Saturday, July 18, 2015

Between the Tides

Between the Tides by Susannah Marren
St. Martin's Press: 7/21/15
eBook review copy, 304 pages
ISBN-13: 9781250066732

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 purposes.

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