Sunday, August 18, 2013

SEA CREATURES by Susanna Daniel

Born and raised in Miami, Florida author Susanna Daniel knows that territory well as was seen in her prize winning debut novel, Stiltsville, and is presented again in Sea Creatures.  Her descriptions of the surrounding waters are beautifully done, especially the scenes that occur underwater.  For this reader those portions of her novel were the most enjoyable as the focus of her story is a disintegrating marriage and the adversities faced by wife/mother, Georgia Quillian.

What once began as a promising life together slowly begins to unravel when husband, Graham’s rare sleeping disorder, parasomnia, scuttles his chances for ever receiving tenure at Northwestern where he is a professor.  Evidently parasomnia is not a minor disorder as it causes him to awaken at night and do things he would ordinarily not do, such as knocking on the door of a neighbor’s house in the middle of the night or throwing himself through a window.  All of this is more than unsettling but Georgia does not seem to realize that he might not only be a danger to himself but to her and Frankie, their three-year-old son who refuses to speak.

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.  So, the couple decides to try to start anew and move with their son move to Coral Gables.  They make their home in an old houseboat they have purchased, tying it up to the dock behind the home of Georgia’s father and his second wife.

The couple’s relationship does not improve, and soon Georgia takes a part=time job for a recluse, Charlie Hicks, who lives in a stilt house on Biscayne Bay.  After personal tragedy Charlie has sought to escape from the world.  However, the arrival of Georgia and Frankie brings a modicum of healing to all three of them.  Unfortunately, that feeling of well-being is not to last.  Sea Creatures is a beautifully haunting novel enriched by the author’s vivid descriptions of Florida.

Gail Cooke

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