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BOOK REVIEW: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

| 13 May 2017 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: Beyond the Bright Sea by Lauren Wolk

Corgi Childrens
May 2017
Paperback, $19.99
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell

 Middle Grade / Historical




Set in 1925, among the Elizabeth Islands off Massachusetts, Beyond the Bright Sea is a look at identity, family, and the attempt to discover who you are when firm answers are far from forthcoming.

Twelve-year-old Crow has lived her entire life on a tiny, isolated piece of the starkly beautiful Elizabeth Islands in Massachusetts. Abandoned and set adrift on a small boat when she was just hours old, Crow’s only companions are Osh, the man who rescued and raised her, and Miss Maggie, their fierce and affectionate neighbor across the sandbar.

Who had looked at me, soft and fresh as a blossom, and decided to give me to the tide. And why.
I carried those questions around with me like a sack that got heavier as the years went by, even though I had become accustomed to the idea of it. Even though I was not unhappy with the life I had.
I just wanted to know. To understand. To put the sack down.

Thanks to Crow’s strange arrival, and the fact that the island across the way hosted a leper colony around the same time, the people of Cuttyhunk have always been wary of her, shying away from her touch and sterilising anything she does come into contact with. But for the most part Crow doesn’t let this get to her, because Osh, Miss Maggie, and her cat, Mouse, are all she needs.

It’s in Crow’s twelfth year, as she begins to wonder more and more about where she came from and why someone saw fit to send her away at just a few hours old, that certain events take place to nudge her along on a journey of discovery.

Crow has always been curious about the world around her, but it isn’t until the night a mysterious fire appears across the water that the unspoken question of her own history forms in her heart. Soon, an unstoppable chain of events is triggered, leading Crow down a path of discovery and danger.

I wanted to know why there were pearls tucked inside some of the Cuttyhunk oysters but not others. I wanted to know how the moon could drag the ocean in and out from such a distances, when it couldn’t stir the milk in Miss Maggie’s tea. But I needed to know, among other things, why so many of the Cuttyhunk Islanders stayed away from me, as if they were afraid, when I was smaller than any of them.


The relationships between Crow, Osh, and Miss Maggie are sweet, tangible, and realistic, and the reader can’t help but feel like they’re a part of this odd little family. And the historical mystery, inspired by the real leper colony of Penikese is definitely interesting. Though there is a certain amount of telling rather than showing in the course of the story, which leaves the moments of danger and high-emotion somewhat subdued.

The telling of the story, combined with a somewhat rushed nature and quite few coincidences, means that the reader might feel a certain level of disconnect, while at the same time cheering the characters on and viewing them with affection.

It is a strange disconnect, and perhaps it is just a disconnect for this reader in particular, but in the end it comes down to there not being anything particularly bad about the writing, but rather with there not being anything particularly attention-grabbing about it, either.

This was a pleasant and sweet read, and a good one for the younger middle grade readers who aren’t ready for too much in the way of darker emotions, but which explores a little of the darkness of recent human history.


Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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