Between the Tides by Susannah Marren
St. Martin's Press: 7/21/15
eBook review copy, 304 pages
Between the Tides by Susannah Marren is a very highly recommended debut novel about constricted lives, fragile dreams, and complacency.
Lainie Smith Morris is an artist who feels the need to be by water at
all times. Water is her life's blood. She has told her four children
(Tom, 14, Matilde, 12, Claire and Jack, 5 year old twins) the tale of a
selkie, a woman who is really a seal, but when her seal skin is stolen
by a fisherman she has to remain in human form. Her children are her
only consolation. Lainie's children, especially Matilde, think their
mother may be a selkie.
Lainie gave up her burgeoning career as an artist for Charles, her
surgeon husband. And while she still has time to do her art, her
marriage has limited her ability to find time to work. She does love
living in NYC by the Hudson River, especially knowing the ocean is so
near and that they will spend their summers in Cape May.
When Charles comes home one day and announces that he has accepted the
position of head of orthopedic surgery in Elliot, NJ, Lainie does not
want to move away from NYC and her proximity to water and her art world
connections in the city. Charles promises Lainie art studio space to
buy her acceptance, while he insists that it is best for the family to
move to the suburbs. After they move in, Lainie is literally a fish out
of water among the aptly described Stepford wives found there.
Lainie does end up knowing the queen bee among the social hierarchy
imposed on the women living in Elliot. Lainie knew Jess as a friend
years ago, growing up in Cape May. But, while Jess seems outwardly to be
a friend, she is really more of a frenemy with her own motives for her
actions. Her husband is the head of the hospital where Charles works.
The narrative is told by Lainie and Jess in alternating passages.
Marren's writing is quite good and the dual points of view work well in
this novel. It is also compulsively readable and kept me hooked from
start to finish. I was also annoyed and bothered and worked up over
these characters. I wanted to shake all of them and tell them to
snap-out-of-it. I found it stretched my credulity to see Lainie's
indecisive drifting along and easy acceptance that Jess was still her
friend, even when there is clear evidence that this should be suspect.
Charles is a jerk, no matter how sexy. Jess's interference and
involvement was over-the-top. I guess I also wanted Lainie to tell
Charles right at the start, "No, I will not move." (But part of that
could be due to the personal experience of constantly having to move for
a husband's job while sacrificing any career of my own.)
By the time I reached the end of Between the Tides, I decided
that Marren had pulled me so completely into the story and held my
unwavering attention to the end that this debut novel could only be
deemed very highly recommended, even though I could quibble over a few
minor plot points.
Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy
of St. Martin's Press for review