Heave by Christy Ann Conlin

The title of this book comes from a line in a song called "Farewell To Nova Scotia":
"When I am far away on the briny ocean tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh and a wish for me?"
The lyrics and the Celtic lilt of in the music stir up a sadness, a longing for something better that perfectly describes the tone of this book.

The book opens with Seraphina Sullivan, a troubled 21 year old from rural Nova Scotia, fleeing - in wedding dress, veil and high heels - from the church in which she was about to get married. She bolts from the church leaving pieces of her gown in the door, crying and laughing, runs through the town and all the way out a country road to her parents home. She takes refuge in an outhouse, one of several that her father has collected and placed around the property.

From there, "Serrie" looks back over her life - her stint in rehab, her sudden and unexplained flight to England, and the time she spent in an asylum - trying to figure out how she got to this point in her life. We learn about her mother and brother, her gentle father, her grandmother, a practical woman with a sometimes scornful and always pointed way of sharing her opinion (my favorite character in this book), and her best friends Dearie and Elizabeth. The characters are all as quirky and hard to fathom as real people and are what make this book tick, far more than the plot.

On the cover of my library copy a reviewer says this book is "a wildly energetic debut" and another calls it "astonishing" and "gorgeously fun". I didn't find it wild or energetic, astonishing or even that much fun, but I did the like beautiful Nova Scotia setting and the wonderfully flawed, so very human characters. I didn't like some of the language, the fairly creepy cover (mine was somewhat more weird than the one in the picture) or the way the book ended. Actually it didn't feel like an ending to me at all. I was left thinking "Ok. So then what?".

So...I liked "Heave" to a point, but not enough to recommend it. I chose it because other reviewers talked about the rural N.S. landscape and the endearing small town characters; it just turned out to be a little grittier than I'd expected. It certainly has it's good points; it just wasn't what I was looking for.  


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