cover image Tides


Sara Freeman. Grove, $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-8021-5917-5

An emotionally charged story of wanderlust and longing unfolds in Freeman’s captivating debut. After an unspecified and devastating loss, Mara, 36 and divorced with no children, walks out on her life, leaving a note behind for her brother and sister-in-law (“I’ll be fine!”). She ends up in a nondescript seaside town in an unspecified region, where she drifts with a surreal sense of detachment and dwindling funds. Freeman drops clues to Mara’s heartache in spare prose that’s punctuated by humor and denial: “This is not that,” Mara tells herself when confronted with reminders of her desire to be a mother, such as children’s swimsuits left hanging over banisters and toys partially buried in the sand. She dissociates from her feelings in any number of ways, including indulging in fantasies about what her brother might have to say about her disappearance. Desperate for money, she finds a job at a local wine shop; equally desperate for food, she resorts to stealing. Her boss, Simon, notices the inner struggle at Mara’s core and quickly becomes the one connection she has in an otherwise muted and lonely life. With an intricate narrative and in deceptively simple language, Freeman captures the full extent of loss. Complicated and enchanting, this prismatic examination of emotional endurance is a winner. (Jan.)