Sea Creatures: A Novel

Overview

When Georgia Quillian returns to her hometown of Miami, her family in tow, she's hoping for a fresh start. They've left Illinois trailing scandal in their wake, fallout from her husband's severe sleep disorder. For months, their three-year-old son, Frankie, has refused to speak a word.

On a whim, Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for a reclusive artist, and suddenly the future offers new possibilities: time spent with her intense but kind employer might, it seems, help ...

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Sea Creatures

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Overview

When Georgia Quillian returns to her hometown of Miami, her family in tow, she's hoping for a fresh start. They've left Illinois trailing scandal in their wake, fallout from her husband's severe sleep disorder. For months, their three-year-old son, Frankie, has refused to speak a word.

On a whim, Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for a reclusive artist, and suddenly the future offers new possibilities: time spent with her intense but kind employer might, it seems, help Frankie find the courage to speak—and help Georgia reconcile the woman she was with the woman she has become. But late that summer, as a hurricane bears down on South Florida, she must face the fact that her decisions may have put her only child in danger.

A gorgeous story that "satisfies on every level" (Amazon Best Book of the Month citation), Sea Creatures is a mesmerizing exploration of the high stakes of marriage and parenthood.

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Editorial Reviews

Miami Herald
“While Miami has inspired its satirical works of genius, chilling mystery novels and excellent accounts of Cuban exile, we’ve mostly run short on first-rate literature that takes the city seriously enough to capture its eccentricities without flinching....Daniel, with Sea Creatures, gets it absolutely pitch perfect.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A tender tale of a woman navigating the responsibilities and risks of parenthood.”
Associated Press Staff
“There’s a charmer at the heart of Sea Creatures….Almost like an action-filled, emotional memoir….Gripping.”
Abraham Verghese
“A captivating, haunting novel about the complexities of the human heart and its attachments, terrain as slippery and beautiful and disaster prone as Daniel’s South Florida.”
Helen Schulman
“What I found most stirring in Sea Creatures is how deftly Daniels exposes one of the most agonizing realities of parenthood: that no matter how hard we try, or how endless our love for our children, we are hampered by our own limitations, sometimes even tragically.”
Kevin Brockmeier
“Susanna Daniel brings an uncommon intimacy to her characters’ lives, and also to the landscape where those lives unfold-a cartographer not only of the shore and the ocean but of the passions, bruises, joys, and insufficiencies of the human heart.”
Curtis Sittenfeld
“An intelligent page-turner (that is, the dream combination) about, among other things, South Florida, art, insomnia, and marriage.”
Catherine Newman
“Utterly enthralling….[Sea Creatures is] about love, loss, and longing in their most familiar forms. Brace yourself: you’ll fall hard for the characters, and your heartwill break preemptively-even before the hurricane blows through.”
Isthmus Review
“Daniel’s writing is rich in description—of both its lush Florida settings and her characters’ emotional landscapes—that draws the reader in.”
Jeanna Kolker
“A sophisticated story that holds the reader rapt….[Daniel] sets up each scene in Sea Creatures with masterful strokes….She builds momentum from the opening chapter, leading up to the crescendo….Daniel drives into tumultuous waters and emerges with a mesmerizing, beautiful novel.”
The Daily News Journal (Tennessee)
“Sea Creatures is perfect for summer reading, a more literary offering than your usual beach fare. Author Susanna Daniel crafts beautiful, dreamy descriptions of ocean life that threaten to lull readers into a sense of complacency.”
Publishers Weekly
Daniel returns to Stiltsville’s South Florida in a second novel filled with domestic upheaval, difficult choices, and far-reaching consequences. Georgia Quillian and her husband, Graham, move to Coral Gables in 1992 with their selectively mute three-year-old son Frankie in tow, aiming to start afresh after her startup business goes belly up and Graham’s parasomnia (a sleep disorder) threatens to end his career. The two buy a houseboat, Georgia takes a job shuttling supplies to Stiltsville for a reclusive artist 25 years her senior, and Graham gets a second chance at a marine research facility. But their newfound tranquility is shaken when a workup by a specialist links Frankie’s speech problem to Graham’s potentially violent sleepwalking episodes, and the couple’s marriage sinks into murky waters. In contrast to the book’s pleasurably even-keel beginnings, the climax, ushered in by Hurricane Andrew, feels crammed with mayhem and melodrama, and one of the catalysts—Graham’s sleep disorder—begs for more development early on to balance out his eventual fate. Nonetheless, Daniel’s verdant descriptions of salt and sea continue to shine, as does her portrayal of a mother struggling to protect her son. Agent: Emily Forland, Brandt & Hochman. (Aug.)
Library Journal
Following Stiltsville, winner of the PEN/Bingham Prize for Debut Fiction, Daniel returns to her hometown of Miami to offer a painfully honest look at the imperfections of parenthood and the inadvertent tragedies of both momentary inattention and futile hope. In the early 1990s, Georgia and Graham Quillian have relocated with their three-year-old son, Frankie, who has suddenly stopped speaking. While Graham settles into a new position in meteorological research, Georgia takes a job as an errand runner to reclusive artist Charlie. Shuttling between their residential houseboat and Charlie's "stilt-house" on Biscayne Bay, Georgia reflects on Graham's debilitating sleep disorder, her own chronic insomnia, and the increasingly negative effect of these problems on Frankie. Eventually, the fear and destruction wrought by Hurricane Andrew give way to renewal for Georgia and her family. VERDICT Don't confuse the waterfront setting with light beach reading; this is substantive domestic drama. Not all the characters are equally engaging, but readers interested in families coping with disabilities will find Frankie particularly compelling as he navigates changing relationships and obstacles. [See Prepub Alert, 2/4/13.]—Jennifer B. Stidham, Houston Community Coll.-Northeast
Kirkus Reviews
Daniel's (Stiltsville, 2011) novel, about a woman coping with her broken family and her husband's and son's illnesses, contains an undercurrent that surges in parts but can't quite manage to maintain its grip on the reader. Georgia Quillian and her husband, Graham, move to Georgia's hometown in Florida following the disintegration of their professional dreams in Illinois. Georgia's college-advising business has gone belly up, and an incident attributed to Graham's sleeping disorder, parasomnia, prevents him from obtaining tenure at Northwestern University. Starting anew, the couple buys an old houseboat and docks it at Georgia's father and stepmother's house, while Graham begins his new job working on a project that studies extreme weather. He spends large amounts of time away from his family, and when he's home, Graham is remote and unable to engage with Georgia or their young son, Frankie. Frankie is physically capable of speech but rarely makes a sound; he's diagnosed with selective mutism. When stepmother Lidia tells Georgia about an opening as a personal assistant to a local "hermit," she accepts the position. Artist Charlie Hicks, who's many years older than Georgia, has lived for years in a home built on pilings on the water in an area known as Stiltsville, and she goes to his place a few days a week. While Georgia organizes his art, which includes sketches of many sea creatures, she finds peace and tranquility in Charlie's presence and witnesses positive changes in Frankie as he and Charlie develop a close bond. Georgia recognizes how fractured her marriage is and sadly realizes that she and Frankie are happier when Graham is away on his extended trips. Reading Georgia's reflections about her life and her marriage sometimes feels like slogging through chest-high water to reach a faraway shore, but even though the movement is slow and the journey takes effort, getting to the other side is worth it--at least for parts of the story. The latter portion of the book sweeps readers into the mayhem of Hurricane Andrew and a heart-pounding crisis that triggers waves of powerful emotions but, unfortunately, doesn't sustain them. Once Andrew passes, the narrative slowly dribbles to a wishy-washy conclusion. Ebbs and flows.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780062219619
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 9/2/2014
  • Series: P.S.
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

Susanna Daniel was born and raised in Miami, Florida. Her first novel, Stiltsville, was awarded the PEN/Bingham prize for debut fiction. She is a graduate of Columbia University and the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and lives in Madison, Wisconsin.

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