Book Review | The Harbormaster’s Daughter
Title: The Harbormaster’s Daughter
Author: Heidi Jon Schmidt
The Harbormaster’s Daughter by Heidi Jon Schmidt is an eloquently written coming of age tale about Vita Gray. Vita is a shy, insecure teenager, whose life is complicated by the paths chosen by her parents. Her mother was murdered when she was just a toddler and from that time forward, raised by her mother’s friend, LaRee, a kind and caring woman, who simply wants what is best for her dear Vita. She is the product of an affair, a child born out of wedlock, to a “washashore” from the mainland, Sabine, and a hardworking Portuguese harbormaster’s assistant, Franco. Bullied, due to her mixed race heritage and family history, Vita struggles for understanding and her own special place in the idyllic Cape Town.
The story moves at a slow pace, as Schmidt introduces readers to new characters, and builds upon the history of the historical town and the complex relationships. Although well written, it was a challenging task to form a connection with Vita. Vita was complicated and at times ungrateful towards LaRee. LaRee has always been her mother figure, and gave her unconditional love, always placing Vita first in her life. Vita however, was at times reluctant to return that love; in fact, she never viewed LaRee as a mother. She was simply the woman who cared for her. Which requires the question, what makes a person a mother, is it always biological? I found myself asking that question throughout the book, and of course I already knew that answer. Despite my grievances with Vita’s treatment towards LaRee, her struggles are understandable. Although perhaps not under the same circumstances as Vita, many deal with the same struggles of finding their place within in a world that isn’t always open to new things, different people. The ostracizing of Vita is rooted in whom she comes from; therefore, she is being persecuted for the sins of her parents. It is difficult enough being a teenager, add the town knowing your family’s history to the mix and the problem grows into a landslide of challenges.
But where there are challenges, there exists a place of growth, understanding in the midst of turmoil. This place existed for Vita as well, in the Summer Theater. During the production of “The Tempest”, she evolves and learns to deal with the challenges of her life and connects with her fellow thespians, in a way, which she never expected.
What is special about Schmidt is that she eloquently writes prose and deeply delves into the complexities of her characters. The descriptions of the town and its people, made me feel as though I was walking along with them on each and every page. It is truly a testament to the writing abilities, which Schmidt possesses. The imagery alone was worth the read. The characters are all multi-dimensional and the reader is able to love or strongly dislike their actions. Vita, LaRee, Franco and Sabine are all tragic and flawed characters that richly represent humanity in all its complexities. Perfection cannot be found in The Harbormaster’s Daughter, it is simply a beautifully crafted story about life.
*I received a copy of this book for review, but was not compensated financially in any way. The opinions expressed are my own and are based solely on my experiences while reading this novel.*