Friday, July 28, 2017

Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry

Reviewed by Kristin

Catherine Leary has absolutely no desire to return to Seaboro, South Carolina.  She spent the first twelve years of her life there until a momentary lapse caused a sharp and sudden loss, wrenching her away from the gentle coast.  The family moved upstate to Cedar Valley, surrounded by the southern Appalachians, where Catherine has lived ever since.  But her father’s last wish was that Catherine scatter his ashes in that place where he was most at home.  How can she ignore that?

Forrest Anderson, Catherine’s father’s co-worker and friend, has begun writing a book about Southern University’s favorite professor:  Dr. Leary.  Forrest wants more detail about the family’s life, and insists on going with Catherine back to the small town on the edge of the Atlantic where everyone knows the Learys.  Forrest is an old boyfriend, creating a bit of tension as they hit the road together.

Catherine’s current boyfriend Thurman is the basketball coach at the university, but he seems a bit distant these days.  Thurman is off recruiting in Alabama as Catherine undertakes this journey to carry out her father’s request.  Forrest is just a friend, but a comforting one as so many of the other parts of Catherine’s life seem to be falling apart.  As Catherine looks to her past, what does it mean for her future?

In Seaboro, Catherine finds many memories she would rather remain buried.  Ellie, an old beloved neighbor, is now living in the past as dementia overtakes her mind.  Boyd, Ellie’s son, would rather Catherine stay away, far away.  Alice, a friend of the family, welcomes Catherine with open arms, and a few clues about the real reasons that Catherine’s family left Seaboro.

Patti Callahan Henry has created a story with a strong sense of place in Between the Tides.  I could practically smell the water as Catherine walked along the pier carrying the urn of her father’s ashes.  Catherine’s childhood memories were portrayed vividly, as she recalled them amidst the turmoil of returning to a place she hadn’t seen in almost two decades.  Switching from the present to the past and back again, the author weaves together the strands of Catherine’s story.

All families have secrets, whether large or small.  The Leary family is no different.  By making this trip to her childhood home, Catherine finds so much has changed, but in the end she is more at peace with herself and all that has gone before.

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