Published by Tin House Books
Publication date: September 25th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Fiction, Literary
Two young boys journey with their mother to see the ocean for the first time and have an adventure. Unfortunately, nothing is as planned and the trip is not what it seems. For their mother, finding herself out of sync with the world is not unusual, even regarding something as straightforward as sleep.
…we’d suddenly find it was the next morning, like other people do, the ones who go to bed at night because they’re tired, because they’ve managed to fill every hour of their day, and they get up, in the morning because its normal, it has to be done and they do it—not like me who gets day and night confused, who sits up while everyone else is crashed up and collapses when they’re all prancing around..
Beside the Sea is a slim slip of a book with heavy emotional weight. Told from inside the mind of a woman who sees no hope for her life or that of her two boys, it moves inexorably towards a forgone conclusion without evoking horror, only acute sadness. Author Véronique Olmi’s prose is harsh and tender, done with a piercingly exquisite skill.
…it makes him laugh so much you wouldn’t believe it, it’s like he’s laughing to hear himself laugh, that he’s making the most of that laughter, having fun with it, and I know that a laugh like that runs away the minute you grow up.
This is a profound but unsettling book. The subject is not one most want to contemplate and yet, Olmi writes in a way that evinces compassion for all the characters. There is no question of acceptance, but through her stream-of-consciousness narrative there is some chance of understanding. Beside the Sea will open the mind even as it breaks the heart.