Sunday, July 18, 2010

Sea Escape by Lynn Griffin — 304 pgs — Review and Giveaway

Book CoverLaura Martinez is struggling to manage her career and relationship with her family when her mother, Helen, suddenly becomes debilitated by a stroke. Mother and daughter have not had the most successful of relationships since, after the death of her father, Joseph, Laura's mother has become distant and cold. Now it's up to Laura to bridge the distance between the two and discover the secrets of her parents' strange marriage. Drawing on a series of old letters from her father to her mother, Laura begins to trace the delicate faults in her mother's heart and comes to understand that, now more than ever, their relationship needs to be mended. Reaching far into the past, a dual narrative emerges focusing not only on Laura and her mother's painful relationship, but also of the early days of Helen's relationship with Joseph. Theirs is relationship marked with tenderness and love, but also with painful separations and deception. As the novel winds forward, Laura struggles to close the distance between herself and her mother while also juggling the feelings of resentment towards her husband and her frustrations with her children. As it winds back, Helen draws on her ingenuity and creativity to craft beautiful designs in fabric to take her focus off of missing Joseph and having to raise her children virtually alone. Tender and stirring, Sea Escape becomes a novel that carefully crafts the fragile bond between mother and daughter and shares the way that the tragedies of our past can affect us even today.

Though I don't read much women's fiction, I did end up really enjoying this book. The two story lines blended together well and enhanced each other in a way that made the story very full bodied and well rounded. Sometimes when a book goes the dual narrative route, I find myself more interested in one section than the other, but surprisingly in this book that wasn't a problem. I found both stories to be entertaining, and because they dealt with such different issues, the scope of the novel was larger and more diffuse.

One thing I have to admit is that I didn't like Laura very much as a main character in the beginning. She seemed very whiny and plaintive at times, and at others she could be remarkably selfish. Of course, there were moments when she could be incredibly loving and altruistic, but for the most part, I had a hard time getting close to her. I didn't understand why she kept losing patience with her husband because he seemed to be just about perfect. I'm not sure if this drama between them was an artificial construct to keep the tension running high in the book or if it was just Laura taking out her stress on an innocent target. Whatever it was, I didn't much like it. I do think Laura had some incredible moments though. She gave and gave to her mother, never shrinking back when her gifts were not accepted, and she was constant in her love for her children, which I admired. I just got a little tired of the "woe is me" attitude she had and felt like she wasted critical time being wounded and sorrowful when she could have been learning how to open herself to the love that other family members, like her husband and sister-in law, wanted to give her.

Though Laura and her mother were very different kinds of women, as I read I began to see a lot of similarities between them. Both of them were strong and independent and felt that they could handle pretty much anything on their own. Both women were stubborn as well, making the same mistakes and butting their heads against the same walls over and over again. I think that although their passions differed, they had a lot of the same temperaments, and felt that they were both a little too independent at times, which made others in their lives feel unnecessary. I think Laura tended to be a little more high strung than her mother, but both let emotion run very high in their lives and let their emotions rule them at times. It was interesting to see how different the women were, while still being the same. I think this is one of the reasons they had so much trouble connecting with one another.

A lot of this book is about the spirit of forgiveness and the need to let go of resentment. It was a constant theme in the book, from the relationship between Helen and Joseph to the later struggles between mother and daughter. I think the book dealt with this nicely. When is it okay to let go and forgive, and when do you stop the recrimination, not only towards others, but towards yourself? This story held many secrets that, once revealed, had the capacity to heal the people who kept them hidden and the people to whom they were revealed. The book spoke about the the road not taken and the dreams left behind. One of the things I found most interesting was the way the characters dealt with their secrets and lost desires. They all were alike in that they kept these things hidden, and buried them so deeply inside themselves that they were almost forgotten, leaving only feelings behind as painful reminders.

I also really liked the sections in the book that dealt with Helen's sewing. Helen specialized in creating curtains and window dressings, and though I have never tried my hand at that particular craft, I thought it was interesting to hear about the interesting creations she was working on. Her main motivation for doing these things was not only to earn money while her husband was away, but to dress up a rather shabby life and to give her husband something special every time he came into town. Though she abandons her sewing after Joseph dies, later sections of the book find her once again picking up her needles to share her gift with a special family member. I loved that I was able to live vicariously through these sections and get lost in the descriptions of fabrics and thread and the creations that came from loving and talented hands.

I think that this would make a great read for those who gravitate towards women's fiction and also for those who like character driven novels. I think this is my first foray into this genre, and although I had some quiet niggles with the main character, I found the book very diverting and well constructed. I think the author did a wonderful job working so many different themes and ideas into her tale and felt that there was a real cohesion between all the aspects of the story. I am glad to have given this book a try and I am looking forward to reading another of the author's books, Life Without Summer.

The wonderful people over at Simon & Schuster have given me the opportunity to host a giveaway for two of Lynne Griffin's books! In the giveaway, I will be giving a copy of both Sea Escape and Life Without Summer to one lucky reader. All you need to do is let me know if you'd like to be included in the drawing and leave a valid e-mail address so I can contact you if you win. You must leave a valid e-mail address to be entered in this giveaway! The winner will be drawn on August 2nd, 2010. Good luck to all entrants!

About Lynn

Lynne Griffin is a nationally recognized expert on family life. She is the author of Life Without Summer and Negotiation Generation: Take Back Your Parental Authority Without Punishment.

As the parenting contributor for Boston’s Fox 25 Morning News, she appears regularly in the segment Family Works.

Lynne teaches in the graduate program of Social Work and Family Studies at Wheelock College, and at Grub Street Writers.

She has written for Parenting Magazine, Scholastic Parent & Child, The Writer Magazine, and the popular blog, Family Life Stories.

She lives outside Boston, Massachusetts with her family.

Connect with Lynne:

TLC Book Tours A warm thanks to TLC Book Tours for providing this book for me to read and review. Please continue to follow the tour stops on this book to see what other bloggers have to say about it:

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 was provided as a complimentary review copy.


Suko said...

Wonderful, in-depth review. I did not realize that you don't usually read women's fiction.

I would love to win this book. If you enjoyed it, I probably would as well. Thanks for hosting this giveaway.


Darlyn said...

I like woman fiction..better than chic-lit and lot more real stuff. i dont know if the giveaway is open to all or not because i'm international. but just try my luck.

darlyn225 at gmail dot com


Amy said...

This sounds like a great book, and what an in-depth review! Don't enter me for the giveaway though, my shelves are already collapsing :) Also, it doesn't really sound like something I would love.

Anonymous said...

THanks for the review. I love a good mother/daughter story. Please enter me

bermudaonion said...

Your reviews are always so good. I love women's fiction and mother-daughter stories, so I'd love to be entered in your giveaway.

Melissa said...

I'm glad to hear that the dual narrators worked for you. I usually like them, but often find I like one better too.

Thanks for the giveaway.

shhhimreading at hotmail dot com

Darlene said...

I really enjoyed this book. I agree Laura was a bit hard to warm up but by the middle to the end I really liked her. I do have to agree with you though on her impatience with her hubby. I kept thinking he was amazing too. lol.

Laura and her mother were a lot alike although I'm not sure either of them saw it. Even to the point of keeping secrets for years that had they talked about things may have gone a long way to healing their relationship.

I too liked the parts on sewing. I wish I had the talent to sew - it would be amazing to be able to redo a home like Helen did.

I'm glad you enjoyed this one too Heather!

Anonymous said...

I've seen similar complaints about Laura's attitude in other reviews so I'm glad to see that it didn't turn you off from her character in total! Thanks for being a part of the tour - I really enjoyed your review.

(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

Awesome review. I did enjoy this one as well.

Josh Healy said...

Hi, hope it's OK to contact you here. We would love to include your blog on our giveaway search engine: Giveaway Scout ( Have a look and if interested, use our online form to add your blog ( ). thanks, Josh

Lisa said...

I've been very much on the fence about this one (despite the lovely cover!). But your review really has convinced me to give it a try. I do like women's fiction but it doesn't always work for me. Sometimes I think authors are trying too hard. Sounds Griffin has struck the right notes.


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