Bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) balances love and loss in her new novel, Two If By Sea. It is a sweet story of one man’s road to recovery and the challenges he faces to protect the people he loves.
The saga follows American Frank Mercy from a tragic and terrifying Christmas Eve tsunami in Australia to his family’s aging Midwestern horse farm and finishes in a quaint, perfect English village straight out of a Bronte novel.
Frank loses his wife and unborn son in the deadly wave. Working on autopilot, former cop Frank hops on a volunteer rescue boat between bouts of sorrow and physical pain to try to save others hours after losing his family.
Really still in a daze of loss and fear, Frank rescues a little boy from a submerged van only to see the boy’s brother swept away. When faced with turning the boy over to aid workers, Frank makes a decision that will change his life forever.
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Despite himself, Frank chooses to keep the boy, whom he names Ian. They form an immediate and deep bond that is almost too perfect. Ian totally trusts Frank and rarely leaves his side.
In purely illegal and quick order, Frank hustles out of Australia with his now “adopted” son and heads home to Wisconsin to his mother and sister. Scared but determined, Frank crosses the pond, bringing along his right-hand horseman, Patrick, and a temperamental dynasty mare aptly named Glory Bee.
It’s on the run that Frank first starts to see just how special Ian is. After dozing off on the plane to America, Frank awakes to find Ian gone. Actually Ian has managed to make every single flight attendant an almost servantlike friend — just as he’d done with the lawyer who helped Frank with the “adoption” and with just about every other person with whom he comes into contact.
During the turbulent flight home, Ian “helps” Frank convince the crew to let them in the cargo hold to check on Glory Bee. Frank and Patrick witness little Ian silently wave his arms and manage to calm every single animal on board.
What does all this mean? Open your mind.
While struggling to find footing and still grieving, Frank settles in his family’s familiar fold. The novel now tackles the trouble Frank faces trying to start over, trying to be a new dad and trying to make a new life.
It’s a universal adventure full of emotion and quite a bit of intrigue.
It seems someone is actually looking for Ian. Frank worries about how to protect him and what to do about the boy’s unique gift. He lies to himself, and pretty much everyone in his life, daily. If only he can find a way to heal, he could give Ian the life he couldn’t give his own son.
Of course in the midst of all of this, Frank meets a woman. A champion equestrian and psychology professor, Claudia rounds out the women in Frank’s life.
It doesn’t take a therapy degree to see that Frank is a mama’s boy. In fact, his deceased wife used to tease him about having a crush on his widowed mother, Hope. So, a psychologist girlfriend is perfect for Frank.
Thankfully the strong women in Frank’s life keep him moving forward. He makes no bones about his weaknesses and physical and emotional frailties.
The fact that this novel includes a nod to the supernatural helps with its slower passages. The things that Ian can do — and does — add to the suspense.
Ian’s special gift makes Frank afraid of any outside threat. He will do anything to protect Ian but is terrified by all of the things the boy does to put himself in harm’s way that are out of his control.
In spite of, or maybe because of, Ian’s extraordinary power, he can be a parent’s worst nightmare. Frank must make the right choice to save himself and his family from his drowning fears.
Two If By Sea
☆☆☆ (out of five)
- By Jacquelyn Mitchard
- Simon & Schuster, $25.99
Meet the author: Mitchard will talk about her book at 7 p.m. March 29 at a free Authors Live event at Highland Park United Methodist Church, Wesley Hall, 3300 Mockingbird Lane, Dallas. An author’s reception will be at 6 p.m. in Fellowship Hall. Cost is $30 to meet Mitchard and get a signed book. Call 214-523-2240 to register.