Book title: The Tidal Zone
Author: Sarah Moss
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is writing a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man and he is happy. But one day, he receives a call from his daughter’s school to inform him that, for no apparent reason, fifteen-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing. In that moment, his world fractures. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and retold around this shocking central event: a body that has inexplicably failed.
During moments of reading this novel I felt as though I was caught in its tidal zone, one moment basking in its warmth and wit, particularly through the character of Miriam, the next submerged in her father’s fears. The story is told from Adam’s perspective and while his paranoia about the welfare of his children is, in most part, poignantly written, at times I found it cloying, and his defensive position as a stay-at-home dad, irritating. Sarah Moss skilfully breaks up the story with two parallel narratives that bring relief, and she brings to light some of our unspoken fears about the inexplicability of life and death in exquisite prose: ‘Who can believe his wife will die while cooking in her own kitchen, that his children, tonight, won’t survive bathtime?(83)’; ‘It is a pity that the things we learn in crisis are all to be found on fridge magnets and greeting cards: seize the day, savour the moment, tell your love—May we live long enough to despise the clichés again, may we heal enough to take for granted sky and water and light ...(132)’. This novel is not a page turner, but one that causes the reader to pause and reflect on the fear of losing a loved-one. However, it is also one of hope - that it is possible to rewrite our lives in the aftermath of tragedy, and for that reason, as well as the author’s obvious intelligence and humour, it is definitely worth reading.
Rating: Four star: Definitely worth it.