Two If by Sea is an emotion-packed suspense novel with a touch of sci-fi that explores the depths of grief and loss.

Bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard‘s (The Deep End of the Ocean) latest book opens in wake of a tsunami in Brisbane and follows Frank Mercy, a middle-aged man who has survived but lost his pregnant wife and nearly all of his wife’s family to the disaster. A former policeman and firefighter, Frank volunteers in rescuing others and saves a three-year-old boy’s life. On an impulse, Frank takes the boy back to his family’s horse ranch in the United States, unrightfully adopting him as his own and naming him Ian. Through a series of violent and thrilling events, it is made clear that Ian has special powers to control people’s behavior, which he typically uses to make them behave nicely and occasionally to buy him toys.

These unique powers attract both good and evil toward Frank and Ian. The novel follows the two as they attempt to move forward, but those who knew Ian in Australia will not let them escape the disastrous past so easily.

Mitchard explores the heavy themes of grief and loss through her well-developed characters. Conveying raw emotions, Two If by Sea represents the idea of building a new life after experiencing a natural disaster and losing everything. It implores the idea of seeking support in everything and everyone that remains in your life, no matter how things were before. In a presentation at the Des Moines Public Library, Mitchard connected the emotional themes back to her own devastation she experienced a few years back when all of her money was stolen from her.

Following Frank’s journey is emotionally vexing as he experiences a new relationship so soon after losing his wife, who, through Frank’s vivid memory, the reader easily becomes close to.

“Frank wanted the ring he had put on Natalie’s hand. It had been his mother’s. He wanted to keep the ring close for however long there would be for him. He wanted a lock of Natalie’s dark hair. He wanted his wife and his life.”

The attachment to Ian creates incredible suspense in a way that you do not want to put the book down for fear of what will happen to him. I almost wanted Frank to encounter the evil that inevitably was after them, for how could he truly move on and live his life constantly knowing that someone is after him?

Frank’s story unfolds against the backdrops of wonderfully descriptive settings, beginning in the tsunami devastation in Australia, to reconnecting to his old life at his family’s Midwestern horse farm, and ending somewhere new in an old-fashioned English village. Mitchard’s captivation of setting is vivid and exquisite, her metaphors witty and unique:

“Wisconsin was like a young woman with gray hair at her temples; you never got a chance to forget that winter was only briefly on hiatus.”

Mitchard tells a beautiful and intriguing story of love and loss, posing questions of how far should one go to protect loved ones and how does one know what truly is best for the ones they love. Two If by Sea is a story of struggle and triumph, of suffering major losses and celebrating small wins, of letting go and moving on.

“We feel like it’s a privilege just to wake up to the sight of the sun. So maybe that’s how it is with love. We ignore what we know. We know everybody feels it. People use the world ‘love’ to push people around. Love can make people cruel. Love can make people weak. Love doesn’t always stay the same.”

To learn more about the author, check out my previous post with writing advice from Jacquelyn Mitchard.

Book Review: Two If by Sea
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