Body Surfing (en español)


At the age of 29, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed. Trying to regain her footing, she has signed on to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage. But when the Edwardses' two grown sons arrive at the beach house, Sydney finds herself caught up in a destructive web of old tensions and bitter divisions. As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened. With the subtle ...

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At the age of 29, Sydney has already been once divorced and once widowed. Trying to regain her footing, she has signed on to tutor the teenage daughter of a well-to-do couple as they spend a sultry summer in their oceanfront New Hampshire cottage. But when the Edwardses' two grown sons arrive at the beach house, Sydney finds herself caught up in a destructive web of old tensions and bitter divisions. As the brothers vie for her affections, the fragile existence Sydney has rebuilt is threatened. With the subtle wit, lyrical language, and brilliant insight into the human heart that are the hallmarks of her acclaimed fiction, Shreve weaves a novel about marriage, family, and the supreme courage it takes to love.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

Deceptive love and stark betrayal form the icy core of this dark 12th novel from Oprah-anointed (The Pilot's Wife), Orange Prize finalist (The Weight of Water) Shreve. Set adrift at 29 by the sudden death of her second husband (her first divorced her), smart, underemployed Sydney (no last name) signs on for a quiet New England oceanfront summer of tutoring 18-year-old Julie, the intellectually slow but artistically talented and strikingly beautiful daughter of the fractious Edwards clan. The family includes Julie's brothers—35-year-old Boston corporate real estate man Ben and 31-year-old M.I.T. poli-sci professor Jeff—and the three children's parents. Sydney is half-Jewish, and Mrs. Edwards is anti-Semitic. Family tensions escalate when Julie disappears, then resurfaces in Montreal as the lesbian lover of 25-year-old Helene (a body surfer who frequented the beach near the Edwardses' home). Jeff and Sydney bond during their search for Julie, nights of passion leading to plans for a joyous wedding, which get very complicated when the couple returns to Edwards central. Shreve's devastating depiction of the family's dissolution—the culmination of sublimated jealousies suddenly exploding into the open—is wrenching. Shreve's omniscience is asserted with such ease that it often feels like she's toying with her characters, but her control is masterful, particularly in the sure-handed and compassionate aftermath. (Apr.)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Already once divorced and now recently widowed, 29-year-old Sydney Sklar looks at a tutoring job at a New Hampshire beach house as the perfect escape from pain and grief. Helping 18-year-old Julie Edwards prepare for the SATs becomes a complex undertaking as Sydney realizes that Julie is slow and, as hard as she tries, will never be accepted at the prestigious colleges Mrs. Edwards prefers. Mr. Edwards loves his garden and his daughter, and he makes Sydney yearn to be part of a family. With the arrival of Julie's much older brothers, Ben and Jeff, the path for Sydney becomes as precarious as the shoreline where she revels in body surfing. Shreve's beautifully drawn tale of family and connection is a winner; highly recommended. [LJ 2/1/07]

Library Journal

Already once divorced and now recently widowed, 29-year-old Sydney Sklar looks at a tutoring job at a New Hampshire beach house as the perfect escape from pain and grief. But the Edwardses offer more—and less—than she would have hoped for, in this latest from Shreve (A Wedding in December). Helping 18-year-old Julie Edwards prepare for the SATs becomes a complex undertaking as Sydney realizes that Julie is slow and, as hard as she tries, will never be accepted at the prestigious colleges Mrs. Edwards prefers. Mr. Edwards loves his garden and his daughter, and he makes Sydney yearn to be part of a family. With the arrival of Julie's much older brothers, Ben and Jeff, the path for Sydney becomes as precarious as the shoreline where she revels in body surfing. An activity Sydney finds both distracting and exhilarating, body surfing requires precision timing that means the difference between a perfect ride and getting slammed. When both brothers show an interest in her, Sydney finds herself caught up in a giant—and unpredictable—wave that has devastating consequences. Shreve's beautifully drawn tale of family and connection will leave readers feeling a bit slammed themselves: against the vagaries of life and the rocky shoals of love. A winner; highly recommended. [See Prepub Alert, LJ12/06.]
—Bette-Lee Fox Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information

Kirkus Reviews
The cottage on the New Hampshire coast that housed the protagonists of The Pilot's Wife (1998) and Sea Glass (2002) makes a poignant setting for Shreve's tale of a young widow thrown into a fraught family drama. At 29, Sydney Sklar has already been married twice. She's well aware of the irony that she divorced a pilot because of his dangerous profession, only to have her second husband, a brand-new doctor, drop dead of a brain aneurysm after eight months of marriage. Bad twists of fate lurk in Shreve's dark narrative, full of glancing references to car accidents and old tragedies the cottage has seen. Sydney is there for the summer to tutor Julie, the sweet but "slow" late-life child of Mr. and Mrs. Edwards (rarely referred to by their first names). Sydney is fond of the girl and her father; she and Mrs. Edwards share a mutual dislike. The tension ratchets up with the arrival of Julie's much older brothers: 35-year-old Ben, a corporate-real-estate agent, and 31-year-old MIT professor Jeff. Sydney doesn't care for Ben, whom she thinks groped her when the brothers took her body surfing at night, and she's disturbingly attracted to Jeff, who has a gorgeous girlfriend. The two make an emotional connection looking for Julie one night when she's late coming home; they make love for the first time (Jeff's dumped the girlfriend) on the evening Julie runs off to Montreal to live with a lesbian lover no one knew she had. Ben reacts to Sydney and Jeff's engagement with outrage that seems excessive until the novel's shocking denouement, which leaves Sydney to remake her life for the third time. Seen exclusively through her eyes, the other characters are vivid but ultimately opaque, so the novel seemssomewhat solipsistic. As a portrait of a woman belatedly coming of age after being buffeted by fate, however, it's well drawn and will satisfy Shreve's fans. Not one of this crowd-pleasing author's best, but a solid, workmanlike B-plus effort.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9788496929173
  • Publisher: El Anden
  • Publication date: 2/28/2008
  • Language: Spanish
  • Edition description: Spanish-language Edition
  • Pages: 312
  • Product dimensions: 5.90 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve is the critically acclaimed author of twelve books, including The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club, and The Weight of Water, which was a finalist for England's Orange prize. She lives in Massachusetts.


For many readers, the appeal of Anita Shreve’s novels is their ability to combine all of the escapist elements of a good beach read with the kind of thoughtful complexity not generally associated with romantic fiction. Shreve’s books are loaded with enough adultery, eroticism, and passion to make anyone keep flipping the pages, but the writer whom People magazine once dubbed a “master storyteller” is also concerned with the complexities of her characters’ motivations, relationships, and lives.

Shreve’s novels draw on her diverse experiences as a teacher and journalist: she began writing fiction while teaching high school, and was awarded an O. Henry Prize in 1975 for her story, “Past the Island, Drifting.” She then spent several years working as a journalist in Africa, and later returned to the States to raise her children. In the 1980s, she wrote about women’s issues, which resulted in two nonfiction books -- Remaking Motherhood and Women Together, Women Alone -- before breaking into mainstream fiction with Eden Close in 1989.

This interest in women’s lives -- their struggles and success, families and friendships -- informs all of Shreve’s fiction. The combination of her journalist’s eye for detail and her literary ear for the telling turn of phrase mean that Shreve can spin a story that is dense, atmospheric, and believable. Shreve incorporates the pull of the sea -- the inexorable tides, the unpredictable surf -- into her characters’ lives the way Willa Cather worked the beauty and wildness of the Midwestern plains into her fiction. In Fortune’s Rocks and The Weight of Water, the sea becomes a character itself, evocative and ultimately consuming. In Sea Glass, Shreve takes the metaphor as far as she can, where characters are tested again and again, only to emerge stronger by surviving the ravages of life.

A domestic sensualist, Shreve makes use of the emblems of household life to a high degree, letting a home tell its stories just as much as its inhabitants do, and even recycling the same house through different books and periods of time, giving it a sort of palimpsest effect, in which old stories burn through the newer ones, creating a historical montage. "A house with any kind of age will have dozens of stories to tell," she says. "I suppose if a novelist could live long enough, one could base an entire oeuvre on the lives that weave in and out of an antique house."

Shreve’s work is sometimes categorized as “women’s fiction,” because of her focus on women’s sensibilties and plights. But her evocative and precise language and imagery take her beyond category fiction, and moderate the vein of sentimentality which threads through her books. Moreover, her kaleidoscopic view of history, her iron grip on the details and detritus of 19th-century life (which she sometimes intersperses with a 20th-century story), and her uncanny ability to replicate 19th-century dialogue without sounding fusty or fussy, make for novels that that are always absorbing and often riveting. If she has a flaw, it is that her imagery is sometimes too cinematic, but one can hardly fault her for that: after all, the call of Hollywood is surely as strong as the call of the sea for a writer as talented as Shreve.

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Read an Excerpt

Body Surfing

By Anita Shreve

Little, Brown and Company

Copyright © 2007 by Anita Shreve
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-316-05985-5

Chapter One

Three o'clock, the dead hour. The faint irritation of sand grit between bare foot and floorboards. Wet towels hanging from bedposts and porch railings. A door, caught in a gust, slams, and someone near it emits the expected cry of surprise. A southwest wind, not the norm even in August, sends stifling air into the many rooms of the old summerhouse. The hope is for an east wind off the water, and periodically someone says it.

An east wind now would be a godsend.

The energy of the morning has dissipated itself in fast walks and private lessons, in vigorous reading and lazy tennis. Even in a brief expedition to a showroom in Portsmouth to look at Audi Quattros. Mrs. Edwards, Sydney has been told, will need a new car in the fall.

There are guests in the house who must be attended to. One hopes for visitors with initiative, like a refreshing east wind. They are not Sydney's concern. Her afternoons are free. Her entire life, but for a few hours each day of overpaid tutoring, is disconcertingly free.

She changes into a black tank suit, the elastic sprung in the legs. She is twenty-nine and fit enough. Her hair is no color she has ever been able to describe. She is not a blonde or a brunette, but something in between that washes out in January, comes to life in August.Gold highlights on translucence.

Sydney has been married twice: once divorced and once widowed. Others, hearing this information for the first time, find it surprising, as if this fact might be the most interesting thing about her.

On the porch, red geraniums are artfully arranged against the lime-green of the dune grass, the blue of the water. Not quite primary colors, hues seen only in nature.

Knife blades of grass pierce the wooden slats of the boardwalk. Sweet pea overtakes the thatch. Unwanted fists of thistle push upward from the sand. On the small deck at the end of the boardwalk are two white Adirondack chairs, difficult to get out of, and a faded umbrella lying behind them. Two rusted and immensely heavy iron bases for the umbrella sit in a corner, neither of which, Sydney guesses, will ever leave the deck.

Wooden steps with no railing lead to a crescent-shaped beach to the left, a rocky coastline to the right. Sydney runs across the hot sand to the edge of the water. The surf is a series of sinuous rolls, and when she closes her eyes, she can hear the spray. She prepares herself for the cold. Better than electroshock therapy, Mr. Edwards always says, for clearing the head.

A seizure of frigid water, a roiling of white bubbles. The sting of salt in the sinuses as she surfaces. She stands and stumbles and stands again and shakes herself like a dog. She hugs her hands to her chest and relaxes only when her feet begin to numb. She dives once more, and when she comes up for air she turns onto her back, letting the waves, stronger and taller than they appear from shore, carry her up and over the crest and down again into the trough. She is buoyant flotsam, shocked into sensibility.

She body surfs in the ocean, getting sand down the neckline of her suit. As a child, when she took off her bathing suit, she would find handfuls of sand in the crotch. She lowers herself into the ocean to wash away the mottled clumps against her stomach, but then she sees a good wave coming. She stands and turns her back to it and springs onto the crest. The trick always is to catch the crest. Hands pointed, eyes shut, she is a bullet through the white surge. She scrapes her naked hip and thigh against the bottom.

She crawls onto the sand, the undertow carving hollows beneath her shins. A wave she hasn't braced for hits her back and neck. She wipes the tangle of hair from her face, the water from her eyes. She sees a shape on the beach that wasn't there before. A tanned chest, a splotch of red. A man in bathing trunks is holding a pink cloth, wide and lurid, before her.

"I've been sent with a towel. You're Sydney, right?"

How extraordinary if she weren't. Not another body in the water for a thousand yards.

Inside the house, the furniture is white, a good idea in theory, not in practice. The slipcovers on the two sofas are marked with faint smudges and worried stains, navy lint from a woolen sweater. Fine grains of sand have repeatedly scratched the surface of the maple floor as if it had been lightly scoured.

On the stairs down to the basement sits a basket of old newspapers, a wicker catchall for objects that are not part of the neutral decor but might prove useful. A sparkling purple leash. A neon pink pad of Post-it Notes. A Day-Glo orange life vest. Practicality and sports rife with unnatural color.

Although Mrs. Edwards gives the impression of having inhabited the cottage for decades, perhaps even generations (already there are family rituals, oft-repeated memories, old canning jars full of sea glass used as doorstops), they have owned the house only since 1997. Before then, Mr. Edwards confided, they simply rented other cottages nearby. In contrast to his wife, he seems a man incapable of deceit.

Sydney shares a bathroom with the guests, a couple from New York who have come in search of antiques. In the mornings, there are aqua spills of toothpaste in the sink, pink spots of makeup on the mirror. Used tissues are tucked behind the spigots. Sydney routinely washes out the sink with a hand towel before she uses it. She stuffs the towel into the hamper in the hallway on her way back to her room.

It was obvious immediately to Sydney that the Edwardses' eighteen-year-old daughter, Julie, was slow, that no amount of tutoring would adequately prepare her for the stellar senior year of high school Mrs. Edwards hopes for, a year that is almost certain, in Sydney's opinion, to defeat the girl. Mrs. Edwards speaks knowledgeably of Mount Holyoke and Swarthmore. Skidmore as a safety. Sydney can only blink with wonder. Julie is pliant, eager to please, and extraordinarily beautiful, her skin clear and pink, her eyes a sea-glass blue. Sydney can see that the girl, who seems willing to study all the hours of the day, will disappoint her mother and break her father's heart, the latter not because she won't get into the colleges Mrs. Edwards seems so knowledgeable about, but because she will try so hard and fail.

Salt encrusts the windows of the house on the diagonal, as if water had been thrown against the glass. The windows out to the porch have to be washed twice a week to provide any appreciation of the view, which is spectacular.

Sydney sometimes senses that her presence has upset the family equilibrium. She tries to be available when needed, present but silent when not.

The brothers will sleep in a room called the "boys' dorm." Julie has a room on the ocean side of the house. Mr. and Mrs. Edwards's bedroom looks out over the marshes. The guests, like Sydney, have been relegated to a room with twin beds.

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards have invited Sydney to call them by their first names. When she tries to say Anna or Mark, however, the words stick in her throat. She finds other ways to refer to the couple, such as your husband and he and your dad.

Sydney's first husband was an air racer. He flew through trees at 250 miles an hour and performed aerobatic stunts over a one-mile course. If he were to graze a gate or become momentarily disoriented by the Gs, he would hurtle to the ground and crash. When she could, Sydney went with Andrew to these races-to Scotland and Vienna and San Francisco-and watched him twist his plane in the air at 420 degrees per second. At air shows, Andrew was a star and signed autographs. He wore fireproof clothing and a crash helmet and was equipped with a parachute-not that a parachute would have been at all helpful thirty feet off the ground. For a year, Sydney found the air races exotic and thrilling. During the second year, she began to be afraid. Contemplating a third year and the possibility of a child, she pictured Andrew's fiery death and said, Enough. Her aviator, who seemed genuinely sad to see the marriage end, could not, however, be expected to give up flying.

Sydney met her second husband when she was twenty-six. Her right front tire blew on the Massachusetts Turnpike, and she pulled to the side of the road. A minute later, her Honda Civic was hit from behind. Because she had been standing at the front of the car and looking down at the tire, she was hit and briefly dragged along the pavement. Daniel Feldman, who had to cut the clothes off her body in the emergency room of Newton-Wellesley Hospital, chided her for pulling to a stop on a bridge. A week later, he took her to Biba in Boston.

Eight months into their marriage, and during his residency at Beth Israel, Daniel suffered a burst aneurysm in his brain. Receiving the news by telephone, Sydney was stunned, bewildered, wide-eyed with shock.

Most people, mindful of the sensitivities, do not point out to Sydney the irony of having divorced a man she was afraid would die only to marry a man who perished in the very place he ought to have been saved. But she can tell that Mr. Edwards is eager to discuss the situation. Despite his kindness and his affability, he cannot help but flirt with the details.

"Is the aviator still flying?" he asks one night as they are washing dishes. "Did you say your husband interned at the B.I.?"

Mrs. Edwards, by contrast, is not afraid of the blunt question.

"Are you Jewish?" she asked as she was showing Sydney to her room.

It wasn't clear to Sydney which answer Mrs. Edwards would have preferred: Jewish being more interesting; not Jewish being more acceptable.

The doctor was Jewish. The aviator was not.

Sydney is both, having a Jewish father and his cheekbones but a Unitarian mother, from whom she has inherited her blue eyes. Even Sydney's hair seems equal parts father and mother-the wayward curl, the nearly colorless blond. Sydney became Bat Mitzvah before her parents separated but then was strenuously raised to be a WASP during her teenage years. She thinks of both phases of her life as episodes of childhood having little to do with the world as she now encounters it, neither religion at all helpful during the divorce and death.

Not unlike a parachute at thirty feet.

For a week last summer, Sydney went to stay with Daniel's parents in Truro. The experiment was a noble one. Mrs. Feldman, whom she had briefly called Mom, had had the idea that Sydney's presence would be comforting. In fact the opposite was true, the sight of Sydney sending Mrs. Feldman into contagious fits of weeping.

For days following Daniel's death, Sydney's own mother refused to believe in the simple fact of the event, causing Sydney to have to say, over and over again, that Daniel had died of a brain aneurysm.

"But how?" her mother repeatedly asked.

Sydney's father came up from New York by train for the funeral. He wore a taupe trench coat, put on a yarmulke for the service, and, astonishingly, he wept. Afterwards, at dinner, he tried to reassure her.

"I think of you as resilient," he said over steak and baked potato.

The double blow of the divorce and death left Sydney in a state of emotional paralysis, during which she was unable to finish her thesis in developmental psychology and had to withdraw from her graduate program at Brandeis. Since then, she has taken odd jobs created by friends and family, jobs for which she has been almost ludicrously overqualified or completely out of her depth: a secretary in the microbiology department at Harvard Medical School (overqualified); a dealer's assistant at an art gallery on Newbury Street (out of her depth). She has been grateful for these jobs, for the opportunity to drift and heal, but recently she has begun to wonder if this strange and unproductive period of her life might be coming to an end.

"You must be the tutor."

"And you are?"

"Ben. That's Jeff on the porch."

"Thank you for the towel."

"You're quite the body surfer."

Sydney discovers that she minds the loss of her mourning. When she grieved, she felt herself to be intimately connected to Daniel. But with each passing day, he floats away from her. When she thinks about him now, it is more as a lost possibility than as a man. She has forgotten his breath, his musculature.

"So you answered the ad?"

"I did."

Sydney wraps herself in the bubble-gum-pink towel. In the distance, she can see another man rising from a chair on the porch. He puts his hands on the railing.

"Are you a teacher?"

"No. I'm not much of anything at the moment."


Sydney cannot read the really. Dismissive? Disappointed? Intrigued?

Sydney has an impression of lighter hair, a slighter body. The man who is Jeff shuffles down the first set of stairs from the porch to the boardwalk, and, for a few seconds, he is out of sight. When he emerges onto the deck, she can see that he has on bathing trunks and a navy polo shirt.

Jeff waits for them at the head of the stairs. Sydney greets his feet first (in weathered boat shoes), his legs next (lightly tanned with golden hairs), and, finally, the faded bathing trunks (grayish with purple blotches; she guesses navy originally, an unfortunate wash with bleach). He steps back to make way for the two of them, and there's an awkward introduction in a small space. Sydney's nose begins to run with salt water. She shakes Jeff's hand. Hers, she knows, must feel icy.

"We've heard a lot about you," Jeff says.

Sydney is dismayed. She expected more.

Jeff's face is loose and open, the green eyes guileless. Sydney thinks it is probably not possible to be his age and guileless, but there it is. The family dog, Tullus (short for Catullus?), trots down the boardwalk and plants himself directly below Jeff's hands. This confirms her impression. Animals can always tell.

"Hey," Jeff says, bending to the golden retriever and ruffling him affectionately.

Mr. and Mrs. Edwards and Julie come out onto the porch, a nucleus intact. Ben wraps his arms around Julie and rocks his sister from side to side. Six glasses of iced tea have been set upon a teak table. Jeff picks up a glass and hands it to Sydney, smiling as he does so. She notices that he, like his brother and sister, has remarkably even teeth, and she imagines many thousands in orthodontia. Sydney, whose mother could barely remember to schedule regular checkups, has an imperfect smile, a slightly misaligned eyetooth its distinctive feature.

Ben has brown eyes like his mother. Jeff, Sydney can see, takes after his father.

Sydney leans against the railing and tugs the towel tighter. Her hair, she guesses, must be a horror of Gorgonlike dreads from the salt water.

Mrs. Edwards, who has previously seemed cold, is animated with her sons. On the porch, she is possessive, never still, touching them often, making it easy for them to touch her. She wants to be seen as the perfect mother. No, Sydney decides, she wants Sydney to understand that her sons love their mother best.

Sydney knows these facts about the brothers. Ben, who is thirty-five, works in corporate real estate in Boston. Jeff, thirty-one, is a professor of political science at MIT. Sydney half expects this information to be repeated on the porch, but Mrs. Edwards exercises unusual restraint in front of her sons.

Mrs. Edwards wears khaki culottes and a white polo shirt that reveals an intractable swell between her midriff and her waist. Sydney would advise tailored white shirts left untucked over longer pants-but it is not for her to say. Mr. Edwards dresses like a man who never thinks about his clothes: baggy khakis and even looser golf shirts that droop from his shoulders. Sometimes he puts his hands flat against the stomach that hangs like an adjunct on his tall frame as he lightly bemoans the doughnut he had at breakfast or the piece of coconut pie he gave into at dinner. One senses, however, that he enjoyed these treats, that he is not a man to forgo a fleeting pleasure in favor of vanity. Unlike Mrs. Edwards, who counts her carbs religiously and seems to be hastening herself to an early death with the eggs and meats and cheeses she eats in quantity. Even the low-carb ice-cream bars she snacks on at night seem, with their slick, viscous shine, to be depositing cholesterol molecules directly into her bloodstream.

Mrs. Edwards wears her blond hair below her chin line and often pulls it back in a banana clip that ought to be pretty but instead accentuates the square shape of her head and the half inch of gray roots at the scalp. Sydney would advise a haircut in the same way she might mention the tailored white shirts, but then again, it is not within her job description.

Jeff leans against the porch railing a few feet from Sydney. His slighter frame and its concavities suggest exposure, whereas Ben's body, comfortably on display, seems fully covered.


Excerpted from Body Surfing by Anita Shreve Copyright © 2007 by by Anita Shreve. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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