Who is the “Shore Girl” that the title of Fran Kimmel’s novel “The Shore Girl” is referring to?
The most obvious answer is Rebee. Arguably the main protagonist of the novel, the reader watches Rebee grow from a small infant to her 16th year, when she inherits her “grandfather’s” house. Fitting with the title, by the end of the novel Rebee is occupying a space between childhood and adulthood, a sort of transitioning phase- not yet adult, but not quite identifiable as a child either.
Even before Rebee inhabits the “inbetween” state her character could always be described as a “shore girl”, always inserted medially between two roles. At two years old Rebee knows she is in a bad place, reminiscing what her mother had once told her: “People do bad things, Rebee” (11), as she listens to a neighbor beat on the wall with a broomstick; She hides her permanently injured finger from prying eyes, knowing its a reflection of her impractical up-bringing. Rebee’s harsh experiences, though a sober illustration of a true reality, are not what is typically correlated with childhood, emphasizing Rebee’s otherness- that she is not quite “a child”, or that maybe she is something more (or less!) then a child.
Although Rebee is probably most illustrative of a “shore girl”, her story is told mostly through the perspective of others, suggesting that their experiences are as important as Rebee’s. Nearly every other character is going through some sort of process of transitioning and self-discovery that is comparable to Rebee. For instance:
(1) Jake has just been grievously injured from his physically intensive labour as a rigger and, upon coming back to the only home he has ever really known, finds that his brother has abandoned the place- leaving it entirely to Jake- without leaving any means to find or contact him. At first Jake struggles with the transition. He attempts to spontaneously create a sort of strange family unit with Harmony and Rebee and he desperately attempts to locate his brother by hiring a private detective. Eventually he gives up on the search for his brother and decides to establish a home on the property given to him. Finally, once he has settled into a comfortable position, he is able to emerge as a parental figure to Rebee. (We could even consider Jake`s elusive brother as a type of shore girl since he clearly chose to drastically change his life)
(2) Miss Bel is in an unsatisfactory teaching position, a career she chose on a whim so that she might catch the attention of a certain guy in her class (a feat she is unsuccessful with). After engaging with Harmony and Rebee she is motivated to move on from her disappointing lifestyle and sets out on a new path.
(3) Joey is in a similar position as Rebee: under the guidance of a negligent mother. He, too, desires a stable home- a concept lost on his inadvertent parent. As well, Joey struggles to create an identity for himself that is separate from his illness. It is only when he feels comfortable with his surroundings, like when he is with Rebee, that he is able to over-come his sickness.
(4) Lastly, Harmony could be cataloged as a “shore girl“. Described as an angry bullet ricocheting around the borders of Alberta, she is futilely attempting to outrun haunting memories. Unable to find resolution, neither from her past nor her present, Harmony`s character is a tragedy and she remains unsettled.
By illustrating both adult and child/adolscent characters as struggling with transitory and revolutionary periods of their lives Kimmel is blurring the lines between adulthood and childhood and creates a basis to which children and adults can relate to, making it easier to draw similarities between the adult and the child. Through this strategy, Kimmel portrays the process of `growing-up“ as interminable and demonstrates that being an adult does not mean that one is “grown up.“
Kimmel, Fran. The Shore Girl: A Novel. Edmonton: NeWest, 2012. Print.