Monday, September 22, 2014

TLC BOOK TOURS and REVIEW: The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith


Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.

Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Harper
ISBN 0062335944 (ISBN13: 9780062335944)

About the Author

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She attended Mount Holyoke College and received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and is the author of We Have Raised All of Us: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835. She lives in New Orleans.

Check out the author's website
Check out this video about the book!

My Thoughts
On days in August when sea storms bite into the North Carolina coast, he drags a tick mattress into the hall and tells his daughter stories, true and false, about her mother.
This story begins with vibrant 10-year-old Tabitha who lives on the North Carolina coast with her father John. Her mother died in childbirth, so she never knew her, but she and her father have a good life together. Tabitha is a daughter of the sea, having been raised  with the stories her father has told of his days as a pirate. She dreams of traveling the seas herself, but her father keeps her safely ensconced on shore.

After Tabitha comes down with yellow fever, her grandfather Asa draws close to the only thing left of his own daughter and his family, having lost his own wife in childbirth as well.

This story leads to reminiscing and goes back into the past to show how we came to the present. We learn about John's deceased wife Helen, her life and how he won her heart.
He laughed at the pit of a plum.

"You kissed me with the fruit still in your mouth," she said. He had not remembered.

These were her treasures, the bits of life she collected to remind herself of life, the tokens of experience. Her story of land and sea.
We learn of the friendship that had developed between Helen and her slave Moll, who was "given" to her as a gift on her tenth birthday. We see the tragedy of Moll's life, and how every hope and dream she has exists in her eldest child Davy.

We witness a fresh start for John, and in the end of his life, Asa finds himself filled with regret for the things he has not done, and for his lack of kindness and consideration in his relationships.
Regret only exists once the opportunity for change is gone.

I would like to thank TLC Book Tours for including me on this tour. Check out the website for the full tour schedule:

Monday, August 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, August 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 28th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, August 28th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 2nd: Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, September 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, September 4th: Book Hooked Blog
Monday, September 8th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Wednesday, September 10th: Passages to the Past
Thursday, September 11th Kritters Ramblings
Friday, September 12th: Consuming Culture
Saturday, September 13th: 100 Pages a Day … Stephanie’s Book Reviews
Wednesday, September 15th: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, September 16th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, September 17th: Spiced Latte Reads
Thursday, September 18th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, September 22nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, September 26th: Silver’s Reviews

My final word: This is a well written story with well developed characters. It's a melancholy tale full of ghosts and haunting memories. Overall I liked it. The book is divided into three parts, and I found that the first part wound up being my least favorite. My fondness for the story grew as the story built, with Davy becoming probably my favorite character. In the end, I was left with the sea as the past and the land as the future-- and the future is full of hope and possibilities.

Buy Now:

Barnes and Noble

My Rating:


I received a copy of this book to review through the publisher and 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 book that I received was an uncorrected proof, and quotes could differ from the final release.


Holly (2 Kids and Tired) said...

This sounds terrific.

Elizabeth said...

I enjoyed this book too even though it was a sad story.

Beautiful writing.

Silver's Reviews

My review is up on Friday.

Heather J @ TLC Book Tours said...

Thanks for being a part of the tour!