Synopsis from publisher:
Laura Martinez is wedged in the middle place, grappling with her busy life as a nurse, wife, and devoted mom to her two young children when her estranged mother, Helen, suffers a devastating stroke. In a desperate attempt to lure her mother into choosing life, Laura goes to Sea Escape, the pristine beach home that Helen took refuge in after the death of her beloved husband, Joseph. There, Laura hunts for the legendary love letters her father wrote to her mother when he served as a reporter for the Associated Press during wartime Vietnam.
Believing the beauty and sway of her father's words will have the power to heal, Laura reads the letters bedside to her mother, a woman who once spoke the language of fabric--of Peony Sky in Jade and Paradise Garden Sage--but who can't or won't speak to her now. As Laura delves deeper into her tangled family history, she becomes increasingly determined to save her mother. As each letter reveals a patchwork detail of her parents' marriage, she discovers a common thread: a secret that mother and daughter unknowingly share.
Weaving back and forth from Laura's story to her mother's, beginning in the idyllic 1950s with Helen's love affair with Joseph through the tumultuous Vietnam War period on to the present, Sea Escape takes a gratifying look at what women face in their everyday lives--the balancing act of raising capable and happy children and being accomplished and steadfast wives while still being gracious and good daughters. It is a story that opens the door to family secrets so gripping, you won't be able to put this book down until each is revealed.
Those of you who read my blog on a semi-regular basis have noticed how quiet it's been around here lately. This year has been a LOT, on many different levels, and my reading time has suffered. I've read less this year than any year since I finished college. I've also noticed that my expectations for the books I HAVE managed to read are changing.
Because I know I have so little time to read, I want each and every book to be a knockout. I want them to grab me immediately, pack an emotional punch, and be instantly entertaining. I don't have much patience for dilly dallying around. I've been waiting all summer for the book that would meet all these criteria, and I'm so happy to say it arrived for me in Sea Escape.
What made this such a great book for me was the instant emotional connection I made to Laura and her situation. Other reviewers have pointed out flaws in the novel's pacing and storyline, and I don't know that I would argue with them. But for me, the emotional impact outweighed any issues I had with the rest of the novel.
Because I have so recently experienced the sudden illness and loss of my mother-in-law, Laura's shock and fear resonated with my in a deep and lasting way. As she tried to navigate the ins and outs of her mother's treatment, I could relate to her frustration and anger when she felt like the medical establishment wasn't doing its best. Her self-examination and blame; the feeling that there should have been something she could have done to prevent this tragedy; her desperate grasping for anything that might resemble an improvement; Griffin's depiction of all of these feelings was absolutely pitch perfect.
I also so appreciated Griffin's portrait of Laura's marriage. Neither Laura nor her husband are perfect- Griffin allows both to have shortcomings, and their relationship is not always idyllic, but their commitment to each other and the life they have built was so refreshing to read. Sometimes it seems that contemporary fiction can only write damaged relationships - I found this marriage to be one I could relate to, and it felt honest and true.
This may not be the best book I read all year, but it will certainly be one that I remember. The emotions and relationships touched a chord with me, and ultimately I think reading this novel was cathartic for me on many levels. I'm grateful I had the opportunity to read it, and I will definitely be looking forward to reading more by this author.
Source: Review copy courtesy of TLC Book Tours - thank you!
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some language and hinting at sexual situations
My Rating: 8/10
Don't just take my word for it! Here's what some other fabulous bloggers had to say:
Tuesday, July 6th: Peeking Between the Pages
Wedensday, July 7th: S. Kristinas Books
Thursday, July 8th: She is Too Fond of Books
Monday, July 12th: Bookstack
Tuesday, July 13th: Caribousmom
Wednesday, July 14th: Red Lady’s Reading Room
Thursday, July 15th: Booking Mama
Monday, July 19th: Raging Bibliomania
Tuesday, July 20th: Beth Fish Reads
Wednesday, July 21st: Maw Books Blog
Thursday, July 22nd: Dolce Bellezza
Monday, July 26th: Books Like Breathing
Tuesday, July 27th: Write Meg
Wednesday, July 28th: Thoughts From an Evil Overlord
Thursday, July 29th: As Usual, I Need More Bookshelves
This book counts toward:Body of Water