cover image Lynelle by the Sea

Lynelle by the Sea

Laurie Lico Albanese, Laurie Lico Albanese. Dutton Books, $22.95 (240pp) ISBN 978-0-525-94536-9

The plot of Albanese's debut novel may remind readers of Jacquelyn Mitchard's The Deep End of the Ocean, but Albanese blazes her own path through the familiar landscape of motherhood. Chapters alternate between the working-class vernacular of Lynelle Carter's earnest narration and the more distancing third-person portrayal of Annie Thompson's hectic family life. Lynelle, happily married to humble airport worker Hogan, loses her newborn baby to SIDS and descends into unassuageable grief. Her bereavement awakens memories of losing her beloved mother as a young girl, so she leaves Hogan and her New Jersey town to seek solitude and solace in her childhood home in Florida. Meanwhile, immersed in the frazzle and drudgery of child care for her three young offspring, Annie struggles to complete a graduate degree in social work, volunteer at a battered women's shelter and be a good wife to David. David callously dismisses his wife's work and dreams, as he dismissed her ambivalence about being pregnant with her unexpected third child, Dylan, now three months old. When Annie's father has a minor stroke, the Thompsons leave Illinois for Florida to help Annie's mother. Annie's and Lynelle's lives intersect when a distracted Annie leaves Dylan in his nine-year-old brother's care for a minute in a crowded crafts fair. Lynelle finds Dylan alone in the stroller and, in a moment of madness, kidnaps the baby. The ensuing nightmare for Annie and her family is contrasted with Lynelle's psychotic, dreamlike state during the baby's captivity--which, though short-lived, becomes an intense, life-changing drama for all involved. The denouement is resonant and charged with feeling, as Annie's newfound strength infuses her pain with compassion. The book slips into sentimentality at its epilogue, but for the most part it offers a resonant and complex portrayal of Annie and Lynelle coping with motherhood, loss and forgiveness. Agent, Angela Miller. BOMC alternate. (Jan.)