Off the coast of Georgia, reachable only by ferry, lies a chain of islands. At the end of the line is misty, mythic Selkie Island. Purportedly settled by a pirate who married a mermaid, in bold calligraphy an ancient warning warns those docking “Sailors, beware of Selkie Island! Here Be Monsters!
Miranda Merchant is amused by both the legend and the warning when her ferry docks, bringing her for the first time to the island where her mother spent summers as a child. Come to help her mother sort through a surprise inheritance from a grandmother she never knew, Miranda plans to enjoy a week or two at the beach. Sorting books and heirlooms and a small amount of manual labor seems a small price to pay for a needed change.
Mystery seems to surround the island after all, though. Miranda’s mother changes before her eyes into a woman she barely recognizes, complete with a past that Miranda can hardly comprehend. Secrets from the previous generations collide with those of the current one. As the case often is in such situations, Miranda learns a great deal about herself even as she discovers her own family history and struggles to divine the truth behind a very compelling myth.
Sea Change is a rich heady novel, evocative of the the charm found in areas of the Deep South like Savannah. In addition to the charm of the Spanish Moss and summer mansions, author Aimee Friedman is unafraid to tackle the class issues. The divide that exists between the wealthy families who feel that Selkie is “their” island for the summer and the permanent residents who both work and live on the island year round perplexes Miranda even as she feels bound by it.
Friedman makes every word count. In only 294 pages the novel covers heartbreak and betrayal, fashion and cliques, science and literature (the Rime of the Ancient Mariner crops up several times, and Miranda is a science junky,) the effects of divorce on family, the previously mentioned class divide and more. All together it packs quite a punch. It’s true what a sailor warns Miranda as she leaves with her mother “The island stays with you…”