We don’t know her name right away. She’s just “she,” and she is on a bus bound for somewhere else. She doesn’t really care where she’s going as long as it’s away from where she was. She comes to a small resort town on a lake somewhere in the upper Midwest with a few dollars in her pocket, the clothes on her back, and no real plan for what comes next.
We get clues right away that something is very wrong, that a trauma has been suffered. But the clues about the baby and the husband and the brother and sister-in-law left behind are not carefully delineated. “She” checks into the cheapest lodgings, a hostel where a lot of the summer help lives, and begins work at disappearing.
But she can’t completely. She needs money so she finds odd jobs. But she keeps all others at arm’s length and when the summer winds down she is faced with a closing hostel and no place to stay anymore. So her present self goes forth finding a job at the wine shop in town and secretly bunking in the storage room above, and all the while her interior landscape is pulled, like the tides, back to the past where we gradually learn her name (Mara), and her sad story.
Told in micro-fiction chapters that create a mosaic of a whole, Sara Freeman draws a portrait of a woman who is troubled by more than just losing her baby and husband. Little by little the picture forms of Mara, and her life before her arrival in the resort town. As she subsumes her past she plunges ahead into her present where she continues on a path of self-destruction.
This book was so beautiful to read. The tiny portions give us tesserae of the story so when you finish you’re surprised to be holding a fully-realized narrative in your hands. It’s a remarkable feat, and a lyrical story, well crafted.
Tides will be released in bookstores on January 16, 2022.