Meg's Reviews > Sea Escape

Sea Escape by Lynne Griffin
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's review
Jul 27, 10

bookshelves: sent-for-review, read-in-2010, contemporary-fiction
Read from July 20 to 22, 2010

Lynne Griffin’s Sea Escape is a quiet, moving novel centering on mothers and daughters, fathers and sons — families, complicated and vast and difficult. Shades of Helen and Laura’s relationship can probably be seen in any mother/daughter duo, no matter how close — or how distant — they may appear. From the onset, I was drawn in by Griffin’s language. Her words brought me straight onto the porch of Sea Escape, her mother’s beloved home, or into the hospital room where she stood reading letters to Helen. The ability to crawl right into language is important to me as a reader.

Sea Escape alternates between Helen and Joseph’s courtship in the 1950s and present day, when Laura is tending to her mother’s needs and attempting to reconcile their difficult relationship. I loved the scenes explaining Helen’s origins most of all — especially those detailing her early life and struggles with her own parents and, later, the difficulties in her marriage with Joseph. As a reader, I never questioned how madly in love Helen was with Joseph, and vice versa — though even that love, at times all-consuming, wasn’t always enough.

Religion plays an important role in the story, though it’s never heavy-handed. A devout Catholic, Helen seeks solace in her faith and the trinkets Laura’s sister-in-law, Luce, brings her as her health is failing. I appreciated the light touch Griffin used when discussing the ways in which Helen found comfort in God while Laura — a realistic, sympathic narrator — still questioned her mother’s feelings. As the story unfolds, Laura begins to see things a little more from her mother’s perspective — but she doesn’t suddenly “find Christ.” Sudden epiphanies are a major pet peeve of mine.

Overall, Sea Escape was a captivating glimpse into a complicated mother/daughter relationship, and I loved getting to know Laura and Helen through one another’s eyes. Though not a fast-paced, happy or humorous tale, Griffin’s second novel succeeded in twisting my heart. Despite its somber tone, I enjoyed this novel steeped just long enough in historical details to give us a flavor of a different era — but still ringing with contemporary truths with which many women, old and young, will understand.
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07/20/2010 page 8
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