(DZANC Books, 2021)
I cannot recall when I have been so touched by a book—not only the narrative, which is fine and well told, but the beauty of the words chosen and laid together. To borrow an image from the book, the words are knotted like a canopy of tatted silk.
It is the unbridgeable space between two fleshly beings
that enlivens me, that haunts me,
the close chasm between reach and grasp.
And if that boundary exists in the flesh,
why can it not live on between the mortal and the dead?
If it is the unbridgeable that binds us,
does it matter from which side of earth
we reach for one another?
Between Tides took me longer to read than another book of similar length. It is a book to linger with, not to rush through to get to the action of the story or dissect the plot. Between Tides invites the reader to savor, as a cognac, inhaling and holding both the heavy breath and whisper of words, a delight to the senses, a stimulant to the mind.
Angel Khoury has borrowed the story from history and made it her own. Cape Cod and Cape Hatteras are the settings, two lengths of rough coastline that shaped the characters and determined the course of their lives. The book opens in 1861 with the death of a young man from Massachusetts, his body left with his comrades in a wet and salty grave further down the coast across the divide of Confederacy and Union. He leaves a heartbroken young brother and a fiancée who struggle to find their way in the shadow of his death.
They find their way together for a long and intense marriage, filled with grief and love and the rhythms of the tides. Blythe, abandoned by her mercurial husband, keeps their marriage in pieces of silk and shells and feathers of disintegrated birds. A knock on the door by a stranger who resembles her long gone husband is the catalyst for the story.
… the reader is asked, by virtue of reading, that they suspend judgment …
Making an ellipse to 1941 Between Tides is bracketed by two wars and two generations. Blythe and her husband’s daughter make for improbable friends and keepers of the family lore.
There is a hint at ‘magical realism’ in the way the narrator tells the story. The POV does shift, but the reader is asked, by virtue of reading, that they suspend judgment on the accuracy of the memories, of the recounting of events. It is a deal we make with the book itself, to accept, for the benefit of the story, what is presented.
Say I told her these things, or perhaps she made them up. But then, what does it matter. Reality, I think, is mostly imagination, poorly disguised.
For lovers of words and the music of words, I highly recommend Between Tides.
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