February 21, 2019
Wild Pressed Books
Blurb: In September 2016, Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a children’s social worker. She’s also struggling to come to terms with the recent drowning of a Sheena, a teenage girl she had deeply cared for.
Engrossed in her book, when somebody sits opposite her at a table on the ferry, Lauren refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea across the table, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories.
Lauren studies the hand on the table in front of her, the line of the scar drawing a map of the past in her mind. She was the one who created the scar, not long before her relationship with the love of her life ended almost thirty years ago. Lauren hasn’t seen Neil since she walked out of their shared life, unable to forgive either herself or him for a decision he strongly pressured her to make.
She’s not ready to meet his eyes, not yet. From his scar to his wrist bone, following his arm upwards and across his shoulder to his collarbone, his chin and the lower part of his face; Lauren remembers incidents from their past and tries to work out what caused their life to go so horribly off-track.
When she finally meets his eyes and they speak to each other for the first time, Lauren believes she has set her life on a new course. But her gain will result in losses for others. Is this really what she wants to happen?
SASCHA DARLINGTON’S REVIEW
I’ve sat on this book, Sea Babies by Tracey Scott-Townsend, for a week now (not literally) trying to give a little distance to how this book made me feel. The reason for this is because of the twisty ending, which made the novel better. But was that good enough for annoying me for all of the previous chapters?
Sea Babies is a character-driven novel focused on Lauren Wilson, who is, as the novel opens, a social worker who helps children. The first half of the novel bounces through different periods in Lauren’s life from her current move to a Scottish Island, from her extremely dysfunctional and overly dramatic relationship with her love Neil in Edinburgh, to her childhood home where there were too many children in a dysfunctional family.
This would have been fascinating to me if I had liked Lauren or if I felt compassion for her. Rarely do I come away from a beautifully written novel so totally disliking a character. She was like a Category 5 hurricane trapped in a volcano. At one point, when she gets a dog, I felt as if I could possibly not dislike her so much, but her obsessions, self-absorption, and sometimes meanness thwarted that.
While Sea Babies is beautifully written, its subject matter may be far too intense for many readers and its message feels like a minefield perhaps tinged with judgement. However, the legend of the sea babies interwoven into the story is beautiful and offers a trip into magic realism. The text is frequently poetic.
As I write this review over a week after having finished the novel, I realize that my emotions have not changed toward the subject matter nor toward Lauren. While the ending’s twist made me think that perhaps the novel could benefit from a re-read, I don’t think a re-read would affect my feelings about the protagonist.
I received a copy of the novel in exchange for an honest review.