Monday, August 25, 2014

G414 Book Review of The Story of Land and Sea by Katy Simpson Smith

Name of Book: The Story of Land and Sea

Author: Katy Simpson Smith

ISBN: 978-0-06-235062-6

Publisher: Harper

Type of book: America, Beaufort Virgina, 1771-1782, 1793-1795, travels, destiny, empire, heirs, slavery, saving souls, Catholic, American Revolution, sailing, privateer, flirting, marriage, childbirth

Year it was published: 2014


Set in a small coastal town in North Carolina during the waning years of the American Revolution, this incandescent debut novel follows three generations of family—fathers and daughters, mother and son, master and slave, characters who yearn for redemption amidst a heady brew of war, kidnapping, slavery, and love.

Drawn to the ocean, ten-year-old Tabitha wanders the marshes of her small coastal village and listens to her father’s stories about his pirate voyages and the mother she never knew. Since the loss of his wife Helen, John has remained land-bound for their daughter, but when Tab contracts yellow fever, he turns to the sea once more. Desperate to save his daughter, he takes her aboard a sloop bound for Bermuda, hoping the salt air will heal her.

Years before, Helen herself was raised by a widowed father. Asa, the devout owner of a small plantation, gives his daughter a young slave named Moll for her tenth birthday. Left largely on their own, Helen and Moll develop a close but uneasy companionship. Helen gradually takes over the running of the plantation as the girls grow up, but when she meets John, the pirate turned Continental soldier, she flouts convention and her father’s wishes by falling in love. Moll, meanwhile, is forced into marriage with a stranger. Her only solace is her son, Davy, whom she will protect with a passion that defies the bounds of slavery.

In this elegant, evocative, and haunting debut, Katy Simpson Smith captures the singular love between parent and child, the devastation of love lost, and the lonely paths we travel in the name of renewal.


The main characters include Tabitha, a tomboyish girl who lost her mother and who loves exploring the ocean and its depths. John is Tabitha's father and Helen's husband. He's an orphan and a pirate of sorts, I believe. He's not religious and will do whatever he can to survive. Asa (the grandfather) is a self-made man who has little affection for family or friends. He can shower them materially, but not affectionately. All he desires is a grandson to pass his business onto. He and John can't get along. Until after Helen's death, he wasn't religious. Helen is Asa's only daughter and is spoiled and for me not very likable. She owns a slave at ten but she seems too self-absorbed to think or care much about the slave's situation. She is also very religious which influenced her father. She also does her best to save souls. Not much is known about Moll and Daniel, the slaves that Helen has had, aside from the fact that Moll treasures her son very greatly, and her daughters not at all, and her son is determined to buy Moll's freedom.


Its really hard to determine the theme, but the more I keep thinking about, the more I feel that it somehow represents a woman's desire between steadfastness and adventure and how ultimately parts get lost through choices, but either way, death is a great equalizer.


The story is written in third person narrative from Tabitha's, John's the grandfather's, Helen's, Moll's and Moll's son points of view. I did love the writing style and I really liked Tabitha, but I felt that the ending in first half could have been placed in third half perhaps because I did lose motivation to continue reading it when I learned what happened. Short of John being cause and effect of certain things, I didn't really sense that the narratives connected. I also think that the tile, The Story of Land and Sea, is about John and the grandfather ultimately.

Author Information:
(From TLC)

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Katy Simpson SmithAbout Katy Simpson Smith

Katy Simpson Smith was born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi. She attended Mount Holyoke College and received a PhD in history from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars. She has been working as an adjunct professor at Tulane University and is the author of We Have Raised All of You: Motherhood in the South, 1750-1835. She lives in New Orleans.
Connect with Katy Simpson Smith through her website.


Okay, first of all, I love the book cover and the style of writing, which was reminiscent of Sarah Orne Jewett. The story itself is divided into three parts: that of post revolution when Tabitha, a ten year old girl falls with yellow fever and in desperation, her father puts her on a boat and sails away. There'a strange, natural and slow description of pathos of Tabitha and her father. I have to be honest that I loved the first half, and after the first half of the story, when certain something happened, I lost the motivation to keep reading the book. The second half, one with Tabitha's mother and her with a slave, I couldn't really identify or understand her. The third part about the slave with losing her son, while I liked it, but not as much as first half, and at some parts it did drag along.

Katy’s Tour Stops

Monday, August 25th: Svetlana’s Reads and Views
Tuesday, August 26th: BookNAround
Wednesday, August 28th: Sara’s Organized Chaos
Wednesday, August 28th: Broken Teepee
Tuesday, September 2nd: Jorie Loves a Story
Wednesday, September 3rd: No More Grumpy Bookseller
Thursday, September 4th: Book Hooked Blog
Monday, September 8th: The Book Binder’s Daughter
Thursday, September 11th Kritters Ramblings
Friday, September 12th: Consuming Culture
Wednesday, September 15th: 5 Minutes for Books
Tuesday, September 16th: BoundbyWords
Wednesday, September 17th: Spiced Latte Reads
Thursday, September 18th: West Metro Mommy
Monday, September 22nd: Cerebral Girl in a Redneck World
Friday, September 26th: Silver’s Reviews

This is for TLC Book Tour

3 out of 5
(0: Stay away unless a masochist 1: Good for insomnia 2: Horrible but readable; 3: Readable and quickly forgettable, 4: Good, enjoyable 5: Buy it, keep it and never let it go.)

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