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The Story of Land and Sea

2.96  ·  Rating details ·  2,139 ratings  ·  389 reviews
Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshe
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published August 26th 2014 by Harper
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Average rating 2.96  · 
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 ·  2,139 ratings  ·  389 reviews

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Will Byrnes
May 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
…to save her from the graveyard he must take her to the sea. He took her mother once, and being on the water only made her bloom.
In 1793 ten-year-old Tabitha is smitten with the idea of the sea. Her father, John, an erstwhile pirate, and soldier in the Continental Army, owns a shop in Beaufort, NC. Tab’s affection for the maritime may have to do with her mother, Helen. John and Helen had eloped, over her father’s objections, and sailed together under a black flag. But her father’s tales are
Jun 17, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: free-from-work
Regret only exists once the opportunity for change is gone.

this novel set in north carolina during the years 1771-1794, and is split into three separate narratives. it is a very quiet story, with some lovely writing in it, but i'm having difficulty trying to understand its "why." i see where there are references and flare-ups between the stories, but i'm struggling to find its cohesive purpose. all i really have is that it is a very subdued story about faith and duty and sacrifice and family, sp
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 15, 2016 rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny (Reading Envy) by: Jason Roland
This book was discussed on Episode 054 of the Reading Envy Podcast. I was expecting more pirates but still found this to be an interesting tale of Beaufort, SC, prior to and during the American Revolution, focusing on the lives of three women. ...more
Jul 15, 2014 rated it did not like it
I received a free ARE copy from Harper Collins. And I really, really tried to like it: the jacket description sounded like something I would love. And I gave it a really good chance, completing the first two parts, but then got to Part 3 and am just not invested or interested enough to continue, and find out what happens. Once I found myself reading anything else but picking this up to finish, it was time to admit defeat and move on!
Jul 31, 2014 rated it did not like it
Can't I give it zero stars? It was like the author wanted the prose to sound pretty but didn't really care that the plot was tedious and depressing and her characters were uninteresting. A main character dies rendering that whole section pointless, the plots lines are disjointed and I was bored, bored, bored. Bored. I love historical fiction (which this was billed as) but THIS is NOT hitorical fiction. It's an author looking to write "literature." How about we write something readable next time. ...more
Jun 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
There's some lovely writing here, but the story itself is quiet, so subtle that the emotional moments were really lacking in vibrancy, and I felt disconnected from the characters. I disliked the disjointed structure of the book, and knowing the tragedies up front made me less inclined to finish it. I read Parts I and II, and I don't need to read Part III to tell it's, sadly, not the book for me. ...more
Mississippi Library Commission
The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith is a beautifully written story of the love that passes between parent and child, and the devastation when that love is lost. We highly recommend Smith’s debut novel.
Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
Sep 26, 2014 rated it really liked it

THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA is beautifully written with exquisite prose.​

The main character is Helen whose story is told before and after her death along with the tale of her husband, her father, her daughter, and Moll, a slave from the plantation and Helen's friend.

You will follow the characters through their lives on a plantation, on a ship, and in a regular household. The characters are an odd sort but ones with depth and with feelings that ooze through the pages simply because of Ms. Smith’s
Mar 31, 2015 rated it really liked it
I am stunned that this averages a starred review of 2.99 on GoodReads. That’s crap. The thing with this book is that it is split in to three parts and each part tells a different story. The first part is the story of John and his daughter, Tabitha. The second part is the story of John’s wife Helen as a child. The third part is the story of John. It disrupted me slightly when it shifted from part one to part two but I stuck with it. I had loved part one and I wanted to love it again so I kept rea ...more
reading is my hustle
Melancholic read about life's disappointments and the pain of living. Bleak but with intelligent writing (though I wondered a bit about the choice of present tense). I waffled between giving this 2 or 3 stars. ...more
Jun 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
For ten years now John has raised his daughter, Tabitha, alone. His beloved wife, Helen, died in childbirth leaving the two of them to fend for themselves. And now Tabitha has taken ill. The doctor says there's nothing to do but wait and John's father-in-law says that he must pray. But John knows exactly what will heal his daughter - the same sea air that his Helen once thrived in.

Wow, what a freaking downer of a book! That is not what I was in the mood for at all.

Katy Simpson Smith's fiction d
Jul 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
There are books that are suspenseful or romantic or funny....The Story of Land and Sea is beautiful.

I was immediately drawn in by Smith's writing. Her voice is surprisingly lyrical for a debut author and, if nothing else, I'm glad that this book introduced me to her work. She was able to vividly recreate the world of late 18th-century North Carolina so well that it made me homesick for the years I spent living in that part of the country.

The characters quickly became dear to my heart. We have J
May 19, 2014 rated it really liked it
A novel at once delicate and straightforward in its treatment of relationships, love, and loss. Simpson Smith tells of the intricate and often uncomfortable interactions between a distant father who discovers he wants to love his family too late, a man whose child becomes the lodestar in his life, a slave woman who holds herself ruthlessly apart from affection but cannot help but care for even her white mistress, and a religiously righteous young woman who moves from staunch independence to fall ...more
Sep 17, 2015 rated it did not like it
Shelves: worst-books
I couldn't find anything to like about this book. None of the characters were interesting to me, none of them had any redeemable or even sympathetic qualities. For an historical novel written by someone with a doctorate in history, I found it devoid of historical specifics or any of the little special details that are supposed to make historical fiction interesting. The entire story was flat and featureless, sad and depressing.

Not recommended at all.
Mar 01, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Exquisite writing, but there is something fundamental missing.
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
The language in this book is stunning, as is the story it depicts. The characters seem almost sketched at times yet never lose their depth. Smith has managed to draw nuanced people out of striking language without falling into clunky, over-wrought prose. The stories she tells transcend generations and indeed centuries, pulling us into the world of late 18th century North Carolina while never making their struggles feel distant or irrelevant to our world today.

As soon as I finished the book, I tu
Jul 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: historical
This is a beautifully written story of love between parent and child, and devastating loss. Set in a small coastal town at the end of the American Revolution. Landowner Asa, a widower, depends on his only daughter, Helen to run the plantation. Though he hopes for an heir he refuses to give his approval for Helen to marry John, a former solider. John and Helen marry anyway and take off to the sea. When Helen perishes during childbirth, Asa blames John for taking away his daughter. The child Tabit ...more
Mar 08, 2015 rated it liked it
I saw this author at a book festival. She talked about how she came to write this. As she read part I was entranced by the beauty of the writing, but many were not and people left as she was reading. I thought it was rude and apologized to the author, but she said she understood. Yes it is quite a bleak story, because life was hard then. The writing is beautiful and evocative, but very sad.
Occasionally, I read a book that even after a day or two of reflection I am still not sure what I feel about the book and I am thus stumped when someone asks me how I would rate this book (and not liking to rank a book as I believe most books are much more than their ratings).
I was interested to read this book for several reasons; I enjoy historical fiction, North Carolina (the setting for the book) is now my new home state so enjoying learning the history of the area, and the author has written
Nov 07, 2014 rated it it was ok
I'm rather at a loss on how to review this book, but the only difference is whether I should give it a 3 star or 2, as I eventually did. This story is about an ex-pirate, during the waning years of the Revolutionary War, in a small coastal community of North Carolina.The loss of women that figure prominently throughout the book both slaves and non, and the men who loved them. I was looking forward to this book but it was rather disjointed, and certainly slow moving and rather depressing. Descrip ...more
Marathon County Public Library
Set in coastal North Carolina during the American Revolution, this novel follows Tabitha, a little girl who loves her father's stories from his days as a pirate, and her mother Helen, who died giving birth to Tabitha years before. Using eloquent, meticulous, and at times biblical prose, the author explores loss, the love between parent and child, and what it means to expand our horizons. While heartbreaking, this novel captures the senses and moves the reader in a way I have not encountered in a ...more
Yukari Watanabe
Jul 03, 2014 rated it really liked it
I received an ARC at BEA. Smith's writing is so lovely that it's worth reading this novel. There are many beautiful parts and I wanted to love the book, but I didn't.

I felt Smith cared the writing style much more than actual stories. It felt superficial and the tragedies and sorrow didn't move me. It was a pleasure to read such a well-written book, but I will not remember about John or Tab in a few months.
Reeka (BoundbyWords)
As seen on my blog:

It is that elated sense of being, when all of your feelings seem to be resonating not only in your heart, but in every other limb and organ in your body. It's that moment when printed words have the ability to move you beyond a smile, or a chuckle, or a tear. It was The Story of Land and Sea that had me in awe of that literary potential. It was a story that seemed to have been written to only speak to itself, to exist quietly, with no hopes of falling into another's ha
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Nov 19, 2014 rated it liked it
This debut by Katy Simpson Smith was a quick read for me on the treadmill, a story thematically rich with clean, concise writing – in many places striking and beautiful.

Set in three non-linear timelines during the late 1700s, the novel covers the lives of Asa and his daughter Helen; and John and his daughter Tabitha – and all the regrets both men have about the women loved during their lives. The characters of Moll (Helen’s maidservant) and her son Davy were, to me, the most engaging, even thou
Cherie M.
Jan 12, 2015 rated it liked it
“She will be the last bird to leave, and his forest will become as silent as winter.”

Sparing yet descriptive prose. An unromanticized tale of love and heart-wrenching losses during the Revolutionary War. Set in southeastern North Carolina, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean convey little warmth and pleasure. Instead they are a metaphor for the push and pull of feelings, choices, decisions, and relationships of the lives of the characters in this story. Though I hoped for different outcomes for som
RoseMary Achey
Oct 19, 2014 rated it it was ok
Reading this book is almost like reading poetry...incredibly beautiful prose. However the story lacked any sort of excitement, or climax. It was all so subtle and calming, like watching a river flow.
Derrill Hagood
Jan 30, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
Read an early copy, but am eagerly awaiting the finished book. Katy is an extraordinary storyteller and a true craftsman!

2014 Rating: 3 stars

2020 Rating: 4 stars

I wanted to come back to this one because despite its flaws, the story really stayed with me. (view spoiler)
Jul 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful. Sad and quiet, but beautiful.
JG (Introverted Reader)
The Story of Land and Sea opens with young Tabitha contracting yellow fever on her tenth birthday. Her father and grandfather, having already lost her mother in childbirth, are desperate to save her despite the limitations of 18th century medicine. Her father takes to the sea with her in tow, thinking that the sea air will cure her. After all, he took her mother to the sea when they first married and she blossomed into the woman he loved with all his heart.

Flashing back 20 years, Tabitha's mothe
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Katy Simpson Smith attended Mount Holyoke College and received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has been working as an Adjunct Professor at Tulane University and is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835. Her debut novel, The Story of Land and Sea, was published by Harper ...more

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