Tuesday, August 20, 2013

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel


A mother must make the unthinkable choice between her husband and her son in this riveting domestic drama, the follow up to the author's "exquisite debut" (Publishers Weekly), Stiltsville

When Georgia returns to her hometown of Miami, her toddler son and husband in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. They have left Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment in their wake: Graham's sleep disorder has cost him his tenure at Northwestern; Georgia's college advising business has gone belly up; and three-year old Frankie is no longer speaking. Miami feels emptier without Georgia's mother, who died five years earlier, but her father and stepmother offer a warm welcome-as well as a slip for the dilapidated houseboat Georgia and Graham have chosen to call home. And a position studying extreme weather patterns at a prestigious marine research facility offers Graham a professional second chance.

When Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for an artist who lives alone in the middle of Biscayne Bay, she's surprised to find her life changes dramatically. Time spent with the intense hermit at his isolated home might help Frankie gain the courage to speak, it seems. And it might help Georgia reconcile the woman she was with the woman she has become.

But when Graham leaves to work on a ship in Hurricane Alley and the truth behind Frankie's mutism is uncovered, the family's challenges return, more complicated than before. Late that summer, as a hurricane bears down on South Florida, Georgia must face the fact that her choices have put her only child in grave danger.

Sea Creatures is a mesmerizing exploration of the high stakes of marriage and parenthood, the story of a woman coming into her own as a mother, forced to choose between her marriage, her child, and the possibility of new love.

Hardcover, 320 pages
Published July 30th 2013 by Harper
ISBN 006221960X (ISBN13: 9780062219602)

About the Author

Susanna Daniel is the author of two novels. Stiltsville was a winner of the 2011 PEN/Bingham award for debut fiction, and Sea Creatures was named an Amazon Editors’ Top Pick in August of 2013. Susanna is a co-founder of the Madison Writers’ Studio and is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and Columbia University. Her work has been published in NewsweekSlateEpoch, and elsewhere. She was born and raised in Miami, Florida, and now lives with her family in Madison, Wisconsin.

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My Thoughts
It was my husband Graham's idea to buy the houseboat. 

This novel takes place in the Miami area, much of it in a stilt home in Stiltsville, like the Jimmy Ellenburg home seen below.
By Justdweezil (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0) or GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html)], via Wikimedia Commons
Georgia and Graham move back to Miami, where Georgia grew up, after they fall on hard times. They move into a ramshackle houseboat with their 3-year-old son Frankie, who is mute and hasn't spoken in a very long time. Georgia soon takes on a part-time job as an assistant to Charlie, a "hermit" who lives in a secluded stilt home in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Before they know it, Georgia and Graham will find themselves going through more changes than they ever expected when moving to Miami.

I saw author Susanna Daniel speak at a local book festival a few years ago, and was so charmed by her and the story of her debut novel Stiltsville that I immediately bought her book at the festival, had her autograph it, and looked forward to reading it. However I got bogged down amid so many other books that I had to read, and the book just fell off my radar beneath my other priorities. But I've never forgotten it, and it still has a place of honor on my TBR shelf in my bedroom (which holds the books which I most wish to read).

Now forward to 2013, and I get the chance to read Daniel's latest novel Sea Creatures, which also is about the stilt homes of Stiltsville in Biscayne Bay, Miami. I excitedly accepted the offer, especially since I live in South Florida (although on the opposite coast) and love the "idea" of Stiltsville. I wasn't quite sure what to expect with Sea Creatures.

Well, let me tell you, I was delighted. Some of the characters weren't very well fleshed out, like that of Georgia's father, but perhaps that suited the story, as her father was rather absent from her life most of the time, as he was often preoccupied with his own interests. But overall I loved the characters, and I loved the story and the setting.

Georgia is a strong, but somewhat confused woman, caught in a whirlwind and unable to get her bearings. She is doing her best, trying to muddle her way through the trials strewn in her path, but realizing that perhaps she has been going about it all wrong.

I found Georgia's husband Graham frustrating. He was hard to like at times. Of course, her son Frankie was suitably adorable.

But my favorite character was "the hermit" Charlie. An introvert, he realizes that he is better off living away from society and with minimal interaction with others, especially after a tragic event that left him shattered. He now leads an austere life in Stiltsville as an artist, and hires Georgia to assist him.

I loved Charlie. I loved his reserve, his social awkwardness, his creative genius, his hidden warmth. And on top of it all, he broke my heart.

I’m not a mother, but I thought that the author relayed a mother’s love beautifully, as she struggles to figure out how to do best by her son.
“...I should have been recording every thought I wanted to convey, so that if I were lost to him in the physical world, he would still own me in the words I’d chosen for him, as he had owned me in the flesh.” (p.64)
And there are times throughout the book when Georgia reflects on what motherhood really means, how it changes a woman, how her dreams and desires shift to accommodate the position. When once you may have done reckless and impulsive things, you begin to hold back, thinking of your children and the fact that they need you.
“The stakes,” I said. “They’re higher now.” (p. 130)
And mothers are flawed and human, and simply do their best, and often find themselves feeling inadequate and falling short of their expectations for themselves.

My final word: Why have I put off reading the author's debut novel for so long? After reading Sea Creatures, I am now eager to pick up her debut novel and experience her writing once again. She writes with authenticity and warmth and honesty, and her stories take place in my backyard, making me feel as if I've come home after a long, hard day and settled in my favorite chair with a cup of hot tea...and, of course, with a great book. Loved, loved, loved it!

Thanks to TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour! See the master tour schedule:

Tuesday, July 30th: The Well-Read Redhead
Wednesday, July 31st: BookNAround
Thursday, August 1st: Luxury Reading
Monday, August 5th: nomadreader
Wednesday, August 7th: Time 2 Read
Thursday, August 8th: Kritters Ramblings
Monday, August 12th: Read Lately
Monday, August 12th: Tiffany’s Bookshelf
Tuesday, August 13th: Bluestalking
Wednesday, August 14th: The Feminist Texican [Reads]
Thursday, August 15th: Giraffe Days
Monday, August 19th: Melissa Firman
Tuesday, August 20th: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Wednesday, August 21st: 2 Kids and Tired Book Reviews
Monday, August 26th: BoundByWords
Tuesday, August 27th: The Blog of Lit Wits
Wednesday, August 28th: A Bookish Way of Life

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

Cover: B+
Writing Style: A
Characters: A
Storyline/Plot: A
Interest/Uniqueness: A

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through TLC Book Tours, in exchange for my honest opinion. I was not financially compensated in any way, and the opinions expressed are my own and based on my observations while reading this novel. The copy that I received was an ARC, and any quotes could differ from the final copy.

1 comment:

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

I hope you enjoy STILTSVILLE as much as you enjoyed this one!

Thanks for being a part of the tour. I'm featuring your review on TLC's Facebook page today.