cover image Beyond That, the Sea

Beyond That, the Sea

Laura Spence-Ash. Celadon, $27.99 (368p) ISBN 978-1-250-85437-7

A young’s woman’s family loyalties are divided as she leaves her London home for Boston during WWII in Spence-Ash’s magnetic debut. In 1940, 11-year-old Bea Thompson’s parents take advantage of a short-lived program to keep British children out of harm’s way during the war, and ship her to America. Bea stays in Boston with the wealthy Gregorys and quickly becomes part of their family, which includes sons 13-year-old William and nine-year-old Gerald. Nancy Gregory treats Bea as the daughter she never had, while her husband, Ethan, sees Bea as a welcome addition to the household, despite his austere manner. Bea learns how to swim at the Gregorys’ island house in Maine, excels academically, and, as a teen, falls for the handsome but mercurial William. At the end of the war, Bea returns to a London transformed by bombings and copes with the absence of her father, who died from a heart attack. Torn by her dedication to the Gregorys, she tries to acclimate to life in London with her mother and new stepfather, and after finishing school and finding work as a teacher, Bea’s surprised by a visit from William. The author’s choice to highlight an obscure corner of history with the overseas program adds a note of poignancy to Bea’s story, as her voyage took place shortly before two other ships were sunk by the Germans. As well, Spence-Ash generates a stronger emotional charge with her contrasting portrayals of the two families, whose cultural and economic differences make it difficult for Bea to find her own way. Readers will be riveted. Agent: Gail Hochman, Brandt & Hochman Literary Agency. (Mar.)