I devoured Samantha Hunt’s previous novel, Mr. Splitfoot, last year and it easily fell into my top 10 of the decade (If you have yet to come across Mr. Splitfoot then I implore you to check it out; it has everything you’ll ever need: ghosts! cults! comets!) but The Seas easily steals a spot among my favorites of all time.
The Seas is slim, spare, and haunting. I have always been drawn to tales of maritime peril, and while there is no shipwreck here there are plenty of wrecked people, dreams, and mythologies dashed upon the rocks of The Seas. Our narrator is a young woman that might be a mermaid, the scarred soldier she loves might be doomed by her siren call, there is water everywhere, and her father walked into the sea never to return. They inhabit a world of depressed seaside motels, schools reached only by boat, closed printing presses and rusty sardine canning plants.
Our narrator’s fascination with Jude, her cursed sailor, is the kind of furious obsession that you can feel in your bones. Reading her yearn feels like an ache deep in your hands that will not fade after whomever you were holding has long since gone away. I could blather on for pages, but she puts it best:
Jude and I do not have a regular sort of relationship. He is not my boyfriend. He says he is too old to be my boyfriend. But he pulls me onto his lap. He breathes in my ear. He has never kissed me despite his kissing most girls who live here, this far north. Jude thinks he is too old for me. I think I could cut a strip of flesh from his upper arm and eat it.
Oh well, we’ll all sink into the sea eventually!