One could argue that this book was in fact very moving on many levels. On one hand it’s a story that captures the intense bonds between women, and particularly the mother-child bond. From the very beginning, the author captures the magical awareness and protectiveness of this bond, but she also highlights what could go wrong with a mother who isn’t capable of raising her children with the basic foundation of safety, emotional or otherwise. Diana didn’t seem like the greatest role model for her girls, and she often left them confused and angered at her tumultuous migrations and regular displays of drunkenness. Yet the girls loved her, and when Ruth becomes a mother herself, she vows to do differently for her daughter, creating a soft place for her to land and giving her the stability and emotional openness that she never got as a child.
On the second level, this book unfolds as a dramatic tale of myth and legend, opening up the story to several different interpretations, themes, and varied symbolism. In these bits, scattered throughout the story with a careful hand, the author lures the reader in and builds suspense around the legends of the selkies, the mythical Scottish beings that appear as seals and shed their skin to walk on the land. It’s here that the family drama becomes tightly enmeshed in magic and magical realism. This interplay gives the book a slight fantasy bent and makes the final chapter from the point of a displaced Diana all the more powerful and significant.
The third element branching off from this tale is the story of Nadia and the bullying that disrupts her life. Born slightly disfigured, she suffers from the cruel blows of name calling early on, but later this early teasing morphs into something more dark and terrifying. Nadia is a child with a special gift, but these gifts have burrowed deep inside her subconscious, and she is agonized to be so different from everyone else. The story within her is one of tempestuousness and unity with the force of the sea that she feels tied to. Her delicate situation leads her to her feeling very misunderstood and to taking chances that would be better avoided. She has a choice to make, and at such a young and vulnerable age, she is stoic and suffering.
While I really liked the book’s deeper magical realism bent and thought that all the elements of the story worked in unity with one another, I also felt that this was a rather dark and tragic tale. It unfolds slowly, like a flower opening to the sunlight, but when the full tale was exposed, it was impossible to miss what had been hinted at all along. The greater depths of the mystic elements turned this book from a forgettable one to one that I am still pondering over, and may be for a long time. An excellent read. Recommended.
This book was provided as a complimentary review copy.