Read The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith Online


Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love. Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marsheSet in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love. Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal....

Title : The Story of Land and Sea
Author :
Rating :
ISBN : 9780062335944
Format Type : Hardcover
Number of Pages : 256 Pages
Status : Available For Download
Last checked : 21 Minutes ago!

The Story of Land and Sea Reviews

  • karen
    2018-11-16 04:41

    Regret only exists once the opportunity for change is gone.this novel set in north carolina during the years 1771-1794, and is split into three separate narratives. it is a very quiet story, with some lovely writing in it, but i'm having difficulty trying to understand its "why." i see where there are references and flare-ups between the stories, but i'm struggling to find its cohesive purpose. all i really have is that it is a very subdued story about faith and duty and sacrifice and family, specifically parenthood. and about the small disappointments parents feel when their children grow into people different than they anticipated. and about mind-boggling spur-of-the-moment decisions based on impulsive emotion rather than long-term practicality and how some things only make sense in novels and that's where i start getting frustrated. again, lovely writing, when describing the difference between a love whose foundation is faith in a careless and cruel god whose motives are obscure, and one more grounded in the corporeal:He'd left the letter next to Helen's miniature in the parlor, where Asa would notice it. The older man always sought out the little painting on his visits, holding it when he could. He had a possessiveness in him that encompassed his house, his land, his women. And whatever didn't belong to him belonged to God. Asa would be happy to have the girl in heaven, might consider it safer than Beaufort, but John has no such faith. He could not leave his daughter's body with a man who would not mind it, whose vision of God implied the reclamation of his flock. John believes in flesh. His love survives no transubstantiation.or the logic behind giving a ten-year-old girl her very own slave as a birthday present:Helen is nothing like her mother, who was exactly the sort to be married well and loved calmly. Perhaps she would have taught her some of this passivity. But Helen's only mothers have been substitutes: the teacher, the cook, the slave. If she can't have a woman to hold her and love her, she should have a woman to order around. Moll, at least, will give her the pride and responsibility of stewardship. His daughter must be tamed enough to bring a husband and heir to the land, but otherwise her whims are of little concern to him.or this passage that loses something when taken out of context, but it actually quite romantic:She reaches for his hand. It's warm and dry, and she remembers for the first time his fingers on her mouth. She cannot bear the thought of leaving this island, the kindling fort. There is nothing she is not afraid of."You wrote so little," she says."You wrote of farming," he says.She will go with him anywhere.but overall it's the kind of writing that's never really resonated with me, not without some incredible storytelling to go along with it; some overarching theme or message or takeaway. the only unifying theme i can see binding the stories is disappointment. in expectations thwarted by god or family. in how the way we see the future can be drastically altered by illness and death, love, or the plans of those we have tied our imagined future to.i'm certain to be in the minority with my tepid reaction to this one. read will's review for a more enthusiastic response and don't listen to silly old karen.

  • Will Byrnes
    2018-10-27 05:50

    …to save her from the graveyard he must take her to the sea. He took her mother once, and being on the water only made her bloom.In 1793 ten-year-old Tabitha is smitten with the idea of the sea. Her father, John, an erstwhile pirate, and soldier in the Continental Army, owns a shop in Beaufort, NC. Tab’s affection for the maritime may have to do with her mother, Helen. John and Helen had eloped, over her father’s objections, and sailed together under a black flag. But her father’s tales are all Tab has of her mother, who died giving birth to her. When Tab contracts yellow fever John is desperate to find a way to help his daughter. They board a ship bound for Bermuda. This does not sit well with her grandfather, who believes her chances are best ashore, and well prayed over. Asa owns a plantation, producing turpentine from considerable stands of pines. A religious sort, he is hell-bent on making sure that his legacy is carried forward. When his wife died in childbirth, he focused that need on his daughter. But his attempts to root her to his land failed when she fell in love with John, a man of not much family, but an excellent heart. The story is told in three parts, beginning with Tabitha’s struggle. Part two goes back to Asa raising Helen, giving her a slave, Moll, for her birthday, and the complicated relationship between Moll and Helen. While the comparison falls very short, both Moll and Helen are chained to their roles in life. Both resent their restrictions. But only Helen can actually act on her desires without being scourged for it. Asa is chained to his land and his attitudes, unable to see past what is to what might be, and unwilling to see beyond self-serving adages to what is right, to ever loosen himself from his own bindings.Part three returns to John and Asa, Moll, and her son, Davy. It goes into how each of the primary characters ultimately copes or tries to cope, with the challenges of their lives, their losses, and chances. Katy Simpson Smith has more than enough background for undertaking a look at America in the late 18th century. Before she returned to school to get her MFA, she completed a doctorate in history, and has published an examination of motherhood, We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835, which covers the period on display in her novel.The authorIt was a hard knock life for women in late 18th century America. Not only was the risk from childbirth far greater than it is today, even past that life-threatening event women were treated as chattel. Not to the same extent as actual slaves, but to a significant degree.He [Asa] had a possessiveness in him that encompassed his house, his land, his women And he would use marriage as a way to shackle both his daughter and her slave to his land. And what of the reverberations of the lot of females to those around them? Increased peril for their children, for one. Strained existence for their survivors, both emotionally and materially. And various forms of torment as the storms that rise from imprisonment bring forth dark gales. Parents are taken from children and children are taken from parents by the foolishness of custom, the limitations of ignorance and the blind eye of fate.Thematically there is a lot going on here. Property views figure large. Asa considers Helen a form of property and takes as little heed of her wishes as he does of those of her slave, Moll. Marriage and choice come in for some consideration. Within that larger theme, both Moll and Helen confront the conflict between who their respective owners want them to marry and what they want for themselves. “I wouldn’t mind if I had some say in who I laid down with.” [says Helen’s slave, Moll]Helen nods. She puts her chin in her hands, nodding. People want what isn’t given to them. And this is not sin, but hope. What if God didn’t put us here to accept, but to struggle? Isn’t love itself built on that precise impossible hope?It is also clear that love is not always allowed to be the greatest consideration in choosing a mate, or to define one’s relationship with a mate after the marriage is made.“Do you miss your husband, Mrs Randolph?” He had died looking for free land in the frontier, shot through with a Cherokee arrow. His partner had buried him in the west and sent Mrs. Randolph his musket and his spectacles. The gun she keeps hung behind her cabin door, where all the little Randolphs know to find it.“I mostly miss the money he brought in, to speak frankly. He was a good father to the little ones and did well by us, but there’s something rather nice about one’s own life. Making decisions without someone to tell you ‘no, best not do that.’ He never thought I could do much for myself.”“We’re lucky to have you,” Helen says. “There’s no telling what all I can do without him, miss.There is a tautness to this relatively brief novel. The concept ofCheckov’s gunis well implemented. A beaten slave in one scene is employed relevantly in another. A notion of escape by boat is recommended and no sooner done than an actual boat appears. Sometimes this seemed a bit too neat. As is the bludgeoning irony of Asa freeing a panicked bird that is trapped in his house, while denying freedom to enslaved humans.On the first page of the novel, John interrupts Tabitha’s request for more information about her mother. He looks down the hall at the shadows whipping across the slats and holds a finger to his lips. “Can you hear any birds?”This certainly gives one the notion that birds might be related to souls of the dead, or shadows. Could be something else entirely of course. Birds might be functioning as a sort of Greek chorus. In any case, you might want to keep this in mind as you come across the many bird references throughout the book. Land references abound as well, as wood is noted many a time, particularly pine, and flowers. The writing in The Story of Land and Sea is beautiful, moving, and insightful. The story begins:On days in August when sea storms bite into the North Carolina coast, he drags a tick mattress into the hall and tells his daughter stories, true and false, about her mother. The wooden shutters clatter, and Tabitha folds blankets around them to build a softness for the storm. He always tells of their courting days, of her mother’s shyness. She looked like a straight tall pine from a distance, only when he got close could he see her trembling.“Was she scared?”“Happy,” John says. “We were both happy.” There is plenty more where that came from.The Story of Land and Sea is a sturdy vessel that will take you to places worth seeing. This is one boat you won’t want to miss. Review posted – June 6, 2014Publication dates – 8/26/14 Hardcover - 7/21/15 - trade paperThis review has been cross-posted at STUFFThe book opens with an abridged version of an Isaac Watts hymn about the joys of heaven offering one a reason not to fear death. It seems an odd intro, given that the focus in the tale is, to a large degree, about the impact of death on those left behind (no, not in the Tim LeHaye way) with no assurance of a heavenly reward waiting. Perhaps it was intended ironically. In any case, the hymn is beautifully set to music by Red Mountain Music here.From –The Historical Horror of Childbirth Theauthor’s siteis now up.A nifty interview with the author on NPR on 8/22/14.

  • Jenny (Reading Envy)
    2018-11-09 06:58

    This book was discussed on Episode 054 of the Reading Envy Podcast. I was expecting more pirates but still found this to be an interesting tale of Beaufort, SC, prior to and during the American Revolution, focusing on the lives of three women.

  • Melanie
    2018-11-11 01:42

    I received a free ARE copy from Harper Collins. And I really, really tried to like it: the jacket description sounded like something I would love. And I gave it a really good chance, completing the first two parts, but then got to Part 3 and am just not invested or interested enough to continue, and find out what happens. Once I found myself reading anything else but picking this up to finish, it was time to admit defeat and move on!

  • Julia
    2018-11-06 05:01

    Can't I give it zero stars? It was like the author wanted the prose to sound pretty but didn't really care that the plot was tedious and depressing and her characters were uninteresting. A main character dies rendering that whole section pointless, the plots lines are disjointed and I was bored, bored, bored. Bored. I love historical fiction (which this was billed as) but THIS is NOT hitorical fiction. It's an author looking to write "literature." How about we write something readable next time.

  • Mary
    2018-11-03 00:51

    There's some lovely writing here, but the story itself is quiet, so subtle that the emotional moments were really lacking in vibrancy, and I felt disconnected from the characters. I disliked the disjointed structure of the book, and knowing the tragedies up front made me less inclined to finish it. I read Parts I and II, and I don't need to read Part III to tell it's, sadly, not the book for me.

  • Elizabeth of Silver's Reviews
    2018-10-27 06:08

    THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA is beautifully written with exquisite prose.​ The main character is Helen whose story is told before and after her death along with the tale of her husband, her father, her daughter, and Moll, a slave from the plantation and Helen's friend.You will follow the characters through their lives on a plantation, on a ship, and in a regular household. The characters are an odd sort but ones with depth and with feelings that ooze through the pages simply because of Ms. Smith’s elegant writing style. THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA takes the reader through complex situations with the reader being put directly into the story and being carried along with the characters and feeling every emotion especially their pain of loss. I was a bit confused at first, but Ms. Smith writes so beautifully and so poignantly that you can't help but want to continue. THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA is a book unlike any other I have read simply because of the storyline and the time in history.​​The confusion came about because of the time frame and order of dates. The book moves back and forth from past to present day in Helen and John's life but seemed to be out of order.Despite the confusion, the book definitely will keep your interest and will keep you reading. Ms. Smith has written a thoughtful book in a time period that I wasn't familiar with and therefore made THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA even more intriguing and interesting.I would recommend this book solely on the premise of the marvelous writing style Ms. Smith has and the background she gave as to why she wrote the book. The beauty of the reason Ms. Smith wrote the book makes THE STORY OF LAND AND SEA a stunning debut. 4/5 (See her video below)This book was given to me free of charge and without compensation by the publisher in return for an honest review.​

  • Mississippi Library Commission
    2018-11-01 08:54

    The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith is a beautifully written story of the love that passes between parent and child, and the devastation when that love is lost. We highly recommend Smith’s debut novel.

  • Ashley
    2018-11-12 06:06

    I am stunned that this averages a starred review of 2.99 on GoodReads. That’s crap. The thing with this book is that it is split in to three parts and each part tells a different story. The first part is the story of John and his daughter, Tabitha. The second part is the story of John’s wife Helen as a child. The third part is the story of John. It disrupted me slightly when it shifted from part one to part two but I stuck with it. I had loved part one and I wanted to love it again so I kept reading hoping it would recapture my attention and it did. If I were to rate the parts separately I would rate them as part 1, part 3, part 2 because I really didn’t love Helen’s solo story although I didn’t dislike it. As the days go by I love this book more and more. It’s sad, but it’s fantastic. I loved it and it’s worth reading especially if you’re a fan of the literary fiction genre.

  • Elizabeth
    2018-11-16 02:58

    Melancholic read about life's disappointments and the pain of living. Bleak but with intelligent writing (though I wondered a bit about the choice of present tense). I waffled between giving this 2 or 3 stars.

  • Becky
    2018-10-28 03:10

    For ten years now John has raised his daughter, Tabitha, alone. His beloved wife, Helen, died in childbirth leaving the two of them to fend for themselves. And now Tabitha has taken ill. The doctor says there's nothing to do but wait and John's father-in-law says that he must pray. But John knows exactly what will heal his daughter - the same sea air that his Helen once thrived in. Wow, what a freaking downer of a book! That is not what I was in the mood for at all.Katy Simpson Smith's fiction debut is set in Beaufort around the time of the Revolutionary War. It first tells the tale of John and Tabitha, then jumps back in time to introduce Helen before bouncing back to John and Helen's father. The Story of Land and Sea is not a straightforward narrative, but instead turned out to be little nuggets of story pieced together to make a whole. So rather than a smooth read it's very jarring and segmented.The good thing about it is that it's fairly short. The bad thing about it, for me, is that I didn't really like it. Actually, the tale is interesting but the way it's told just didn't hook me.

  • Marit
    2018-11-12 05:42

    A novel at once delicate and straightforward in its treatment of relationships, love, and loss. Simpson Smith tells of the intricate and often uncomfortable interactions between a distant father who discovers he wants to love his family too late, a man whose child becomes the lodestar in his life, a slave woman who holds herself ruthlessly apart from affection but cannot help but care for even her white mistress, and a religiously righteous young woman who moves from staunch independence to fall in love with a former pirate and soldier. This book is lonesome and vast, like the land and sea after which it is named. My only critique came from an ending that confused me in terms of timing and meaning.

  • Kyle
    2018-11-12 04:01

    I couldn't find anything to like about this book. None of the characters were interesting to me, none of them had any redeemable or even sympathetic qualities. For an historical novel written by someone with a doctorate in history, I found it devoid of historical specifics or any of the little special details that are supposed to make historical fiction interesting. The entire story was flat and featureless, sad and depressing. Not recommended at all.1/5

  • Melinda
    2018-10-25 07:10

    There are books that are suspenseful or romantic or funny....The Story of Land and Sea is beautiful. I was immediately drawn in by Smith's writing. Her voice is surprisingly lyrical for a debut author and, if nothing else, I'm glad that this book introduced me to her work. She was able to vividly recreate the world of late 18th-century North Carolina so well that it made me homesick for the years I spent living in that part of the country.The characters quickly became dear to my heart. We have John, the ex-Pirate (yes!) turned soldier, his vivacious wife Helen, his spunky daughter Tab, and his widowed father-in-law, Asa. Along with this family, we have Moll, the slave given to Helen when they were both children, and her oldest son, Davy. Each and every character came to life as I read and I fell a bit in love with each and every one of them.This book is more a study than it is a story. Smith takes her time to really delve into each and every relationship in this book--and not a single one of them is simple. However, in exchange, this is not a strongly-plotted novel. Personally, I'm fine with that--I would choose a character-driven book over a plot-driven book any day of the week. However, because of that, I feel I can't give this book the 5 stars that it was for me. I suspect that some readers may be frustrated with the less-developed plot, especially if they are more interested in the story than the characters. On the other hand, those who put more stock in well developed characters and setting would likely fall in love with this book as I did.I received a copy of this book in return for an honest review. I received no other compensation for this post.

  • Carla
    2018-10-24 08:47

    I'm rather at a loss on how to review this book, but the only difference is whether I should give it a 3 star or 2, as I eventually did. This story is about an ex-pirate, during the waning years of the Revolutionary War, in a small coastal community of North Carolina.The loss of women that figure prominently throughout the book both slaves and non, and the men who loved them. I was looking forward to this book but it was rather disjointed, and certainly slow moving and rather depressing. Descriptions of time and place were redundant and did not move things along. This was the authors debut book, and while I appreciated some historical aspects of the book, the story itself was not to my liking. So much more could have been made of this time and place in history. I note that it's now selling as $1.99 on Kindle. I don't think it was as warmly received as the publisher thought it would be. I would not recommend this.

  • Rebecca
    2018-10-25 04:04

    The language in this book is stunning, as is the story it depicts. The characters seem almost sketched at times yet never lose their depth. Smith has managed to draw nuanced people out of striking language without falling into clunky, over-wrought prose. The stories she tells transcend generations and indeed centuries, pulling us into the world of late 18th century North Carolina while never making their struggles feel distant or irrelevant to our world today.As soon as I finished the book, I turned to the front page and began rereading it to drink in the language that I tend to gloss over when I am being pulled forward through the storyline of a book. I feel like I'm eating a delicious meal when I'm hungry: I want to slowly savor every bite, but I end up eating too quickly. A second read has allowed me to revel in the words, turns of phrase, and imagery that drift from each page.

  • Nona
    2018-11-18 00:55

    This is a beautifully written story of love between parent and child, and devastating loss. Set in a small coastal town at the end of the American Revolution. Landowner Asa, a widower, depends on his only daughter, Helen to run the plantation. Though he hopes for an heir he refuses to give his approval for Helen to marry John, a former solider. John and Helen marry anyway and take off to the sea. When Helen perishes during childbirth, Asa blames John for taking away his daughter. The child Tabitha is caught between the two men and when she contracts yellow fever John takes to the sea again hoping the salt air will heal her. Asa sees God as a tyrant, taking away his wife, daughter and granddaughter to punish him for his sins. Meanwhile Moll, Helen’s slave girl struggles with her own loveless marriage and with being a mother to children that can be taken away from her at any moment.

  • Yukari Watanabe
    2018-10-30 03:02

    I received an ARC at BEA. Smith's writing is so lovely that it's worth reading this novel. There are many beautiful parts and I wanted to love the book, but I didn't. I felt Smith cared the writing style much more than actual stories. It felt superficial and the tragedies and sorrow didn't move me. It was a pleasure to read such a well-written book, but I will not remember about John or Tab in a few months.

  • Sharyn
    2018-11-15 07:50

    I saw this author at a book festival. She talked about how she came to write this. As she read part I was entranced by the beauty of the writing, but many were not and people left as she was reading. I thought it was rude and apologized to the author, but she said she understood. Yes it is quite a bleak story, because life was hard then. The writing is beautiful and evocative, but very sad.

  • Reeka (BoundbyWords)
    2018-10-28 09:07

    As seen on my blog:It is that elated sense of being, when all of your feelings seem to be resonating not only in your heart, but in every other limb and organ in your body. It's that moment when printed words have the ability to move you beyond a smile, or a chuckle, or a tear. It was The Story of Land and Sea that had me in awe of that literary potential. It was a story that seemed to have been written to only speak to itself, to exist quietly, with no hopes of falling into another's hands-it was that sure of itself. But it did, it not only fell into my hands, but it obliterated my heart with it's emotion, with it's consistent portrayal of loss, and abandonment. Not an uplifting story, but had I not read it, it's absence would have been a tangible thing.We begin in 1793 (officially the furthest back I've experienced in a narrative). Told in three parts, from different points of view, in different moments in time, The Story of Land and Sea follows a family, and all of the hearts that exist around them, and within them. It is a story of grief, but also one of such love, and longing. It begins with Tabitha and her father John, and continues with wistful descriptions of the sea, memories of Tabitha's deceased and beloved mother Helen, and the hardships no single father should ever endure. In Part Two, we find a young and incredibly mature 10-year-old Helen. There are stronger mentions and implications of religion, as we delve deeper into the mindset of the ghost of a women we met earlier. We also meet Moll, the slave that is "gifted" to Helen on her birthday. This section was definitely the foundation, the area that answered floating questions-it was also the most enjoyable for me. Part Three brings together the people that were most prominent in Helen's life: her father, her husband John, her slave Moll, and Moll's son Davy. The slowest moving section for sure, but not for lack of intense beauty, that of which defines this entire novel.To be honest, the era this book existed in had me doubting it's entertainment value-it's ability to keep me hooked. But hooked I was, though not necessarily on characters and setting, but my GOD, on that writing. The way the author combined a simple string of words, the way those strings then attached themselves to my heart, and pulled whenever it got a chance. I was mesmerized, and caught up in perpetual awe. I urge you to not ignore this book, to pick a place in your heart, or in your home, that you feel the most comfort, and experience this book.Recommended for Fans of: Historical Fiction, American Revolution in Fiction, Diana Gabaldon.

  • Beverly
    2018-11-19 08:40

    Occasionally, I read a book that even after a day or two of reflection I am still not sure what I feel about the book and I am thus stumped when someone asks me how I would rate this book (and not liking to rank a book as I believe most books are much more than their ratings).I was interested to read this book for several reasons; I enjoy historical fiction, North Carolina (the setting for the book) is now my new home state so enjoying learning the history of the area, and the author has written a history book.I enjoyed how the author was able to take me to a particular place and time – the waning days of the American Revolutionary War set in a small prospering coastal town in North Carolina whose growth will be spurred by the growing town of New Bern. The book informs and reminds how challenging childbirth was in the past, often with the mother not surviving and how this changed the dynamics of childrearing. While I had no issues with the lyrical yet taut language it did not invest me in the characters. The story format also contributed to my often lack of interest in the characters as the first part told me a little too much of what to expect for the rest of the book.Themes of duty, devotion, free will and self-blame are well played out and the self-rationalization of the characters show-off that human nature is the same across time. For many in current times, slavery has one face but the author shows us slavery in time as it was evolving into the formal institution that defined the United States and those that were enslaved did not believe the “hype” that sometimes cane from the “caring” slaveholders. Overall, this book added to my knowledge of time and place despite my lack of connection to the characters.

  • Marathon County Public Library MCPL
    2018-11-10 06:09

    Set in coastal North Carolina during the American Revolution, this novel follows Tabitha, a little girl who loves her father's stories from his days as a pirate, and her mother Helen, who died giving birth to Tabitha years before. Using eloquent, meticulous, and at times biblical prose, the author explores loss, the love between parent and child, and what it means to expand our horizons. While heartbreaking, this novel captures the senses and moves the reader in a way I have not encountered in a very long time. Anna C. / Marathon County Public LibraryFind this book in our library catalog.

  • cambird
    2018-11-22 08:58

    “She will be the last bird to leave, and his forest will become as silent as winter.”Sparing yet descriptive prose. An unromanticized tale of love and heart-wrenching losses during the Revolutionary War. Set in southeastern North Carolina, the waters of the Atlantic Ocean convey little warmth and pleasure. Instead they are a metaphor for the push and pull of feelings, choices, decisions, and relationships of the lives of the characters in this story. Though I hoped for different outcomes for some of the characters and did not always like what was happening in the story, I was still swept along by the author’s style of writing and imagery.

  • Derrill Hagood
    2018-11-14 02:59

    Read an early copy, but am eagerly awaiting the finished book. Katy is an extraordinary storyteller and a true craftsman!

  • Juliet-Camille
    2018-11-03 06:53

     I really, really, wanted to give this one a higher rating. But despite all of the things that I loved about it I cannot excuse my biggest complaints: it was too jumbled and too unfocused. The two surest ways to point out any authors debut work.I found that the rhythm of the story suffered for the sake of artistic expression. It begins with widower John raising his daughter Tabitha (referred to primarily as "Tab") in a small house off the North Carolina coast. (view spoiler)[This section, although not the most poetic, was the most beautiful. I loved this relationship between Tab and John, both for her playfulness and spirited sea-longing, but also for John's very real fear that he cannot take the place of a mother. This section takes shape when Tab contracts yellow fever, and in a frantic state john convinces himself that a sea voyage (something Tab has always dreamed of) will save her life. Sadly, this is not the case, and at just ten years old, she succumbs, and out of fear of the men throwing her body overboard, he puts her small body into a barrel of whisky to keep her from rotting before they can get back home. (hide spoiler)]After the completion of Tab and John's story, we move back in time to Helen (Tab's mother)'s story. (view spoiler)[This was the most poetic of the sections, filled with haunting images: Helen baptizing Moll in the river with a shell, or her girlish gayety at marrying Moll to Moses, or her escape from the British ship only to be found by John in the marshes, and then later her dizzying dreams about embracing John on the turpentine plantation late at night when he was fighting in the war. But despite its beauty, it skipped and jumped, and I felt like I was constantly floundering with the actions of the story. I don't think enough time was spent focusing on the early days between Moll and Helen. This relationship was always too mysterious for me, and Moll was such a "big character" I feel like more time should have been spent here.I did like the relationship between Helen and her father Asa. It paralleled nicely with what we saw earlier between Tab and John, but in regards to John we leave this section long before Tab was conceived. I would have liked to see more of the early days of their marriage, and maybe spend time in Helen's POV while she was expecting Tab, being that we already know Helen dies in childbirth, I think this would have made these sections particularly haunting.Ultimately though, I would have preferred it if this section had started the story. This is the beginning of the family saga, after all. And considering that we move past Tab's death in the third section I didn't like how this was the middle focus. (hide spoiler)]The third and final part of this story focuses on Moll. (view spoiler)[We already know from the earlier sections that Moll was given to Helen when they were both girls, and in a way they grew up together, with Helen eventually arranging a marriage between Moll and another local slave named Moses, which Moll was not happy about, but Helen found it very romantic. Now Moll has four children, the eldest Davy, who is the only one that she lives, and three unnamed daughters. I was never clear on why Moll found Davy so lovable, while the girls were not. Her mother-love, and motherly instincts were for him and him alone. I also didn't fully understand why Moll and John were so uneasy with each other.The hard truth of this section has to do with John buying Davy so he could help john open up a store further in the territories. And here's where the story lost me. First off John and Asa's lack of empathy (although historically accurate) didn't jive with the rest of the story. They had both lost children, and they would have known that Helen would have disapproved. Did they want Moll to feel their pain? Equally, as a reader, I never really felt Moll's sadness over this loss, and I should have! And later her fleeing (without a real thought to her mother children) felt empty and odd as well.I guess I never really understood Moll as a character.And the ending, though a bit rushed, was beautiful: Asa, now old and alone wanders the cemetery, looking at the graves of his wife, daughter, and granddaughter, and musing over the dynasty (now sold) that he built, yet no no is left to inherit it.I could say this book is about women, but singularly it's not. I could also say it's about men, but again it's not. It just needed one more layer onto the painting of this story to sharpen the blurry edges, then this really could have been something.  (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>

  • Claire
    2018-10-22 01:41

    Exquisite writing, but there is something fundamental missing.

  • JG (The Introverted Reader)
    2018-11-19 02:48

    The Story of Land and Sea opens with young Tabitha contracting yellow fever on her tenth birthday. Her father and grandfather, having already lost her mother in childbirth, are desperate to save her despite the limitations of 18th century medicine. Her father takes to the sea with her in tow, thinking that the sea air will cure her. After all, he took her mother to the sea when they first married and she blossomed into the woman he loved with all his heart.Flashing back 20 years, Tabitha's mother Helen is a young girl receiving her first slave on her tenth birthday. Helen is a serious, bossy soul, teaching the neighborhood slaves on Sunday and becoming perfectly poised to take the reins of her father's turpentine business. And then she meets a soldier.Hmm. That story I just described is exciting and I'd like to read it. This book is not that book. This book is much more Literary-with-a-capital-L. Instead of the action-y love story I was hoping for, I found a book that explores the holes that grief leaves in the lives of those left behind. It is well-written but I somehow felt removed from the story. I didn't feel like I really knew any of the characters; I only knew their grief. The book does have a strong sense of place, which is what I was hoping for. I'm a North Carolina girl and we always spent our summer vacations on the coast when I was growing up. I was really excited when I realized that the book is set in Beaufort. We always spent a day exploring the town, eating ice cream at the marina, checking out the maritime museum, and choosing which yacht would be ours if we ever won the lottery. This post-Revolutionary War Beaufort is strangely colorless. It's hot and muggy, as it should be, but it's so hot that all the color has been bleached from the town. I can't describe it better than that.There are definitely readers who will enjoy this, and they'll be readers who like their books to be more Literary and thoughtful than I generally do. Despite the beautiful writing, this really wasn't the book for me.Thanks to the publisher for giving me a copy of the book for review.

  • Melissa Crytzer Fry
    2018-10-28 01:52

    This debut by Katy Simpson Smith was a quick read for me on the treadmill, a story thematically rich with clean, concise writing – in many places striking and beautiful. Set in three non-linear timelines during the late 1700s, the novel covers the lives of Asa and his daughter Helen; and John and his daughter Tabitha – and all the regrets both men have about the women loved during their lives. The characters of Moll (Helen’s maidservant) and her son Davy were, to me, the most engaging, even though they were supporting actors on the book’s stage.The author does a wonderful job of sprinkling references to land and sea throughout, and describing the tug and pull of the natural world on the characters. I also enjoyed the lush descriptions of the coastal surroundings, but the abrupt ending left me feeling like the book wasn’t quite finished. At only 256 pages, it was slim. I wish the author had used those pages to tell us more!This historical novel is one of loss and regret, as well as man’s struggle with religion and its perceived order. It’s about parenthood and sacrifice and never-ending battles with conscience. It’s about leaving behind a legacy and the pride of man. Thematically it might be best summed up by one of the lines in the story: “people want what isn’t given to them.”

  • Kristine
    2018-11-20 01:40

    Original review can be found at received an advanced readers copy of this book from Harper via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. Thank you!Part one of this book tells the story of John and his daughter Tabitha and then part two goes back to tell the story of Tabitha's mother Helen. The third part tells the story of Helen's father, husband, slave and her slaves son.There were parts of this book that I really enjoyed and parts that I didn't. The writing was good but I found that it dragged on numerous occasions. If I had to pick, I would say that I enjoyed the second part of the book the best. Helen's story interested me and kept me engaged the most. I found the third part of the book to be all over the map and the least interesting. I would have loved to read more about Helen's slave Moll.I won't re-tell the story but if I had to pick one word that best describes this story it would be DEPRESSING. The entire book revolves around grief, loss and loneliness. There is no silver lining to be found at all. If you like a book with a happily ever after, I don't recommend picking this one up because you won't find it. Perhaps this is with keeping true to a time of great hardship where things were never easy but it was still depressing all the same.

  • Stacey
    2018-11-12 08:42

    First of all, the writing is exquisite. There were moments when I had to put the book down to savor a paragraph, a sentence, or a phrase. A sigh of satisfaction, then back to the story. And then there's the story itself. It's simply and gently written. Set in the coastal region of South Carolina at the tail end of the American Revolution, it's the tale of three generations of a family and their ties to this new country. It's a story of the dichotomies of living: love and loss, life and death, slavery and freedom.This is Smith's first novel, and I can only say that I'm looking forward to the next one. You should read this...because everyone deserves sighs of satisfaction.