The Unforgiving Sea, by Karen V. Robichaud (Word Alive Press, 2014)
When thirteen-year-old Logan Blanchard’s father dies in an accident, Logan loses not only his dad but his community. His mom drags him away from their military base home and his friends to a tiny seacoast town in Nova Scotia. And they don’t even get their own house. Logan is stuck living with his grandmother, who he loves, and her four special care patients, who drive him crazy.
Grief, resentment, and an anger at God for not keeping his father safe set Logan on a path of bad choices. He starts skipping school to work on a lobster boat, operated by a man who’s unstable and cruel.
The book’s greatest strength is the description of the sea scenes. Early mornings, fog, or storm, it feels like the reader is right there with Logan and his boss.
Its second strength is its characters. With all that he’s lost, and with the immediacy of first person, present tense, it’s impossible not to feel Logan’s frustration and pain. Occasional chapters from other characters’ points of view (his mother and a local police officer) fill in a broader perspective.
Logan’s “voice” sounds more like an adult, but his attitudes are definitely teen. I had some logistical concerns about the plot, mostly to do with how Logan could come home after a day’s fishing without his mother or grandmother detecting the smell of his activities. Or how neither of them grilled him that very first day when he returned after disappearing before breakfast.
Logan has no use for his grandmother’s clients, but it’s thought-provoking to see how his attitude begins to change as he gets to know them. There’s one scene in particular between him and Maxine, when he realizes she’s more than her surface behaviour.
The Unforgiving Sea is a coming-of-age novel with a lot of heart, and it won a Word Award (novel — contemporary) for work published in 2014. Canadian author Karen V. Robichaud‘s other books are An Evening Sky in Autumn and Where the River Flows.
[Review copy from my personal library.]