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The Odd Sea

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  485 ratings  ·  64 reviews
A teenage boy is missing. His younger brother searches for him and in the process finds himself. A “haunting first novel that takes a horrifying family calamity and turns it into a form of magic” (New York Times Book Review).
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 1st 1998 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1998)
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Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
This is a short but powerful story that won the Hackney Literary Award for a first novel. There's a quiet earnestness in Frederick Reiken's writing that I find very appealing. I see some similarity with Brad Kessler's work in the way Reiken's characters use art, music, literature, and love of nature to soothe their grieving hearts.

Two things about this book stay with me. First is the way the Shumway family members support and encourage each other throughout the ordeal rather than having it dest
What I find most remarkable about this book is that he described the breasts of every. single. female character, but there was a picture of a naked guy at one point and I didn't get a description of his business. Not fair. -eyeroll-

It was a well-written book, which is why it got two stars instead of one. That's all it has going for it. There isn't really a plot. He talks about boobs and there's some casual almost-pedophilia, so I guess that is what makes it deep. They cut some trees down, too. I
Apr 28, 2015 Carmen rated it 1 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
This is a book about a boy of 16 named Ethan who just disappears one day. He just mysteriously vanishes and no one has any clue why. This concept sounds more interesting than it actually is. Not much happens in this book. It is told from the point of view of Ethan's younger brother Philip. Even though it is mildly interesting to see how Ethan's many siblings, parents and ex-girlfriends deal with his unexpected vanishing, the book doesn't really go anywhere or have a solid storyline. Nothing real ...more
Shalonne Halstead
I was hesitant to start reading this book because it involves a missing child - as a mother, that's one of my worst nightmares. But something about the cover drew me in, and I gave it a shot. I'm glad I did!

It's told from the POV of the missing boy's brother who seems to be a naive, innocent type of boy. His teenage brother goes missing inexplicably one day. Just...gone. The book is about how the rest of the family copes and survives this horrible tragedy.

This book belongs to that class of books
The main reason I rated this five stars is because I think it's amazing that I have spent the two days since I've read it swinging violently between wanting to give it one star, and wanting to give it five, thinking of giving it three just as an average, or giving up and just leaving it unrated. I mean, waffling about a rating is something I do, but not like this.

If a book has me thinking about it this much, my opinion of it swinging so crazily from one extreme to the other, my feelings so engag
This was a look into a family suffering a tragic loss without any confirmation of that loss. I think the most heart-rending thing about it was the lack of evidence that something happened to Ethan. An honest portrayal of what a young boy might be feeling when his older brother just goes missing. The entire story is seen through the younger brother's point of view and the stories he creates to keep his brother alive are remarkable. There is little action in this story which is mostly told through ...more
Mahala Helf
How can such a short book seem so wordy and redundant?
Part of it that most of the female characters besides the parents, whether past forty or under 20 are similarly mystified as arch and spout what's meant to seem deep and meaningful, but sounds as overblown and/or oversimplified as the meant to be unreliable teenage to college grad narrator. The narration as well is MEANINGFUL.
Another reason is that the hints & teases and conclusions are endlessly repeated. You can see the scaffolding of
The Odd Sea is the story of a young boy named Ethan who vanishes from a small western Massachusetts town. That's how it starts, anyway.

Despite the cliche of 'lost kid story' and the blatant reference to the Odyssey, cracking the first few pages pretty much means commitment to reading the entire work in one or two sittings. The story is addictive, both for its maintained tensions and its ability to create meaningful relationships amongst characters. Most of these tensions and relationships are f
This small literary triumph written by an author no one has ever heard of when I bring it up has been in my top five best modern novels list since I first read it years ago. And I read a lot people.

I quote the New York Times review a lot when I try to explain how good this book is.

"A haunting first novel that takes a horrifying family calamity and turns it into a form of magic."

One quiet summer day 15 year old Ethan Shumway disappears. In the days, months, and years that follow the reader follo
C.B. Wentworth
When sixteen-year-old Ethan Shumway walks down the driveway towards Baker's Bottom Pond, no one in his family could have known it would be the last time they'd ever see him. Both tragic and resilient, The Odd Sea follows the story of a family coping with the sudden loss of a son and brother.

Ethan's younger brother Philip watches helplessly as his mother descends into manic depression and his father throws himself into manual labor as a means to deal with his grief. Meanwhile, Philip's sisters de
Dalton Oligschlaeger
This book was pretty well heartbreaking. It covers the story of an innocent child, who awakes one day to basically watch his brother dissappear around a corner before his eyes. Him and his family have no clues, no lead, and no idea. All they have is his music school and teacher and friends he had there, some of which end up being much more involved than the family would have ever guessed. The book isn't usually vivid and sometimes, details are sometimes spared, but it's hard to put down, simply ...more
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I loved this book, and I pretty much read it in a day because I couldn't put it down! It was so haunting, so faithful, and had such a diverse group of characters. There's something I always seek in a book like this, and it wasn't there. I actually think that's why I liked it more. I had chills as I read the last page.
Jon Edgar
Probably one of my favourite contemporary novels. This is a compact book about a missing boy and his troubled family. You can read this is in one sitting (as I have done many times) and still take away something from the story. As thoughtful and real as fictional characters get.JE
I started reading this book about a week ago and finished it about 30 minutes ago. This book was compelling and addictive, but extremely unsatisfying at the end. It begins with thirteen year old Ethan vanishing from his house without a trace, and the grief of his loss in the family. ***SPOILER ALERT***: At the end of the book, he never gets found and we never learn what happens to him. The only real reason I read this at all was to find out what happens to him, and we never do. It was extremely ...more
I was obsessed with this book in middle school. I read it one summer in Cape May Point and it haunted me for years. I thought about it while reading Where Things Come Back.

That said, I will re-read and re-review sometime soon, 16 years later.
Ashley MYeRS
i didn't like this book because you never found out where Ethan was. i wish that the book could have told you more about where Ethan is other than the assumption of his family because when i was reading this book i felt like i didn't understand the moral of the story. if i where the author i would have thought of a more creative way to end the story because i think that there where a lot of unanswered questions such as: what ever happened to Ethan? how long has he been missing? did he even make ...more
Elisabeth Zguta
I was very interested in this story since I grew up in the area it took place, and in the same time frame that this story talks about. The writer brought forth some good characters, the thoughts and feelings of those touched by the loss and/or the abduction of his brother. No one knows of course how they will react when we lose a loved one, but the most frustrating aspect of the entire cast of characters was their inability to understand and make peace with 'not knowing' what happened. The artis ...more
Another book about how families deal with missing children which is not my favorite subject, but the book was well written and I would try others by this author.
Vicki Curtis
Nicely written book. Suspenseful plot. Reminds me of The Lovely Bones. Not as much closure as I like, however.
Claudia Putnam
I go back to this book again and again. It always holds up.
If I could, I'd give it three and a half stars...One of my favorite books of the last few years is this author's Day for Night; I'm not sure why it took me so long to get around to his first book, a coming-of-age story about a young man processing and coming to terms with the disappearance of his much-beloved older brother. For a first novel, it was really excellent. The writing style and use of symbolism/metaphor is lovely. I also appreciate an author who doesn't need to wrap things up neatly a ...more
I've read this book countless times since high school; it's one of my top three favorite books. Ethan Shumway is sixteen when he disappears - literally disappears: his younger brother, Philip, sees Ethan at the end of the driveway one minute, then he's gone. The book is Philip's searching for (or "not-finding", as he calls it) Ethan. There is something about Reiken's writing that makes the whole story vague and mysterious, yet complete enough to be satisfying, regardless of what the resolution m ...more
Short, redundant, boring, anti-climatic. Need I say more? I was bored to tears from the beginning. I get that the story was about the grieving process of losing someone you love. Never knowing what happens to them, but come on! There was only a slight grieving process, mostly from the mother who doesn’t even have a voice in the book. On top of all that – there was no ending! I’m not sure what people are saying when it is a “literary classic”.
Overall, I give this book a D, maybe even a D-
Brian Foley
Rick was a writing teacher of mine at Emerson. He wasn't particularly great, but i wasn't writing anything particularly exciting either. I read this on a Christmas break before taking his class. Out of so many other books I've read, this one still stays with me. I might have been overly impressionable, having not read much at the the time. Or it may be Im a sucker for disappearance narratives.
Finely paced, not overly eccentric or saccharine. It all felt very myserious and suburban.
I love this book like crazy, and it's not even my favorite of Reiken's books. The tone of this one is gorgeously ethereal. That mist on the cover? Kind of sets into your brain when you read it, pushing everything else out. This one is also set in rural western Massachusetts, where I grew up. I'm a little biased toward Mr. Reiken. Everyone in town claims the author as a friend of a friend, and who could blame them.
Sarah Sullivan
Short, lyrical and sad, Frederick Reiken's view into a family shattered by a missing child is insanely readable. I was particularly taken by the title, "The Odd Sea" a child's misheard name for "The Odyssey" which becomes an extended metaphor for Ethan's loss. I'm sad that now I've read everything Reiken's written, I hope he comes out with something else soon.
This is a story of how family life goes on after a child disappears, told from the perspective of one of the siblings. This was an easy and fun book to read, but nothing very exciting happened, and I didn't like the outcome of the missing boy. It's a calm and gentle book, no thrills and spills, which I kept expecting to arrive, so I was a little disappointed.
This book came out before Lost Legends and I didn't get as engrossed with it as I did with Lost Legends but the story is compelling and the writing is stunning...this writer is such a talent in that his craft is just top-notch but he writes with an accessible voice that makes this a quick read...a difficult feat to do both at once and he makes it look easy :-)
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Frederick Reiken is the author of Day For Night (2010), The Odd Sea (1998) and The Lost Legends of New Jersey (2000). His short stories have appeared in The New Yorker. He has worked as a reporter and columnist and is currently a member of the writing faculty at Emerson College.
More about Frederick Reiken...
Day for Night The Lost Legends of New Jersey Bearwalking (CANCELLED) One-Dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society

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