Sea Changes by Gail Graham is one of the most unique books I’ve ever read. It’s not straight modern lit, nor is it completely fantasy. I suppose it falls into the genre of “magical realism,” though even the Wikipedia article can’t seem to agree on what exactly that is.
Sarah Andrews is a widow. Her husband Charles died two years ago, but she has not been able to move on with her life. Her daughter, Felicity, is angry. She thinks Sarah should move on; she thinks Sarah should have taken the lump sum inheritance and not the annuity so that there would be something left for her when her mother dies; she thinks her mom should sign up for a dating service. Mostly, she thinks about herself, and she doesn’t like her mother very much.
Sarah’s only other human contact is her psychologist, Kahn, who isn’t much help at all. He’s more interested in saying things like, “I wonder why you think your daughter doesn’t like you,” and “I wonder what your childhood was like,” than in saying anything that would help Sarah in her grieving process.
Sarah decides that there is no reason to go on with her life, and heads to the beach. She swims out into the ocean, planning to keep going until she’s too tired, and then let the ocean take her. She doesn’t drown, though. Instead, a young girl appears, introduces herself as Bantryd, and guides Sarah to her world under the ocean. Bantryd tells Sarah that she’s a vestigal, a being that is able to move between her world and the ocean world. She meets Xaxanader, a man about her age, and feels drawn to him.
When Sarah returns home, she can’t decide if her experience was real or a dream. She wonders if she’s going insane. When she is able to return to Bantryd and Xaxanader’s world, she is convinced that this world is truly there, an alternate reality to her own. Xaxanader and Bantryd ask her to do a favor, a favor which she reluctantly agrees to, but which makes her a person of interest to the police who are investigating the possible kidnapping and murder of an Australian heiress.
As Sarah tries to help Bantryd, her exterior world begins to unravel. On the inside, however, Sarah is healing and finding her own strength. The time comes when Sarah must make a decision – which world is her real home?
Gail Graham’s writing style is simple and precise. She writes in present tense, which makes the action immediate and intense. I really, really liked this book. It was very unusual, unlike anything I’d read, and was a complete page-turner. I couldn’t wait to find out what happened to Sarah and Bantryd. I loved the ending, and turned the last page with a satisfied sigh.
This is a re-post of a review I wrote a couple of years ago.