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The Seas: A Novelby Samantha Hunt
"Samantha Hunt has written a layered debut novel, part fairy tale, part bildungsroman, and part meditation on the imprecision of language....Hunt never names the narrator, as if she were a character so foreign that it takes a whole story to figure out who she is. But to readers, she is an uncannily familiar character, and her tale is as intoxicating as a siren song." Alexis Smith, Powells.com (read the entire Powells.com review)
Synopses & Reviews
A haunting story of love, loss, and the beach in winter.
The narrator of The Seas lives in a tiny, remote, alcoholic, cruel seaside town. An occasional chambermaid, granddaughter to a typesetter, and daughter to a dead man, awkward and brave, wayward and willful, she is in an (unrequited) love that is "so deep [it] resembled a well, steep sides with no way out" with an Iraq War veteran thirteen years her senior. She is convinced that she is a mermaid. What she does to ease the pain of growing up lands her in prison. What she does to get out is the stuff of legend. In the words of writer Michelle Tea, The Seas is "creepy and poetic, subversive and strangely funny, [and] a phenomenal piece of literature."
"In this retelling of 'The Little Mermaid,' Hunt traps readers in an undertow of tragedy gripping a bleak Northern fishing town. A young woman meets Jude, a sailor whose experiences in Iraq have rendered him watery and insubstantial. Jude becomes both love interest and paternal figure for the girl, whose own father disappeared at sea years before. Convinced she is a mermaid, she believes her love dooms the mortal Jude, but she longs to take him into the ocean with her. The sea's presence is constantly felt in the bleak, isolated town. 'There is little else to do here besides get drunk and it seems to make what is small, us, part of something that is drowned and large, something like the bottom of the sea....' Atmospherically, the book resembles Annie Proulx's The Shipping News, but in this story, chances for redemption are rare, and the line between reality and fairy tale is blurred. The girl's grandfather, a typesetter, fills her head with words and definitions, but despite determining to observe everything as a scientific experiment, she cannot find a way to define the wet footprints she finds in odd places, the strange things she sees on the beach and her drowning love for Jude. While Hunt occasionally hammers her themes too hard — in one instance even listing them for us — this book devastates with its lonely, cold imagery." Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"An odd and fabulous tale....A cross between Rosamunde Pilcher's Coming Home and R.A. Dick's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, this is a beautifully unconventional story." Library Journal
"Samantha Hunt writes as if her pen were a sable paintbrush....There is an ethereal quality to her vibrant prose, which fluctuates between the earthly and mythical worlds of the main character?s mind....The Seas is a mesmerizing story, one that draws you in like a soft September undertow." Patricia D. Weisgerber, SmallSpiralNotebook
"Hunt's precise and intense prose, her vivid and unexpected images, often read like poetry. This inventive tale of a mermaid's search for a voice is testament to the success of a writer who has found her own." Albertina Antognini, San Diego Union-Tribune
"Samantha Hunt's rookie novel, The Seas, reads as though Gordon Lish had undergone a magic-realist implant, John Hawkes had sprouted Marquezian wings, Raymond Carver had lived to see Prozac proliferate....Twin Peaks meets Northern Exposure." Daniel Asa Rose, New York Observer
"A poetic, almost successful debut....Intelligent, complex, and ambitious, with symbols and structure that have life and movement, while the psychology at the base of it all remains stubbornly — and unsatisfyingly — inert." Kirkus Reviews
"Some readers, overburdened by obscure symbols and narrative ambiguity, won't care. Others, however, will enjoy this fusion of fiction and folklore that is illuminated by flashes of quite fine writing." Booklist
"[With] language at once poetic and precise....The result is a ravishing, utterly unique read." Elle.com
"One of the most distinctive and unforgettable voices I have read in years. This book will linger...in your head for a good long time." Dave Eggers
"An aqueous affair, flooded with water themes....Hunt's writing is free of conviction and carries surprising conviction." The New Yorker
"A breathy, wonderful holler of a novel, deeply lodged in the ocean's merciless blue....[Hunt] sinks an anchor into the soul of its lost young protagonist." The Village Voice
The narrator of The Seas lives in a tiny, remote, alcoholic, cruel seaside town. An occasional chambermaid, granddaughter to a typesetter, and daughter to a dead man, awkward and brave, wayward and willful, she is in love (unrequited) with an Iraq War veteran thirteen years her senior. She is convinced that she is a mermaid. What she does to ease the pain of growing up lands her in prison. What she does to get out is the stuff of legend. In the words of writer Michelle Tea, The Seas is "creepy and poetic, subversive and strangely funny, [and] a phenomenal piece of literature."
Ever since her father walked into the ocean eleven years ago, a young woman waits for him to return. Life in her coastal town is decidedly bleak. Her mother spends her time quietly monitoring the ocean for her missing husband. Her grandfather passes the days typesetting dictionaries that will never be printed. Rather than suffer the contortions of becoming a woman and accepting her father's apparent suicide, the narrator convinces herself she is a mermaid and escapes her dreary, northern town life via a fantastic myth. When not chambermaiding at decrepit motels and dreaming of becoming a scientist, she dedicates her time to falling obsessively in love with Jude, a drinker and a sailor twice her age who bears more than a passing similarity to her father. She knows Jude has a troubling secret that will, when revealed, help to fulfill the narrator's peculiar sense of her identity. Part modern gothic, part coming-of-age story, The Seas explores the very real possibilities in the unreal, straddling the horizons between the ocean and the land; literature and science; wishing and reality.
About the Author
Samantha Hunt works as a writer and artist in New York. Her stories have appeared in McSweeney's and on NPR's This American Life. The Seas is her first novel.
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