The Sea Gate

S. & S. Jan. 2021. 416p. ISBN 9781982169336. pap. $17.99. F
Johnson’s time-shifting narrative transports readers between the present and 1940s while anchoring them to a place, engrossing us in both periods. Rebecca’s mother, Geneviève, has died unexpectedly. Helping her brother clear their mother’s flat, Rebecca unearths a pale blue envelope out of place amid bills and junk mail. The undated letter from an elderly cousin beseeches “Jenny” to come to Cornwall to help her. Bereft, disparaged by her family, and disregarded by a self-absorbed boyfriend, Rebecca resolves to help Cousin Olivia in Geneviève’s stead. Bolstered by Olivia’s trust, Rebecca assumes responsibility for refurbishing Olivia’s ancestral home to permit her discharge from the hospital. From attic to sea gate, Rebecca restores more to Olivia than merely a house while reclaiming her own sense of worth and purpose in the process.
VERDICT Johnson (Court of Lions) conveys a strong sense of place in her historical fiction. The author describes this as a book about family secrets. Although secrets abound, this is also a novel of sacrifice, forgiveness, and redemption. Recommended for readers who value the journey, however harrowing, as much as the destination.

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