cover image Wild and Distant Seas

Wild and Distant Seas

Tara Karr Roberts. Norton, $27.99 (304p) ISBN 978-1-324-06488-6

Roberts draws in her stunning debut on Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick for a story of women with magical powers. Evangeline is 19 when she arrives in Nantucket in 1849 and takes a room at the Try Pots Inn. Six days later, she marries the inn’s proprietor, Hosea. Two years into their happy marriage, Hosea dies at sea. To ensure the inn won’t be taken away from her, Evangeline uses an ability she discovered as a child to look into other people’s minds and revise their memories. In this case, she makes the townsfolk believe Hosea will return. Eventually, a restless sailor named Ishmael arrives at the Try Pots with his handsome companion Queequeg, who rejects Evangeline’s advances. She then has an affair Ishmael, who impregnates her before the sailors leave on the Pequod to hunt an infamous white whale. Years later, Evangeline and Ishmael’s daughter, Rachel, who never met her father, is captivated by a series of seafaring stories published in a Boston newspaper. Believing the stories to be written by the long-lost Ishmael, she embarks on a dangerous ocean voyage to find him, using her own powers of mind control to survive. Roberts writes with confidence and dynamic range, mixing earthy details of dead fish and whale oil with sublime descriptions of the women’s psychic abilities (Evangeline sees others’ recent memories as “fresh and soft as paint on a canvas not yet dried”). This is beautiful. Agent: Chris Kepner, Kepner Agency. (Jan.)