Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Review: Two If by Sea

Summary: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart.

Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child’s life with only seconds to spare. In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed. Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child. As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever. Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm.

The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost. A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life. -Simon & Schuster

I still remember when Oprah selected Jacquelyn Mitchard's novel THE DEEP END OF THE OCEAN as her very first Oprah pick! I loved the book and, like many, I was hooked on reading each and every one of Oprah's book club selections. It's been a quite a few years, but I recently decided to read another novel by Ms. Mitchard. Her latest is titled TWO IF BY SEA, and it definitely has a unique premise.

TWO IF BY SEA tells the story of Frank Mercy, a former American police officer now living in Brisbane, Australia. Frank is happily married and excited about his wife's pregnancy when they are celebrating the Christmas holiday with his wife's family. And then the unspeakable happens! A tsunami hits Brisbane and kills Frank's entire family. Devastated by grief, he joins up with a volunteer rescue unit to help save others' lives.

Frank encounters a three year old boy and his older brother in the water. He only has a few minutes to save them, and the older boy tells him to take the three year old because he's important. Frank immediately feels an affinity to this boy, who he decides to call Ian; and he ends up keeping the boy rather than turning him over to the authorities. He quickly makes an escape from Australia with Ian to his family farm in Wisconsin.

On the way over to the states in the airplane, Frank realizes that Ian is, indeed, special. As strange as it sounds, Ian has a calming effect on animals and humans. He seems to be able to get into their minds and almost stop them from doing things that are dangerous.

When Frank arrives back in Wisconsin, he tries to start over his life with his family and Ian (and even a new love interest); however, he is always looking over his shoulder, worried that someone is coming for Ian. Things take a nasty turn when Frank realizes that there are some very nasty people who are looking for Ian, and Frank is forced to make some difficult decisions to protect his child.

I enjoyed TWO IF BY SEA, but I have to say that the first half of the book held my interest more than the second. In fact, the first few chapters were incredibly powerful. I was captured by the descriptions of Brisbane and the tsunami, and I thought Ms. Mitchard did a remarkable job of bringing that entire tragedy to life. I also loved how she introduced Ian, and I was most definitely intrigued by his telepathic gift.

I found Frank to be a very well developed character, and I truly appreciated how he was a man who had experienced so many tragedies yet kept trying to start over. Granted, I should have been upset with him for basically kidnapping Ian and leaving the country; however, I was most definitely rooting for them. Ian and Frank had a special bond and I enjoyed seeing how their relationship evoked a certain feeling of hope to me.

I can't really pinpoint when the book took a turn for me, but I think the suspense aspect of the story (when people from Ian's past showed up) just didn't interest me like the character development and relationship aspects of the story. I think because the first half of the book really captured my attention, I was expecting the entire book to keep the same pace. Looking back on it now, I don't really think that was possible.

TWO IF BY SEA would make an interesting book club selection. There are some wonderful characters, and there are definitely some interesting moral dilemmas to discuss for your typical book clubs. However, fans of science fiction, the supernatural and suspense stories might be also be intrigued by this story. There is a reading guide available with fourteen questions along with some ideas to enhance your meeting. Some of the themes you might want to explore include family, loss, grief, second chances, love, chance, morals, sacrifices, and parenthood.

I enjoyed TWO IF BY SEA but I'm not sure I can go so far as to say I loved it... although I really wanted to love it! Recommended for fans of Ms. Mitchard's and for book clubs looking for something a little different!

Thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy of this novel.

1 comment:

bermudaonion said...

Aw, too bad the second half of the book didn't live up to the first half. I've found that I can forgive a slow beginning more than a slow ending. For some reason, the end of the book seems to have the most impact on me. I'll probably still give this book a try.