Monday, February 22, 2016

Two if By Sea

Title:  Two if By Sea
Author:  Jacquelyn Mitchard
Publication Information:  Simon & Schuster. 2016. 416 pages.
ISBN:  150111557X / 978-1501115578

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through Edelweiss free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "So many things happen when people can't sleep."

Favorite Quote:  "Can you be grateful for something awful that happened ... just because it didn't happen later?"

This book begins with a tsunami and the death of the wife and child of the main character, Frank Mercy. Frank buries his sorrow i his work with a volunteer rescue unit. In the course of his work, he is trying to rescue a family trapped in a car, a mother and two young boys. He is able to save one of the boys. Instead of turning the boy over to the authorities in the hope of reuniting him with his family, Frank simply keeps the boy. He decides to leave Australia where he has been living as an expatriate and return to his childhood home in Wisconsin. He brings the child with him.

So begins this story of loss, grief, and the meaning of family. The first few chapters of this book are by far the most dramatic part of the book. The remainder of the book is about how Frank and Ian move forward, the emotions of it and the things standing in their way. Unfortunately, the rest of the story does not match the intensity of the first few pages.

There is a lot going on in this book. It is the science fiction story of Ian's gift. It is the dramatic story of Frank's grief at the loss of his family. It is the family story of Frank's pull towards home and obligations towards the family and friends he leaves behind in Australia. It is the romance story of the possibility of new love. It is the crime story of those who would pursue Ian for their own purposes. It is the mysterious story of Ian's family. It is even the animal story of the horses Frank trains. A lot of threads weave together in this story.

The story of Frank's loss is a heartbreaking one and truly one that can stand on its own. It makes sense for him to throw himself into his work. It makes sense for him to fixate and hold on to Ian. It makes sense for him to return to his roots. It makes sense for him to begin anew with the hope of new love. Unfortunately, his story is the emotional undercurrent to the plot which is all about Ian. As such, the emotion remains in the background and does not really become the heart of the story.

The book description speaks about Ian's gift, the quest to keep him safe, and the "sinister" forces at work. Based on this description, I expected this story to be larger and grander than it actually is. I expected the supernatural element to be a bigger force in the story, and I expected the bad guys to have grander goals than they actually do. As a result, the dramatic climax of the book is not the resolution of Ian's story towards the end but rather the tsunami at the very beginning of the book.  This also means that unfortunately, the book ends up being a very slow read because I keep waiting for something to match those first few pages.

Frank Mercy is at the heart of all the threads of this story, but Ian's story is at the heart of the plot. Is this the story of grief and new love or is this the story of a gift and the good and evil uses to which it may be put? It becomes difficult to know and, as such, difficult to engage with.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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