Thursday, February 26, 2015

Miami Memories: Sea Creatures

Sea Creatures by Susanna Daniel is a story about Georgia and Graham Quillian’s and Charlie Hick’s tumultuous relationships in the summer of 1992, mostly in Miami—my hometown. Maybe I love this story because I’ve been away from Miami since 1977 with only two visits in 2002 and 2007 to show my husband where I grew up. In Sea Creatures, Susanna Daniel’s colorful descriptions of Miami made me feel at home; I could smell the sultry air and feel the sweat dribble from the crown of my head soaking my neck and back.

I never had a child but if I did I’m sure I would’ve behaved like Georgia did with her son, Frankie—overprotective, over-supportive, afraid to let him out of her sight except that eerie night on the eve of Hurricane Andrew. I would have taken my eyes off him exactly like Georgia did… at the worst possible time and for the worst possible reason.

Let me start at the beginning. The focus of Sea Creatures is a disintegrating marriage and the adversities faced by the protagonist, Georgia Quillian.

What once began as a promising life together slowly begins to unravel when Georgia's husband, Graham's rare sleeping disorder (parasomnia) scuttles his chances for receiving tenure at Northwestern where he is a professor. Parasomnia causes Graham to sleepwalk--occasionally into the outside world. All of this is more than unsettling but Georgia does not realize that he might not only be a threat to himself but to her and Frankie, their three-year-old son who stopped speaking at eighteen months. 

At the same time that Graham's tenure is denied Georgia's consulting business goes belly up. However, an old associate soon offers Graham a job at the Rosensteil School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Georgia's hometown of Miami. 

Georgia takes a part-time job for a recluse, Charlie Hick's, who lives in a stilt house on Biscayne Bay. The Arrival of Georgia and Frankie brings a bit of healing to the three of them as Georgia and Graham's relationship begins to disintegrate. 

My favorite line from the book came as Georgia and Graham fought to keep their relationship intact while on a kayak trip to The Dry Tortugas. They’d been speaking about how their relationship had changed since the birth of their son:

The stakes,” I said. “They’re higher now.”
“I understand.”
“Do you?” I said.
He didn’t answer. He loved me too much to say what I believed he was thinking: We used to have a different kind of marriage, and I liked that one better.”

What I didn't like about the book was too many minor characters who influenced Georgia all through her life. I really didn't want to know about all of then nor did I think the story needed to include so many. It felt as if Georgia was telling her (oft times boring) life story.

The over use of the cliche "and every so often" took me out of the story as did the monotonous use of he said/she said. When only two people are talking we can usually recognize who's speaking without being told constantly. A few "beats" or mannerisms thrown into the dialogue would have kept the story tighter.

In spite of what I believe to be grammatical faux pas I actually absolutely enjoyed this book mostly because it's not an ordinary story with a predictable ending. The main characters felt like friends and the descriptions of Miami, both above and below the ocean were spot on to this Miami Native. (Actually I was born in Toledo but Miami became my home just before my third birthday.)

Here's a photo of my husband, Bud, and me in Miami in 2002 celebrating the contract to publish my first novel (Child of My Heart) with Gardenia Press Publishing Company.

Disclamor: A portion of this post was supplied by a professional book reviewer, Gail Cook, from Amazon dot com.

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