I looked and did not see any mention of it.
Which in turn makes me ask a second question: How did none of the editors catch this? Surely-no pun intended-publishers still read the classics? Or perhaps Johnson loves that story and it inspired her to this one. In which case there needs to be an obvious tribute.
Given the glowing endorsements from other successful writers, my expectations were high. But I give this book 2 stars. Not because it isn’t well written or researched, or because the characters or themes were under developed, but because it felt like Anne of Green Gables rolled up her sleeves and took charge of a lobster boat instead of her farm.