“I admire people who learn how to cope with feeling like they’re different,” said Virginia Hume when discussing the survivor traits she gave to the women protagonists of her debut novel, Haven Point.
Grappling alcoholism, grief, and betrayal are some of the deep, however relatable, themes that lay the foundation for both the setting and the characters. Set against the sandy backdrop of Maine summer colony Haven Point, the book was marketed as a beach read following its June 2021 release. But with Hume’s deliberately home-hitting themes, Haven Point became so much more than a summer leisure read.
Spanning over 50 years, the novel follows the Demarest family and, more specifically, its three generations of women: Maren, her daughter Anne, and Anne’s daughter, Skye. The three are bound by a shared tragedy, how they coped with it and living with the consequences of loving someone with alcohol addiction (a common struggle that Hume deliberately wanted readers to relate to).
Virginia Hume recognized the importance of these themes for her debut novel, as far back as when it was nothing more than a kindling idea while strolling along the beaches of Maine years and years before publication.
“Anne Demarest has grief that she hasn’t resolved or faced,” Hume said on how the characters cope with grief (or their lack thereof).
Unlike her mother and daughter, instead of facing her grief and insecurities, and recognizing them for what they were, Anne ignored them. Rather, she drowned them in booze, which stemmed from the alcoholism that ran in the Demarest family. But it’s Anne who links Maren and Skye both as individuals and in their own personal bond. And it’s Anne’s point of view that we never get to see, a strategic style choice by Hume.
“It ended up being important thematically that it be told from Maren and Skye’s point of view,” Hume explained. “It shows a before and after of Anne’s life.”
The Anne we see as Maren’s daughter versus Skye’s mother are two different people, and (without spoiling too much), it has everything to do with the close-knit town of Haven Point itself.
“I was always enchanted by the idea of these summer colonies where families go year after year,” said Hume, who talked about the different ways Haven point symbolized belonging for all three Demarest women. “I didn’t grow up doing that, but I always envied kids who did.”
Similarly, Skye always craved the same sense of belonging as one of the “Haven Point kids”, but always felt like an outsider because of Anne’s resentment of the place.
“Skye struggled because of her upbringing,” said Hume. “But she never acted like a victim.”
And when I read Skye’s point of view, I really rooted for her. For all of the times when Skye felt ashamed of her home life, she was prideful, fun-loving, and steered clear of self-pity. Most importantly, she liked who she was, and never let her mother’s alcohol addiction become her identity.
“She recognizes on some level that she acknowledges what makes her different,” added Hume, “and uses one of her great powers, which is humor, to get in front of it.”
Through this, she taught herself how to navigate through childhood-rooted insecurities, and her sense of humor made her a character who gravitated toward happiness rather than constantly pining over what was missing in her life and letting it get the better of her (like Anne). And as readers, this is something we can all learn from.
According to Hume, this also stems from Skye’s survival instinct, and Hume’s goal of making realistic, relatable characters.
“I wanted people to understand what it is to be a strong woman in the face of challenges.”
This doesn’t mean that Skye or Maren are without flaws or mistakes. In fact, one of Maren’s biggest mistakes was her lack of communication with Anne about how their family tragedy changed her life, and how Skye had to grow up with the consequences of that.
But that is the entire message of Haven Point itself.
“This is ultimately about forgiveness. It’s something that is in such short supply today,” said Hume.
Once we learn to forgive like Maren, we can understand like Skye, and enjoy the flaws and strengths of both characters while taking away a valuable lesson about complicated grief and shared human suffering itself.
“It was important for me to write about female characters who were wounded but not broken.”
It’s a lot to tackle for a debut novel, but it’s something that Virginia Hume gets right through well-rounded characters, real-life family bonds, and most importantly, empowering women.
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