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Between the Tides: A Novel by Susannah…

Between the Tides: A Novel

by Susannah Marren

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Between the Tides by Susannah Marren is a very highly recommended debut novel about constricted lives, fragile dreams, and complacency.

Lainie Smith Morris is an artist who feels the need to be by water at all times. Water is her life's blood. She has told her four children (Tom, 14, Matilde, 12, Claire and Jack, 5 year old twins) the tale of a selkie, a woman who is really a seal, but when her seal skin is stolen by a fisherman she has to remain in human form. Her children are her only consolation. Lainie's children, especially Matilde, think their mother may be a selkie.

Lainie gave up her burgeoning career as an artist for Charles, her surgeon husband. And while she still has time to do her art, her marriage has limited her ability to find time to work. She does love living in NYC by the Hudson River, especially knowing the ocean is so near and that they will spend their summers in Cape May.

When Charles comes home one day and announces that he has accepted the position of head of orthopedic surgery in Elliot, NJ, Lainie does not want to move away from NYC and her proximity to water and her art world connections in the city. Charles promises Lainie art studio space to buy her acceptance, while he insists that it is best for the family to move to the suburbs. After they move in, Lainie is literally a fish out of water among the aptly described Stepford wives found there.

Lainie does end up knowing the queen bee among the social hierarchy imposed on the women living in Elliot. Lainie knew Jess as a friend years ago, growing up in Cape May. But, while Jess seems outwardly to be a friend, she is really more of a frenemy with her own motives for her actions. Her husband is the head of the hospital where Charles works.

The narrative is told by Lainie and Jess in alternating passages. Marren's writing is quite good and the dual points of view work well in this novel. It is also compulsively readable and kept me hooked from start to finish. I was also annoyed and bothered and worked up over these characters. I wanted to shake all of them and tell them to snap-out-of-it. I found it stretched my credulity to see Lainie's indecisive drifting along and easy acceptance that Jess was still her friend, even when there is clear evidence that this should be suspect. Charles is a jerk, no matter how sexy. Jess's interference and involvement was over-the-top. I guess I also wanted Lainie to tell Charles right at the start, "No, I will not move." (But part of that could be due to the personal experience of constantly having to move for a husband's job while sacrificing any career of my own.)

By the time I reached the end of Between the Tides, I decided that Marren had pulled me so completely into the story and held my unwavering attention to the end that this debut novel could only be deemed very highly recommended, even though I could quibble over a few minor plot points.

Disclosure: My Kindle edition was courtesy of St. Martin's Press for review purposes.
( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
Between the Tides by Susannah Marren is an unusual book. It starts out with Lainie Smith Morris telling her children a story about selkies (Lainie loves the water and has to be near it). Lainie is an artist (all her artwork portrays water) who is very dedicated to her work despite her husband and four children. Lainie has help from a nanny called Candy. It also helps to live in New York where anything can be delivered. Then her husband, Charles comes home and tells her he has accepted a position in Elliot, New Jersey (no lakes, rivers, or ocean). He will be the head of his department (orthopedic surgeon). Despite protests from Lainie and the oldest daughter, Mathilde, the family moves to Elliot where they do not fit in. Lainie does not dress the “right” way, drive the proper type of car, etc. for Elliot, New Jersey (even the nanny is wrong).

Jess Howard is the wife of William Howard, CEO of Elliot Memorial Hospital. She is in the inner circle of Elliot. She knew Lainie growing up and they were at the same college for one year. Jess is actually glad that Lainie does not fit in until she meets her husband, Charles. There is an instant attraction between the two. Jess takes Lainie under her wing (ulterior motive) to help her fit in (impossible task). Lainie tries to be normal (because that is what her husband wants), but she is an artist who thinks about her work first. Lainie discovers the local pool and spends time there every morning swimming. She is likes a woman possessed when she is in the pool (so is her daughter, Mathilde). When Candy, the nanny, gets fired when she wrecks the car, Jess helps them get a proper nanny. This allows Lainie even more time to spend with her art. It also allows time for Jess and Charles to carry on their affair. You just know things are not going to end well.

I found Between the Tides to be a strange novel. I did not understand why Charles married Lainie if he wanted a “normal” wife. He was trying to fit a round peg in a square hole. The ending just left you wondering and going “what in the world”. I give Between the Tides 2.5 out of 5 stars. By the way a selkie is a sea creature that is half woman and half seal. They have a skin that makes them look like a seal, but they can step out of it and look human. Whoever has the selkie skin controls the selkie.

I received a complimentary copy of Between the Tides from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. The review and opinions expressed are my own. ( )
  Kris_Anderson | Jul 22, 2015 |
A special thank you to St. Martin's Press and NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

BETWEEN THE TIDES, debut by Susannah Marren explores the dark side of the American dream; of secrets and betrayal hidden beneath the perfect life.

Lainie Smith Morris, artistic lives a happy life in Manhattan, with her handsome surgeon husband, Charles with their four children. Her husband announces he has accepted a job in Elliot, NJ and they will be relocating. Charles has won again, as remembers a lesson of her grandmother’s is that the future is preordained. Nothing is coincidence, each of us experiences many lives.

With the move, Lainie is not happy, longing for New York. Her husband on the other hand, seems to be adjusting and the kids are going through many changes with the move. She desires creativity, inspiration, and is lost in the suburbs.

She meets Jess, a local resident and old high school friend; however, the friendship could turn to betrayal. Flashing back and forth with alternate narratives from Jess and Lainie, past and present we hear from two women—marriage, secrets, family, boundaries, choices, morals, betrayal, career, and friendship.

We also find Lainie, telling her children of a tale of the selkie, mythological said to live as seals in the sea but shed their skin to become human on land.

Male selkies are described as being very handsome in their human form, and having great seductive powers over human women. They typically seek those who are dissatisfied with their life, such as married women waiting for their fishermen husbands. If a woman wishes to make contact with a selkie male, she must shed seven tears into the sea. If a man steals a female selkie's skin she is in his power and is forced to become his wife.

Female selkies are said to make excellent wives, but because their true home is the sea, they will often be seen gazing longingly at the ocean. If she finds her skin she will immediately return to her true home, and sometimes to her selkie husband, in the sea. Sometimes, a selkie maiden is taken as a wife by a human man and she has several children by him.

In these stories, it is one of her children who discovers her sealskin (often unwitting of its significance) and she soon returns to the sea. The selkie woman usually avoids seeing her human husband again but is sometimes shown visiting her children and playing with them in the waves.

Stories concerning selkies are generally romantic tragedies. Sometimes the human will not know that their lover is a selkie, and wakes to find them gone. In other stories the human will hide the selkie's skin, thus preventing the selkie from returning to its seal form. A selkie can only make contact with one human for a short amount of time before the selkie must return to the sea. The selkie is unable to make contact with that human again for seven years, unless the human steals their selkie skin and hides it or burns it.

A cautionary tale, at times with a dark and moody atmosphere, complex relationships, sprinkled with poetic prose, and at other times the writing seemed to float all over the place. Even though filled with metaphors, was not connected with the characters, and the selkie parts, left me unengaged, disconnected, and impatient to finish. ( )
  JudithDCollins | Jul 7, 2015 |
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"Lainie Smith Morris is perfectly content with her life in New York City: she has four children, a handsome surgeon husband, and good friends. This life she has built is shattered, however, when her husband Charles announces he has accepted a job in Elliot, New Jersey, and that the family must relocate. Lainie is forced to give up the things she knows and loves. Though Charles easily adapts to the intricacies of suburban life, even thriving in it, Lainie finds herself increasingly troubled and bored by her new limited responsibilities, and she remains desperate for the inspiration, comfort, and safety of the city she called home. She is hopelessly lost--until, serendipitously, she reconnects with an old friend/rival turned current Elliot resident, Jess. Pleased to demonstrate her social superiority to Lainie, Jess helps her find a footing, even encouraging Lainie to develop as an artist; but what looks like friendship is quickly supplanted by a betrayal with earthshattering impact, and a move to the suburbs becomes a metaphor for a women who must search to find a new home ground in the shifting winds of marriage, family, career, and friendship"--… (more)

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