Sea Wife

Knopf. Apr. 2020. 288p. ISBN 9780525656494. $26.95. F
Their marriage teetering on the edge, Michael and Juliet buy a sailboat (which Michael renames Juliet) and embark on an open-ended adventure sailing around the Caribbean with their two small children, Sybil and George. Michael sees sailing as a way to reclaim independence and freedom and to connect on a spiritual level with his long-dead father. He also hopes the change will shake Juliet out of her depression, rooted in a childhood trauma and exacerbated by her abandonment of her poetry dissertation owing to the stress of child rearing. Instead, a series of setbacks and near-catastrophes exacerbate the friction. It’s revealed fairly early on that a tragedy occurred, and the narration alternates (sometimes by the paragraph or sentence) between Juliet’s reflections and Michael’s captain’s logbook (which becomes something of a journal), as well as occasional interludes consisting of Sybil’s sessions with her therapist.
VERDICT This book’s unusual structure is effective once you figure out what Gaige is up to. There are multiple layers to explore for contemporary literary scholars or a committed book club, as Gaige (Schroder) has much to say about the struggles and complexities of marriage, particularly in our current political and cultural climate. [See Prepub Alert, 11/4/19.]

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