Review: Sea Wife by Amity Gaige

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☆☆➹⁀☆ 4 stars ☆➹⁀☆☆

About the Book:

Juliet is failing to juggle motherhood and her stalled-out dissertation on confessional poetry when her husband, Michael, informs her that he wants to leave his job and buy a sailboat. With their two kids—Sybil, age seven, and George, age two—Juliet and Michael set off for Panama, where their forty-four foot sailboat awaits them.

The initial result is transformative; the marriage is given a gust of energy, Juliet emerges from her depression, and the children quickly embrace the joys of being feral children at sea. Despite the stresses of being novice sailors, the family learns to crew the boat together on the ever-changing sea. The vast horizons and isolated islands offer Juliet and Michael reprieve – until they are tested by the unforeseen.

Sea Wife is told in gripping dual perspectives: Juliet’s first person narration, after the journey, as she struggles to come to terms with the life-changing events that unfolded at sea, and Michael’s captain’s log, which provides a riveting, slow-motion account of these same inexorable events, a dialogue that reveals the fault lines created by personal history and political divisions.

Sea Wife is a transporting novel about marriage, family and love in a time of unprecedented turmoil. It is unforgettable in its power and astonishingly perceptive in its portrayal of optimism, disillusionment, and survival.

Bookbub | Goodreads

My Thoughts:

Sea Wife was not quite the bright adventure story I thought it would be.  There was an adventure, but there was also unmanaged mental health issues, a failing marriage, disillusionment with life, and some mystery.

Juliet and Michael are married with two kids.  They’re increasingly unhappy with each other and their individual lives.  When Michael’s malaise leads him to a boat harbor, he meets a boat broker who spurs him into action.  Although she has misgivings and a great fear, in an effort to salvage their marriage, Juliet agrees to a prolonged voyage through the Caribbean.  If that is not enough for readers to determine that something is going to go very wrong, Michael seals the fate of the voyage by changing the name of the boat.

There are good days and bad.  There are idyllic afternoons spent on deserted islands playing with their children, and there are frightening storms that tossed the boat and its passengers.  Through it all, the children, Sybil and George, are gamers.  They embrace the adventure!  Sybil is particularly adorable and observant.   From Juliet’s perspective, Michael seems to blossom at sea.  My take on Michael is that his behavior is at best manic and at worst, desperate.  When he starts getting mysterious calls and conveniently loses the boat’s SAT phone, I start to question Michael’s intentions and odd behavior.

Sea Wife is told in dual POV with the timeline toggling between past and present.  Michael’s story is told mostly through his ‘captain’s log/diary”, and Juliet tells her version via reminiscing about all that happened.  Some of the POV transitions are rough; there are no headers or chapter titles to tell you who is telling the story, and sometimes the POV changes mid-page.  This roughness is sometimes like different currents colliding, and I felt like I was underwater struggling to get to air. In hindsight, the layout does add to the tense atmosphere and fractures in mental and emotional composure.  In the end, it is hard to decide who was the victim, who was just unlucky, and who was the survivor.  Days after finishing, I can’t stop pondering and questioning the story and its characters.



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