The last 50 pages can make or break a book. Usually, those final pages bring things together, often giving meaning that might not have been there before. In SEA WIFE, the reverse happens.
The plot revolves around a woman who is married with two young children. Despite issues with depression, she accedes to her husband’s dream of sailing the world, and the four of them set out on a 40-foot sailboat to spend a year at sea.
Inevitably, there is strain. Neither of them is prepared for the challenge of refitting a boat, much less sailing it through a storm. And their marriage had flaws even before they left land. Increasingly, Juliet sees that she and Michael have different world views, life views, and political views. He is from rural middle America, she from the east coast. I’m not quite sure how this affects the outcome of the story, though apparently the author thinks it does.
The story is decently crafted. There is just enough mystery – what happened to her husband, what was the childhood trauma that caused Juliet’s depression, where the boat trip is headed. Clues are doled out with good timing, though the resolutions are anemic.
And there are holes. For one thing, I’m not sure what role Juliet’s 7-year-old daughter played in the plot that would warrant several longer-than-needed, very annoying monologues. For another, I’m not sure how Juliet’s mother can be the character she is, given how she treated Juliet early on. And that childhood trauma? Watered-down. Besides, Juliet was depressed long before that.
Then comes the ending. I was actually liking this book at the point where it should have ended. Suddenly, the author tacks on a load of self-indulgent drivel that only marginally related to the plot. And she goes on and on and on with it, until I’ve totally lost the emotional high.
Why did she do this? To make the book seem more like literature than mere fiction? To make connections with Anne Sexton? Sexton fans may appreciate this. Likewise, those who consider themselves devotees of highbrow literature.
Those of us who want a good story, however, will be let down.