Angels All Over Town

Cloud Nine

Dance With Me

Dream Country

The Edge of Winter

Firefly Beach

Follow the Stars Home

The Perfect Summer

Safe Harbor

The Secret Hour

Silver Bells

Summer Light

Summer of Roses

Summer's Child

True Blue

What Matters Most

 
The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners
by Luanne Rice
(Bantam, $26, PG) ISBN 978-0-553-80514-7
***
I have read a number of Luanne Riceís books and have generally found them entertaining.† While she does not write romance, there is generally a strong romantic element in her novels.† And, although my memory is not perfect, I believe she usually provides a pretty happy ending.† Thus, I have enjoyed her stories.† I do like my ďhappily-ever-afters.Ē†† Riceís latest book meets my expectations regarding the ending, but I found The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners the least romantic of her books.† Which is not to say it is not interesting or well written.

The protagonist is a sixteen year old girl Pell Davis, a child of privilege whose life has been anything but privileged.†Although she lives in Newport with her socialite grandmother, attends an elite school, and faces a future of ease, hers has not been a happy life.† When she was six, her mother left the family; when she was ten, her beloved father, the rock of her life, died of brain cancer.† Now, the preternaturally mature Pell is on a mission: to reconnect with her mother whom she has not seen and all too rarely heard from for ten years.

Pell has been led by her grandmother to believe that her mother Lyra Nicholson Davis has been living a life of dissipation on the Isle of Capri.† But Pell believes that it is imperative that she recover the mother whom she largely remembers as a loving parent.† So she leaves her fourteen year old sister Lucy and her boyfriend Travis to fly to Italy.† She is disappointed that her mother does not meet her at the port of Sorrento; rather her friend Max has come to pick her up.† But when she arrives on the island, she rushes into her motherís arms and recovers, at least a little, the feelings she remembers from her childhood.

Rice uses a very interesting writing technique.† She shifts between the first-person when describing Pellís actions and reactions and the third person point of view of other characters, especially Lyra.† Pell discovers that her mother is very different from the person portrayed by her grandmother.† She is not a frivolous, pleasure loving socialite.† She lives is a relatively small house, works as a landscape designer, has a small, but devoted circle of friends.† At the center is neighbor Max Gardiner, a well-known playwright, whose wife, a renowned artist, had been Lyraís best friend. Christina had suffered from Alzheimerís and had died after a fall.† Pell discovers that Lyra had cared tenderly for her friend throughout her illness.

The essence of the story is Pellís discovery of the truth about her motherís reasons for fleeing her seemingly perfect life ten years earlier.† Why would a woman who was married to a wonderful man, who had two loving daughters, who had money and social position, flee to an island in Italy?† What was so awful about her life?

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners describes the roots of one womanís desperate descent into depression, the cost of the illness and her gradual recovery.† It also describes the price her daughters paid for her illness and her disappearance from their lives.† One does have tremendous sympathy for Lyra and admiration for her success in putting her life back together.† But, in retrospect, this reader wondered why, especially after their fatherís death, she could not have reached out to her daughters, why it was left to Pell to reestablish some kind of connection.† To be honest, these questions detracted from my enjoyment of the book.

Rice introduces a number of secondary plots and characters.† There is the pain and problems of Maxís grandson, Rafe, who is a recovering addict and who was responsible for his grandmotherís accident and death.† Will he stay clean?† Will he forgive himself?† There is Pellís sympathy for and attraction to Rafe.† Will she remain true to her paragon of a boyfriend?† There is Maxís growing love for Lyra.† Will she accept his feelings and does she return them?

The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners deals with some really, well, deep stuff.† Rice writes womenís fiction, not contemporary ďseriousĒ fiction with all its angsty suffering.† But I have to admit that, while I appreciate the happy endings for all her characters, I feel that life almost never works out quite this well.† I didnít quite believe in the fairy tale.†

--Jean Mason


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