Reviewed by Lauren Cannavino
Susanna Daniel’s novel Sea Creatures focuses on a small family who must face big change while attempting to remain intact. And as main character Georgia Quillian has come to discover, this is not always easy to accomplish. Georgia and her eclectic husband Graham have both lost their jobs and are looking for a fresh start in Florida. The couple, along with their mute son Frankie, returns to Georgia’s hometown looking to find a new beginning for phase two of their lives. This beginning starts with the purchase of a rickety old houseboat that they will now call home.
The job loss that threw the small family into upheaval had to do with Graham losing his tenured position at Northwestern due in part to a sleep disorder. Georgia’s business also had to close, perhaps partially related to sleep issues of her own. As a result of the focus on sleep, there almost seems to be a heavy haze that hangs over the story and the characters. When Georgia takes a job as a personal assistant to a reclusive artist, Charlie, who lives in the middle of the bay in “Stiltsville”, a different light is shed on the story and the haze begins to lift. Charlie is gruff, private and older than Georgia, but the dimensions of the story open up further once he comes into the tale. Surprisingly, it is the hermit, that brightens the story as Georgia’s darkness and murkiness is cut through. As Charlie and Georgia’s relationship blooms into something far more than artist and assistant, more secrets about Graham, Frankie and Georgia herself slowly rise to the surface. The story moves in a few unforeseen directions and the characters all face ends and revelations that are very fitting for their roles in the story.
While Susanna Daniel does have a clean writing style, I found the book hard to get into. I did enjoy Charlie the most and without him, I feel that the book would have been a loss. I could never get behind Georgia as a supportable main character and this bothered me because I couldn’t figure out exactly why I had no interest in her, her struggles or her development. To me, Georgia almost seemed too wishy washy or too victimized to fully support even when she emerged a slightly different person. Ultimately, Daniel does write a smooth story that is different, personal and shows reflection of how pain can affect all of us in very different and personal ways.
Lauren Cannavino is a graduate student, freelance writer, wine lover, and avid reader. Random musings can be found over at www.goldiesays.com.
Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.