The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners

( 35 )


Years ago, Lyra Davis fled the people she loved most, unable to reconcile the expectations of her wealthy family with the longings of her own wild heart. Now she lives quietly among a community of expatriates on the isle of Capri, slowly, carefully learning to live fully for the first time.

Pell Davis, wise beyond her sixteen years, and her younger sister Lucy still long for the mother who ran away from them when they were children. Pell thinks she knows why Lyra left. Now she ...

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Years ago, Lyra Davis fled the people she loved most, unable to reconcile the expectations of her wealthy family with the longings of her own wild heart. Now she lives quietly among a community of expatriates on the isle of Capri, slowly, carefully learning to live fully for the first time.

Pell Davis, wise beyond her sixteen years, and her younger sister Lucy still long for the mother who ran away from them when they were children. Pell thinks she knows why Lyra left. Now she will travel across an ocean to find the mother she remembers and learn the deeper truths Lyra has never been able to reveal.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for the novels of Luanne Rice:

“A rare combination of realism and romance.”—The New York Times Book Review on Summer Light

“Few writers evoke summer's translucent days so effortlessly, or better capture the bittersweet ties of family love.”
Publishers Weekly on Beach Girls

“Irresistible…vivid storytelling. Readers can almost smell the sea air. Rice has a gift for creating realistic characters, and the pages fly by as those characters explore the bonds of family.”—Orlando Sentinel on The Secret Hour

”Luanne Rice has enticed millions of readers by enveloping them in stories that are wrapped in the hot, sultry weather of summer…she does it so well.”—USA Today

Publishers Weekly

The amazingly prolific Rice reintroduces characters from 2009's Geometry of Sisters for this heart-tugger about a reunion of a mother and her two daughters who've been separated for 10 years due to a disturbing secret. Set on the picturesque isle of Capri, Rice's touching tale reflects on how families can survive and thrive despite tragedies. Lyra Nicholson is a lonely heiress living in Italy while her equally lonely daughters, 16-year-old Pell and Lucy, a 14-year-old math whiz, live in Newport, R.Iwith their grandmother. Lucy's already tried to contact (via equations) the ghost of her dead father with Beck, her BFF and the sister of Pell's boyfriend, Travis. Pell travels to Italy, wanting Lyra, who abandoned her and Lucy, to finally take responsibility for them. Max Gardiner, her mother's smitten playwright neighbor, encourages Pell, even as she is distracted by Rafe, Max's 19-year-old recovering addict grandson. Rice gives Pell an old-beyond-her-years stability that Lyra lacks in this beguiling beach read that would suit YA readers as well as their mothers. (Aug.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780553589788
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 9/28/2010
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 445,890
  • Product dimensions: 7.14 (w) x 11.28 (h) x 1.08 (d)

Meet the Author

Luanne Rice

Luanne Rice is the author of twenty-seven novels, most recently The Geometry of Sisters, Last Kiss, Light of the Moon, What Matters Most, The Edge of Winter, Sandcastles, Summer of Roses, Summer’s Child, Silver Bells, and Beach Girls. She lives in New York City and Old Lyme, Connecticut.

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    1. Date of Birth:
      September 25, 1955
    2. Place of Birth:
      New Britain, CT

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

I'd flown all night. Taking off from New York, banking over the Atlantic, the plane had headed east into the darkness, toward Rome. Stars filled the sky. Once the flight attendants dimmed the cabin lights, I stared out the window at a thousand constellations. I don't think I slept a minute. My thoughts were a web, swinging me from one star to the next.

I was alone. I mean, there were other people on the plane, but I was traveling by myself, without Lucy. You don't take little sisters on missions, especially when you are completely unsure of the outcome. My grandmother insisted I fly first-class. It wasn't even a discussion—once I told her that I was going to Italy to see my mother, as much as she disliked the idea, she put me in touch with the family travel agent, with the words "Pell Davis, you've always loved a lost cause."

Travis drove me from Newport, Rhode Island, to JFK. We didn't speak a lot. We each had too much on our minds. He had to get back to his job, I was thinking about what I'd set out for myself on this trip, and we both were considering the weeks of being apart looming ahead.

There were good reasons for this trip. I knew I didn't have to explain them to Travis. He's my boyfriend, but we have an unusual relationship. He's a football star at our school, and therefore tough, but sensitive in ways that belie outward facts.

He drove me through Connecticut, across the Whitestone Bridge, to the Alitalia terminal at JFK. We got there very early, hours to spare. The June midday sun was hot as we stepped out of the car.
Travis lifted my bags and backpack from the trunk, checked to make sure I had my passport. Twenty-four hours earlier, the maximum allowable span, he had printed out my boarding pass for me. I looked at my watch, calculating the time he would need to drive home to Newport. He had signed onto a fishing boat as deckhand, and they went out at dusk.

We took care of each other, just as we took care of our sisters and, in Travis's case, his mother. Both of our fathers are dead. They died too young, beloved men. We are shaped by the loss of our fathers, and others. Perhaps that's what drew me to Travis in the first place, a sense that he understood love and life's beauty are real, but any assurance they will last forever is a soothing lie.

The flight from New York was smooth. Flying eastward across Long Island at sunset, I looked down and saw the North and South forks, the curve of Montauk, the dark water of Block Island Sound beneath scratchy white wakes of fishing boats and pleasure craft. Could one of those boats hold Travis? I chose to think yes, I saw him as I left, and he watched my plane pass overhead.

Love is like that. You can see everything. All it takes is the right kind of attention. When my father taught me to play baseball, we'd stand out in the yard until the light died and fireflies came out. He'd throw and I'd catch, or he'd pitch and I'd hit. He'd say, "Don't take your eyes off the ball, sweetheart. No matter what, just keep your eyes on the ball." That's how to see everything with the people you love—keep watching, stay vigilant, watch the ball instead of the fireflies.

So my last sight over the United States was of Travis's boat. He and his family are looking after my sleepwalking sister while I am gone. An ocean later, I landed at Rome, was met by a driver, and taken to Sorrento. Two and a half hours on the road, a chance to think about what I am about to do.

The long drive from Rome to Sorrento, jet-lagged, horns blaring, my grandmother's style of driver: uniformed chauffeur. I will be straightforward about something right now, just so you will understand. Gossip columns, before and after she left the country, referred to my mother as "Lyra Nicholson Davis, heiress." Now they say the same of Lucy and me. Old money, blue-bloods, heirs to the Nicholson silver fortune. We ignore what is said. They now say of my mother, "reclusive heiress." We overlook that too.

My grandmother arranged to borrow the chauffeur from her friend Contessa Otavia Migliori, who used to spend summers in Newport, at Stone Lea, the property next door to what used to be the Aitkens', parents of Martha Sharp Crawford, also known as Sunny von Bxlow. Another tragic Newport family. I think of Cosima, daughter of Sunny and Claus, her father accused of trying to kill her mother over Christmas holidays by injecting her with insulin, then leaving her in a room with windows open to the frigid sea air. He was convicted, then acquitted.

This is the most terrible thing I ever heard, and it sticks with me over the years, but I once heard my mother crying, shrieking, that something was killing her, killing everything she had inside her. Even as a child, I knew she wasn't talking about a knife or a gun or a drug. She meant her heart and soul. She left us about a week later. And the really unjust, awful thing is, it took a few years, but my father is the one who wound up dying.

Anyway, the contessa's chauffeur drove me to Sorrento, an ancient seaside city filled with dark and crumbling beauty I felt too nervous to notice. Lucy would have—she loves antiquities, ghosts, and architecture. I felt pricked by guilt; perhaps I should have brought my sister. Will Lucy be okay without me this summer? We're very close. For so long, we've been each other's most important person.

But the alternative was to bring her along, without knowing what to expect. What if our mother rejects us all over again? I am strong. I have Travis. But Lucy is my little sister. I want to protect her.

The limousine snaked down the hill to the port. Bright boats lined the docks, reminding me of Newport. I opened the window to smell the sea air. The chauffeur seemed to know just where to go.
He drove along the quay, past shops selling shell jewelry, colorful pareos, and finely woven sun hats. I saw stalls of fresh fish, their glistening bodies packed in seaweed, yellow eyes flat and sightless. The smell of strong coffee hit me as we passed a cafe. I wanted some, but couldn't bear to stop until I saw if she'd come to meet me.

We drove between a pair of stone pillars, onto a wooden dock. It seemed like a loading zone—fishing boats and small cargo vessels were tied alongside, and trucks filled with supplies for the islands parked along the edge. Metal and wind: halyards clanging against masts, longshoremen swinging big iron hooks. We stopped at the end of the pier. I climbed out. It felt good to stretch my legs, but my chest was in a knot. Had my mother come to meet me? Was I about to see her?

The chauffeur lowered my bags into a yellow wooden boat tied to barnacle-covered pilings. An old man in a blue shirt and rumpled khakis, his face tan and wrinkled and hair pure white, grabbed the bags, stowed them under a varnished wooden seat. I stood on the dock, staring at the man.

"Hello, Pell," the man said in an English accent. "Come along now, and I'll take you to your mother."

"She's not here," I said stupidly.

"No," he said without explanation. I was upset, and he could see. He stared at me with sharp blue eyes. He didn't fill the silence with excuses about a headache, an important phone call, an earthquake, a plague of locusts, any of the many things that could have detained her. Reaching up, he offered to help me down into the boat from the pier.

"Buono viaggio," the chauffeur said to me.

I thanked him. I didn't tip him, knowing my grandmother would have made arrangements with the contessa. Then I took the old man's hand, stepped down from the dock into the yellow boat.

"I'm Max Gardiner," he said.

"Her neighbor," I said. I'd heard the name before, in letters about Capri, the island's expatriate community, all the artists and intellectuals, the fabulous people, the thinkers and writers who so fascinated her, who'd moved to the island from the United States and England, who had become her friends, companions in her desire to insulate herself from the world. From her daughters, Lucy and me. Max owned the land next to hers.

"Yes," he said. "Now sit tight. Prepare for wonder."

Wonder. Had he really said that? I forced a polite smile that hid the pain I felt. I wasn't new to the sea. I'd visited islands before. I'd been on boats every summer of my life. Now I was on the way to force myself in, to spend time with a woman who'd never wanted me, who didn't want me now.

I untied the bowline to be helpful and show him I knew my way around boats, then took my seat as he cast off. The engine sputtered, and we headed out. Bright day, brilliant blue sky, sparkling sea.

It could have been Newport, this atmosphere of the sea, yachts, classic wooden workboats with nets glittering with fish scales; I thought of Travis, in a time zone six hours behind me. He would have returned from a night of fishing; he would be asleep in his family's cottage on the grounds of Newport Academy by now. I hoped my sister was sleeping as well. There was this incident, a dream-state walking-to-Italy kind of thing, that we hope won't repeat itself. I held my backpack tight to my chest. It felt compact, comforting. I had filled it with books, letters, pictures of the people I love.

We puttered out of the channel. I heard a breath come from the water just below the gunwale—a quick, happy intake of air, then a rushed exhalation. Dolphins swimming beside our yellow boat. I glanced over my shoulder at Max. Was this what he'd meant by wonder? He smiled at me, pointed dead ahead.

"You only get this chance once," he said.

"What chance?" I asked.

"To arrive on Capri for the first time. I feel privileged to witness it."

It's an island, I wanted to say. Far from home. A mountain, a harbor. Marine mammals, yes, but no Lucy, no Travis. I faced forward again, my posture stoic as the boat gained speed.

And as I stared ahead, I saw: the white rocks of Monte Solaro, craggy against the sapphire sky, a precipitous drop down to the radiant sea. I smelled lemons, verbena, and pine, their scents carried on the wind. Terraces of olive groves, leaves flashing silver in the sun. Capri rose from the waves, and I realized how often I'd dreamed of this. The island was the most beautiful place I'd ever seen, and not because of the scenery.

Because my mother lived there.
• *

Max had left the villa just before dawn. He'd crossed the broad stone terrace, made his way down the steep, winding stairs, through groves of olive and fig trees. The sharply pitched land was terraced, overlooking the Bay of Naples; he used a flashlight, but he could have found his way blindfolded—he was seventy-two, and had lived here over half his life. There was such beauty on Capri; he wanted to shout, wake up the island, tell Lyra, Rafe, all the islanders, to open their eyes. Love one another, be happy, life is short!

Two levels down from the villa, he had passed the small white cottage, saw one light burning. Lyra was already awake, keeping vigil. Last night's almost full moon had hung low in the sky, casting silver light across the water, pulling at the tides. Low tide was treacherous twice each month, when the water ebbed under the new and full moons, exposing rocks and stranding sea creatures in tidal pools that wouldn't fill until the lunar cycle came round again.

Now, steering his yellow boat back from Sorrento, he had Pell safe and sound, on her way to Lyra. Max saw his grandson walking the rocky shore, rescuing invertebrates. Capri was a blue mirage, the massif of Monte Solaro floating above the sea. Max looked up, seeking out the whitewashed cottage on the hillside. Sunlight glinted off binoculars held by Lyra, standing among olive trees.

"She's waiting for you," he said.

"My mother," Pell said.

"Yes," Max replied. He slowed the boat down, steered toward the private dock.

"Where?" she asked, shielding her eyes.

"Up there," Max said, pointing.

Pell's expression made his heart catch. He glanced up, wondering if Lyra could catch the full impact of her effect on her daughter through the binoculars. The young girl's head was tilted back, her mouth open. There was joy in hope.

As Max pulled up to the dock, the dolphins leapt and dove, swimming away. Dolphins were emotional creatures, just like people. They were capable of love, great loyalty, staying together for life. If ever they were separated from their children, one ripped from the other, the parents grieved and keened. He'd observed that in dolphins, just as he had in humans.

"Ready?" he asked Pell.

"Ready," she said.

He looked around, wanting help with the lines, but Rafe seemed to have disappeared. So Max climbed up on the wooden dock, and tied the boat fast.

• *
Lyra braced her elbows on the wall, to steady them. She finally pressed the binoculars to her eyes. Max docking the boat. And up forward, in the bow, a lovely young girl. Shocking, stunning, take-your-breath-away beauty. Long dark hair tied back, tendrils blowing around her face. Pell stared straight up the hill, as if she could see Lyra behind the stone wall, and maybe she could. Even as a baby she'd had an intense, seeking gaze.

The sight of her daughter made every muscle in Lyra's body jump, as if her skin had memories all its own. She felt pressure on, not in, her chest: a six-pound, seven-ounce weight. Pell, just born, wet and slippery, hot as a coal, bellowing. Lyra had held her daughter. Taylor was right there, standing beside them, but the moment was Lyra and Pell's. It's not every day you have a daughter, and as much as you might love her father, he'll never know the wild electricity you have with her.

Standing in her Italian garden, Lyra Davis stared down at the small yellow boat and thought of that tiny baby. She pictured the six-year-old girl that baby had become. Pell had been six, Lucy four, when Lyra left—ten years since Lyra had seen either of her daughters.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 35 )
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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 35 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 10, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners

    This was the second book I have read by Luanne. The first being Geometry of Sisters. The story line kept me wanting to read more. I also pictured the beautiful scenery described by the author. I would strongly recommend this as a fabulous read so much so that I am going to check on her other books.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2009

    Warm and exciting story...

    Luanne Rice seems to write from the heart...Her stories always bring you into the "family" involved...This is no exception. Reads beautifully..You feel as if you are on Capri...Nice to know what became of the characters from her last book...and here they are! Wonderful...

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2015


    She nodded and followed him

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 12, 2015


    "There are no cinderclan cats aeound lets go back to camp" he said

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 31, 2015

    Robinfur and co

    Robinfur gave Mintpaw some coltsfoot and asked her "What is this?" Mintpaw examined the coltsfoot and sniffed it. "Coltsfoot." She said. "Good. What is it used for?" Icestorm asked. "The leaves are to be chewed into pulp and given to a cat who is out of breath."

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2013

    Love Luanne Rice!!!!!!!

    Great book and felt characters well written and real. I'd love to fly off to an island.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 1, 2013


    Next b

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Awesome saga of sisters in a very broken family

    Luanne Rice is one of my favorite Autors.She gets into the depths of family saga's and how they are all working thru it in their own ways. This one is a view deep into the intricate ways each person handled the trauma's that they all survived. Great Read !

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  • Posted November 16, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Not one of her best novels

    This was not one of her best novels. I had trouble staying interested and almost put it down twice.

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  • Posted May 19, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Typical Rice Story

    This book is a sequel of sorts to The Geometry of Sisters. Pell goes to Capri to convince her long-lost mother to return back to their home in the States. A typical Rice family drama unfolds. It was a decent read, not her best. I really like a lot of her early stuff, like Cloud Nine. The dialogue in this book seemed a little stiff at times but all in all it wasn't too bad.

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  • Posted November 29, 2009

    Couldn't put it down

    I love Luanne Rice and this is another great read!!! I could not put this book down. I can't wait until her next book comes out. She definatley did not disappoint readers with this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    if you're a luanne rice fan you will enjoy this book.

    luanne rice writes about families under stress or undergoing a crisis. this book is no exception. however, this story begins after the crisis is over; and characters are reunited. amidst the happiness is also the bitterness and anger that has festered for a long time. these feelings are also compounded by guilt and fear, and of course, love. as usual, ms. rice's characters are believable. the setting is magnificent! it takes place on the isle of capri, italy. this was a very pleasant change from hubbard's point.

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  • Posted September 10, 2009

    more from this reviewer


    Audiobooks simply do not get any better than those read by Blair Brown. Giving her cover credit as reader is an understatement - she's a gifted actress who brings emotion, vitality, and stage training to her narrations. A Tony Award winner for her performance in Copenhagen plus a slew of awards for The Days and Nights Of Molly Brown, she's a performer who raises the level of every title she voices.

    For this listener that was certainly true of The Deep Blue Sea For Beginners. With Brown at the mike this story of a family asunder became compelling drama.

    Not to worry if you're not familiar with Rice's Geometry Of Sisters in which two sisters, Pell and Lucy, were introduced, you'll have no trouble in catching up with their lives. It has now been ten years since they were abandoned by their mother, Lyra Nicholson Davis. Now, why a Mom would desert two daughters, a doting husband, a lovely home in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, and a plush lifestyle is anyone's guess. But, that Lyra did and left behind nothing but a rather odd crayoned map.

    Well, now due to Dad's death the sisters are not only fatherless but motherless. At this juncture, Pell decides to go after her mother to make sure younger sister Lucy is cared for before Pell's college days begin. Where is Mom? On the fabled Isle of Capri. Really, if you have to go somewhere to bring someone home, that a cool destination.

    Once there, as one would expect, Pell learns some surprising facts about the earlier abandonment, and meets Rafe for whom she develops feelings. However, her boyfriend, Travis, is about to join them. There's also Max who has developed a serious fondness for Lyra. Plus, some blue sea supernatural shenanigans find their way into the story line.

    Sound a bit much for a 16-year-old to unravel? In Rice's hands it somehow all begins to make sense. The Deep Blue Sea For Beginners is an entertaining diversion set in one of the most beautiful spots on earth.

    - Gail Cooke

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    Posted February 21, 2011

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