Setting: North Sea
Found via a Washington Post Book Review. Downloaded onto my Nook and was halfway through in the first night. It is a short book, only 200 pages and sad. I would not be interested in this "pre-Josh". Paid $12.99 for the ebook. Hard copy would've cost twice as much. I really don't like the highlight/note feature in the Nook, would much prefer dog-earring and writing notes in the margin. How much will I really be an e-book reader? Jury is still out.
Father named Guy has lost his daughter in a tragic accident. Was divorced a few months later. He goes to the open sea and writes religiously in his diary. He writes about how his life would be if Freya were still alive and he was still married to Judy. He puts himself in this imagined world and it feel real because:
On writing in his diary:
"you make it as real as you can. It's not like moving chess pieces over a board, you have to use everything you knew about your family, all those moods and moments of stupid laughter and the times when you're all strangers to each other, and you bring in all the random things that can happen too, you give each other colds in the winter, you lose your keys, you forget to buy things at the market, the boiler breaks down. I wasn't very good at it in the early days. It just seemed made up. But I've gotten better. It's as if I'm no longer writing at all."
"I know it's all made up. I'm under no illusions about that, but it helps, really. It helps to have those things alive, whenever you want them."
On finding more about people after they are dead which is exactly how I felt about Josh:
"He learned more about her (his mother) after she died, than he ever did when she'd been alive."
I love how this is written:
"The ebbs and flows of the sea have given his life its rhythm - its salt is in his bones and its presence, so enormous and malign, has been a natural filling of the empty spaces his father left, his wife left, his daughter left."
On the death of a child:
"You just don't have the facility to cope, there just isn't an answer, there is no right or wrong way, there is just the unassailable truth that life has stopped but time has not."
The book flows between his world now, flashbacks and his written world. While not outright suicidal, he flirts with death via 1) swimming dangerously far from this boat, 2) putting this boat in a shipping lane and 3) purposely sailing during a huge storm.
He meets and befriends a recently made widow, Marta and her beautiful, artistic daughter, Rhona. He happens to see Rhona pitch herself over their boat; he saves her from what appears to be a suicidal act.
Guy and Judy's double suicide plan, one month after Freya's death: "After a month they reached the same conclusion. that they would put their own end to it. At their friend's home. With sleeping pills. But didn't go through with it. In the end, both wanted to live."
At different times, he sees and speaks with Freya. During the dangerous times - like when he was swimming or during the storm.
EndingA bit abrupt, open-ended and unresolved. He goes missing, presumed dead. Judy finds a new story with his life with Marta. A bit strange.
TakeawaysI can understand why he is writing a fictional world in which his daughter is still alive. It is a way to keep her alive. Marta, as an outsider looking in, when she understands what he is doing, is concerned. It is a healthy way to deal with grief? To be imagining your dead child alive? No, probably not.