Jill's Reviews > Sea Glass

Sea Glass by Anita Shreve
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's review
Mar 29, 2008

really liked it
Read in April, 2008

Set in the early depression era somewhere on the East Coast, the novel follows Honora and Sexton Beecher from the beginning of their marriage. They moved into a large deserted old house on the beach and threw themselves into making it habitable with mostly sweat equity and little money. Sexton is away every week because of his job as travelling salesman and Honora lives a quiet but very structured life. She walks frequently on the lonely beach and collects colorful bits of sea glass.

When the owner decides to sell the home, Sexton manages to scrape together enough for the down payment and takes a mortgage at the local bank. Unfortunately, it's at the worst possible time as banks are starting to collapse and many are losing their jobs.

The story follows the arc of their relationship from good times to bad and explores the discoveries they make about each other as a result of their travails. Part of the subtext of the story is revealed through homey letters from Honora's mother. Sexton becomes involved with a group of men fomenting a strike at the local textile mills. Their home becomes the headquarters of the organizers, bringing them into the center of a dangerous and controversial movement.

The historical context of the novel was interesting, but what was most compelling was Anita Shreve's ability to create a fully imagined, complex, sympathetic character - Honora Sexton. I could imagine myself living in her time and faced with the same challenges. It's not always possible to "associate" yourself so completely with a fictional character, but Anita Shreve's skill make it possible.
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