Note: I received this ARC from my mom, who got it at a charity auction. Not sure if that requires notification, but just in case!
Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.
Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery. (Summary via Amazon.com)
This book is beautifully written, and the comparisons just get deeper and richer as you go. The women–Helen, Tab, and Asa’s wife–are mostly seen in memories from the past. The only actively living female character is a slave named Moll, who formed an uneasy friendship with Helen as a child and who desperately clings to her oldest child, Davy.
The men–Asa and John–are compared and contrasted throughout the book. Asa represents land, and how saddened he was that the home he worked so hard to create was never able to be passed down through the generations. Meanwhile, John represents the sea, and how he has difficulty settling down (both literally and figuratively). The men grieve and face death in very different ways, and the author describes both without making the reader choose a side. The book also compares love and loss, wives and husbands, fathers and daughters, faith and doubt.
If I were an English major, I’m sure I’d have a ball dissecting this book. As it is, though, I still really enjoyed it. The writing is beautiful and really portrays land and sea in its exploration of the two men and the women who left them too early.
Rating: Pretty Darn Good