• Paperback: 352 pages
• Publisher: William Morrow Paperbacks (February 9, 2016)
“A beautifully written story of a daughter’s journey to find her voice, both literally and figuratively. Valentine reminds us that to be fully human is to be both a storyteller and a story dweller.”—Christina Meldrum, author of Madapple and Amaryllis in Blueberry
On the sharp crags of tiny Tillings Island lies the secret of Izabella Rae Haywood’s sixth birthday. That night, her father vanished, taking her voice—and the truth of what really happened—along with him. In the autumn of 1974, after eight long years of unsuccessful psychiatrist visits and silence, Iz’s mother packs up the tattered remains of their life, determined to return to Tillings in one last attempt to reclaim Iz’s voice—and piece together the splintered memories of the day her words ran dry. But when the residents of Tillings greet them with a standoffish welcome, it becomes clear that they know something about Iz, and the father she adored, that she does not.
Now, as the island’s annual Yemayá festival prepares to celebrate the ties that bind mothers to children, lovers to each other, and humankind to the sea, Iz must unravel the tangled threads of her own history . . . or risk losing herself—and any chance she may have for a future—to the past.
Buy, read, and discuss this book:
Tamara Valentine obtained an M.A. with distinction from Middlebury College and has spent the past fourteen years as a professor in the English Department at Johnson & Wales University. Presently, she lives in Kingston, Rhode Island, with her husband and three children.
Connect with Tamara:
There’s a line near the end of this novel, She will gather her children back together beside the sea, that has been pinging at my brain since I finished reading this in the wee hours of Sunday morning. I don’t have children of my own, but I understand that sentiment as if it was bred into me – the bond between mothers and daughters, and the bond some of us have with the sea = they go hand in hand.
Tamara Valentine clearly has an intrinsic understanding of both those concepts, as well, because her novel What the Waves Know is imbued with it.
Izzabella Rae Haywood, the narrator of this story, jumps off the page and crackles with life and electricity. Reading her POV is like sitting in a room with an old friend, hearing her tell a story you know you were meant to be part of, but somehow weren’t. Her voice is a storyteller’s voice. It catches you and sucks you in, which is all the more ironic when you learn that the character herself doesn’t speak, hasn’t for years, since the night her father disappeared.
But this book isn’t really about childhood trauma. It’s about the way our brains protect us from knowing too much, or feeling too much, and it’s about the way mothers and daughters, whether they’re blood family or the chosen kind, also protect us. It’s about the power of the sea as as secret keeper as well as a force of nature, and its about the way we perceive and later create, our own versions of Truth.
What I loved about this novel was that Valentine kept everything grounded in a tiny Rhode Island town (okay, Rhode Island isn’t exactly huge anyway, but tiny, run down towns have a special kind of magic, and Valentine used it well).
I also especially loved Grandma Jo, and the way she would spout pieces of utterly profound wisdom in an almost casual manner. I’ve known so many people like that.
This book affected me so much that, as you can read, my thoughts are barely coherent.
So here’s what you need to know: It’s the story of mothers and daughters, and the way generations of women forge strong bonds. It’s about family secrets and family love. It’s short enough to be read, well, devoured, in a single day, but so deep that you’ll want to take breaks.
It’s full of messy truths and rough affection and the whole thing feels wind-tossed and salt-licked.
And you’d be doing yourself a great disservice if you didn’t read it.
Goes well with homemade fish-n-chips and strong iced tea, eaten somewhere where the tang of sea air becomes a part of the meal.
Tuesday, February 9th: Bibliotica
Wednesday, February 10th: Kahakai Kitchen
Thursday, February 11th: Ms. Nose in a Book
Friday, February 12th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Friday, February 12th: A Soccer Mom’s Book Blog
Monday, February 22nd: Novel Escapes
Tuesday, February 23rd: Lesa’s Book Critiques
Wednesday, February 24th: Luxury Reading
Thursday, February 25th: From the TBR Pile
Friday, February 26th: Kritters Ramblings