Monday, October 1, 2012

The Waves Are Calling

Published:  September 11th, 2012
The Brides of Rollrock Island
By: Margo Lanagan
Knopf Books for Young Readers
ISBN-13: 9780375989308

On remote Rollrock Island, men go to sea to make their livings—and to catch their wives.

The witch Misskaella knows the way of drawing a girl from the heart of a seal, of luring the beauty out of the beast. And for a price a man may buy himself a lovely sea-wife. He may have and hold and keep her. And he will tell himself that he is her master. But from his first look into those wide, questioning, liquid eyes, he will be just as transformed as she. He will be equally ensnared. And the witch will have her true payment.

Margo Lanagan weaves an extraordinary tale of desire, despair, and transformation. With devastatingly beautiful prose, she reveals characters capable of unspeakable cruelty, but also unspoken love.


     Rollrock Island is a mysterious place, with a long history of magical occurrences and legends that are almost unbelievable.  But then a young girl, Misskaella, who doesn't really belong in the community and shows signs of a long-ago "sea-wife" in her heritage, discovers that she has the power to draw women from the seals on the beach.  They shed their skins and make brides for the men - if they're willing to pay a price.  She is angry at her treatment and over the generations tears the community on Rollrock apart almost completely, until only the men, the sea-wives and their sons are left.  One of the sons, Daniel, begins to realize that his Mother belongs to the sea and needs to be returned - all of the wives do.  But can he do the right thing when the time comes?  And where do the children truly belong - to the land or the sea?  I was interested in the idea of women being made from seals and used as wives to the men on an island.  It was very disturbing to think that these women could be held against their will and forced to be wives, even when they were completely miserable doing it.  The multiple point of views over the generations were wonderful.  It gave some relief from the initial sadness and bitterness of Misskaella's story.  I was never truly sure when this novel was set and where, but that was perfectly okay with me.  The prose flowed beautifully and I had a sad ache through almost the entire book.  Only the best books do that to a reader.  Some of my complaints were the fact that the ending P.O.V. was someone that had not been a very important character in the rest of the book and she was a detraction from the full circle feeling of the ending.  I did not care for the last part and wish it would have ended with Daniel's narrative. Also, I was horrified at the idea that men with wives and families already could take a sea-wife on the side, basically for sex, and not see anything wrong with that.  I was disgusted with and unsympathetic to most of the men on the island until the last generation of them.  But the whole usage of the selkie mythology/legend was very innovative and I give major props for that.  If you would like to read something very different from anything else out there, this is the book for you.

VERDICT:  3.85/5  Stars

*I received an Advanced Reading E-book Copy from the publisher, via NetGalley. No money or favors were exchanged for this review. This book was published September 11th, 2012.*

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