Sea Creatures

( 7 )


When Georgia Quillian returns to her hometown of Miami, her husband, Graham, and their young son in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. The family has fled Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment, the fallout from Graham's severe sleep disorder and Georgia's failed business. To make matters worse, their charming three-year-old son, Frankie, has for months refused to speak a word.

Although Georgia is still grieving her mother's death from five years earlier, her father and...

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Sea Creatures

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When Georgia Quillian returns to her hometown of Miami, her husband, Graham, and their young son in tow, she is hoping for a fresh start. The family has fled Illinois trailing scandal and disappointment, the fallout from Graham's severe sleep disorder and Georgia's failed business. To make matters worse, their charming three-year-old son, Frankie, has for months refused to speak a word.

Although Georgia is still grieving her mother's death from five years earlier, her father and stepmother offer warm welcome—and a slip for the dilapidated houseboat Georgia and Graham have chosen to call home. On a lark, Georgia takes a job as an errand runner for a reclusive artist who lives in the middle of the bay, and she soon finds that time spent with the intense hermit might help Frankie find the courage to speak, and might also help her reconcile the woman she was with the woman she has become.

But when Graham leaves to work on a research vessel in Hurricane Alley, and the truth behind Frankie's mutism is revealed, the family's challenges return, more complicated than before. As a hurricane bears down on South Florida later that summer, Georgia must face the fact that her choices have put her only child in grave danger.

Sea Creatures is a mesmerizing exploration of the high stakes of marriage and parenthood, the story of a woman forced to choose between her husband, her child, and the possibility of new love.

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
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.”
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.”
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.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“A tender tale of a woman navigating the responsibilities and risks of parenthood.”
Curtis Sittenfeld
“An intelligent page-turner (that is, the dream combination) about, among other things, South Florida, art, insomnia, and marriage.”
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.”
Associated Press Staff
“There’s a charmer at the heart of Sea Creatures….Almost like an action-filled, emotional memoir….Gripping.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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.”
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: 9780062219602
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 7/30/2013
  • Pages: 311
  • Sales rank: 675,755
  • Product dimensions: 6.46 (w) x 9.12 (h) x 1.12 (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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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2014

    From here on...

    Frome here on, its all whatever you want to put. Houses, buildings, caves, dont care.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2014

    Great book

    Great book in many ways from research to writing style

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 21, 2014

    It's ok

    It's a life journey story about choices.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 19, 2013

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings There are many

    Check out the full review at Kritters Ramblings

    There are many forms of insomnia and some can really affect a relationship and a family - Georgia and Graham both deal with different forms of insomnia and it has gravely affected their son and themselves.  With a sudden move to Miami, this book dives straight into how a family must try to pick up the pieces and put everything back in order, but can it be done?

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted August 29, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Georgia and Graham move back to Miami, where Georgia grew up, af

    Georgia and Graham move back to Miami, where Georgia grew up, after they fall on hard times. They move into a ramshackle houseboat with their 3-year-old son Frankie, who is mute and hasn't spoken in a very long time. Georgia soon takes on a part-time job as an assistant to Charlie, a "hermit" who lives in a secluded stilt home in the middle of Biscayne Bay. Before they know it, Georgia and Graham will find themselves going through more changes than they ever expected when moving to Miami.

    I was delighted by this story. Some of the characters weren't very well fleshed out, like that of Georgia's father, but perhaps that suited the story, as her father was rather absent from her life most of the time, as he was often preoccupied with his own interests. But overall I loved the characters, and I loved the story and the setting.

    Georgia is a strong, but somewhat confused woman, caught in a whirlwind and unable to get her bearings. She is doing her best, trying to muddle her way through the trials strewn in her path, but realizing that perhaps she has been going about it all wrong.

    I found Georgia's husband Graham frustrating. He was hard to like at times. Of course, her son Frankie was suitably adorable.

    But my favorite character was "the hermit" Charlie. An introvert, he realizes that he is better off living away from society and with minimal interaction with others, especially after a tragic event that left him shattered. He now leads an austere life in Stiltsville as an artist, and hires Georgia to assist him.

    I loved Charlie. I loved his reserve, his social awkwardness, his creative genius, his hidden warmth. And on top of it all, he broke my heart.

    I’m not a mother, but I thought that the author relayed a mother’s love beautifully, as she struggles to figure out how to do best by her son.

    And there are times throughout the book when Georgia reflects on what motherhood really means, how it changes a woman, how her dreams and desires shift to accommodate the position. When once you may have done reckless and impulsive things, you begin to hold back, thinking of your children and the fact that they need you.

    And mothers are flawed and human, and simply do their best, and often find themselves feeling inadequate and falling short of their expectations for themselves.

    My final word: Why have I put off reading the author's debut novel for so long? After reading Sea Creatures, I am now eager to pick up her debut novel and experience her writing once again. She writes with authenticity and warmth and honesty, and her stories take place in my backyard, making me feel as if I've come home after a long, hard day and settled in my favorite chair with a cup of hot tea...and, of course, with a great book. Loved, loved, loved it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2013

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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