Our Wives Under the Sea

Flatiron. Jul. 2022. 240p. ISBN 9781250229892. $26.99. F
DEBUT The multi-award-winning Armfield follows up her ruthlessly beautiful story collection, salt slow, with the arresting tale of two women: Leah, a marine biologist whose research trip to the depths of the Pacific left her stranded on the ocean floor for months in a disabled submarine with two other crew members, and her wife, Miri, desperate during those months and even more desperate when Leah finally returns. Leah is changed—she’s obdurately distant, barely speaks, and is obsessed with running the faucets—and an increasingly frustrated Miri gives up everything to try to reach the woman she loves and seems to be losing. Unfolding in tense yet tender flashbacks, their past proves complicated—“The problem with relationships between women is that neither one of you is the wronged party”—and their present veers toward danger. What was the purpose of the trip, sponsored by a shadowy organization that has since disappeared? Its motives and the hint of conspiracy might have been explored more, but the crucial point is what happened in the effectively rendered dark far beneath the waves.
VERDICT A turn toward horror at the end will satisfyingly rachet up the tension for some readers but may discomfit others. Told in stunning language, Armfield’s heartrending story of two people forced apart by trauma is enough.
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