A brilliant newcomer, Henfield prize-winner Sara Freeman debuts with an intoxicating, compact novel about a woman who walks out of her life and washes up in a seaside town.
After a sudden, devastating loss, Mara flees her family and ends up adrift in a wealthy seaside town with a dead cellphone and barely any money. Mired in her grief, Mara detaches from the outside world and spends her days of self-imposed exile scrounging for food and swimming in the night ocean. In her state of emotional extremis, the sea at the town's edge is rendered bleak, luminous, implacable.
As her money runs out and tourist season comes to a close, Mara finds a job at the local wine store. There, she meets Simon, the shop's soft-spoken, lonely owner. Confronted with the possibility of connection with Simon and the slow return of her desires and appetites, the reasons for her flight begin to emerge.
Reminiscent of works by Rachel Cusk, Jenny Offill, and Marguerite Duras, Tides is a spare, visceral debut novel about the nature of selfhood, intimacy, and the private narratives that shape our lives. A shattering and unforgettable debut.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Prepare to get deeply involved in this stunning debut novel about grief and loss. Devastated by her child’s death, a Canadian woman wanders into a small Pacific Northwest beach town with little money and no plans. As she anonymously blends into the scenery, it becomes clear that she’s in a state of disassociation—so much so that we don’t even learn her name until halfway through the book. First-time novelist Sara Freeman transports us right into her character’s experience by using present tense and a stream-of-consciousness style. This incredibly evocative choice makes us feel the character’s anguish, but also gives us a window into her quirky and alluring mind. (At one point while stuck in an overly crowded pub, she imagines herself as the slice of tomato in a heavily stacked sandwich.) As Tides’ heroine begins to come out of her shell—thanks in part to a new friend’s kindness—the story shifts from an unforgettable portrait of bereavement and emptiness to one of human connection and hope.
An emotionally charged story of wanderlust and longing unfolds in Freeman's captivating debut. After an unspecified and devastating loss, Mara, 36 and divorced with no children, walks out on her life, leaving a note behind for her brother and sister-in-law ("I'll be fine!"). She ends up in a nondescript seaside town in an unspecified region, where she drifts with a surreal sense of detachment and dwindling funds. Freeman drops clues to Mara's heartache in spare prose that's punctuated by humor and denial: "This is not that," Mara tells herself when confronted with reminders of her desire to be a mother, such as children's swimsuits left hanging over banisters and toys partially buried in the sand. She dissociates from her feelings in any number of ways, including indulging in fantasies about what her brother might have to say about her disappearance. Desperate for money, she finds a job at a local wine shop; equally desperate for food, she resorts to stealing. Her boss, Simon, notices the inner struggle at Mara's core and quickly becomes the one connection she has in an otherwise muted and lonely life. With an intricate narrative and in deceptively simple language, Freeman captures the full extent of loss. Complicated and enchanting, this prismatic examination of emotional endurance is a winner.