A Soft Place for the Alienated and Alone: Its Monday What Are You Reading?

Recently, I read and enjoyed Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk, so when I saw that Beyond the Bright Sea had been released I was eager to get my hands on it. Halfway in I am not disappointed.

It seems Wolk has an affinity for characters with a heavy and hidden past. Once again her story explores how our pasts shape our lives regardless of whether we are aware of them. While it doesn’t appear likely that she will suggest we can shake off our pasts, I’m still hopeful that we can find a way through in spite of, or even because of them.

Crow is an inquisitive and persistent girl, longing to know who she is and where she came from 12 years ago, an infant lashed to the bench of a leaky skiff. Was it love that cast her out onto the bright sea or something else? Amazingly, Wolk balances this deep need for self-discovery with otherwise content. It is not that Crow is dissatisfied with her salty and isolated life. She does not knowingly seek to change it.

The supporting cast is similarly isolated. Osh, or Daniel, intentionally stranded himself on the most isolated of the Elizabeth Islands at the edge of Buzzards Bay. Miss Maggie’s story is less clear. She is the only one of the three protagonists readily accepted by the other islanders, yet she holds herself apart and seeks instead the company and care of Crow and Osh.

Wolk has me wondering about Crow and her past, whether the next letter may reveal hers. She has me wondering about what loss in Maggie’s past has compelled her to such selfless generosity. She has me wondering about Osh, though less so since he seems reluctant to share and I would not press. Mostly she has me wondering about how our own pasts may weigh on all of us in big ways or small. About how the shipwrecks of our personal history may cause the waters to eddy and pull differently.

I don’t wonder if you’ll enjoy the book. I’m confident that it’s beautiful language and the deep salty waters of its tale will enchant you.

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