Tuesday, September 16, 2014

The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Back Cover Blurb

Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.
Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.


A powerful story of love, loss, and tolerance in the American south! Author Katy Simpson Smith has penned a tale of hardship set in North Carolina during the American Revolution. In a lyrical writing style that evokes vivid images, and through the narrative of three different characters, the author recreates the harsh realities of daily life during that tumultuous period. This gripping story unfolds with a great deal of detail interspersed with drama.

The plot revolves around a woman named Helen, and the most important relationships in her life – her husband John, her daughter Tabitha, her slave Moll, and her father Asa. When Helen dies during the birth of her only child, Tabitha, it sends the grieving family into turmoil, each blaming either themselves or others. The novel jumps back and forth in time and point of view, peeling back the layers of this complex story as each character struggles to come to terms with their own personal struggles in search for happiness and tranquility.

This is a deeply thought provoking novel, which must be savored at a leisurely pace in order to understand its intricate characters and underlying themes of power, slavery, and love. A very moving story indeed!

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