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Two If by Sea

Two If by Sea

4.1 21
by Jacquelyn Mitchard

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From Jacquelyn Mitchard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, the “suspenseful, otherwordly, and nearly impossible to put down” (People) story about an unlikely hero whose life is transformed when he rescues a boy with an extraordinary gift.

Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in


From Jacquelyn Mitchard, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Deep End of the Ocean, the “suspenseful, otherwordly, and nearly impossible to put down” (People) story about an unlikely hero whose life is transformed when he rescues a boy with an extraordinary gift.

Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami, former police officer Frank Mercy pulls a little boy from a submerged car. Not quite knowing why, Frank doesn’t turn Ian over to the Red Cross. Instead he makes up a story about where the boy came from and takes him home, where Frank realizes that Ian has an otherworldly gift—an extraordinary ability to transform lives beyond anything he’d ever imagined. Awed and confused, Frank confesses Ian’s secret to Claudia, a beautiful champion rider who is training for the Olympics. They join together to fight the sinister forces gathering to take Ian back. In a final confrontation, Frank and Claudia will risk everything—their love, their family, their very lives—to save this boy they now love as their own son.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Mitchard’s (The Deep End of the Ocean) latest combines elements of science fiction and suspense with a heartfelt meditation on family and grief, to mixed results. When a tsunami devastates the Australian coast, Frank Mercy loses his pregnant wife and her entire extended family in the span of a few moments. Bottling up his grief, he reports for duty as a first responder and pulls a three-year-old boy named Ian from a half-submerged van. Frank feels strangely compelled to take him under his wing, and the pair flee Brisbane for Frank’s family’s horse farm in Wisconsin. It’s soon apparent that Ian is special: he can speak to animals in a way that calms even the most skittish horses, and he can convince people to do whatever he wants (which, since he’s three, generally means buying him sweets and toys). As Frank and Ian’s bond becomes stronger, both begin to heal, but just as they become comfortable, figures from Ian’s past catch up to him, and his mysterious origins become clearer, as does the danger he’s in. Mitchard’s usual strong characters and emotionally resonant prose are evident here, but a few predictable twists and a shoehorned-in love interest drag things down. This won’t grab new readers, and longtime fans may feel frustrated by the change of style and pace. Agent: Jane Gelfman, Gelfman Schneider. (Mar.)
Head Butler - Jesse Kornbluth
"Like all good novels, Two If by Sea works on two levels. There's an exciting adventure story. And beneath that is a meditation on family, loss, and recovery....It's a great story. And powerfully written....a love story that kept me reading long after I should have turned off the lights."
Library Journal
Mitchard returns with another heartbreaker, which opens with American expat Frank Mercy losing his wife and all her family in Brisbane's Christmas Eve "inland tsunami." During the flooding, he's managed to rescue a little boy named Ian and breaks the rules by taking him back to his family home in America's Midwest. But he's aware that a sinister bunch of people are edging in, eager to take Ian away. Will he and new love Claudia be able to rescue the child?
Kirkus Reviews
After losing his wife and unborn son in a tsunami in Australia, an expat horse trainer adopts a psychic 3-year-old. As Mitchard's (Second Nature: A Love Story, 2011, etc.) latest novel opens, a killer wave hits Brisbane. Among the victims are ex-cop Frank Mercy's pregnant wife and almost her entire extended family. Dazed and grief-stricken, Frank joins the volunteer rescue efforts the next day, coming to the aid of a woman and two small boys in a van that is half underwater. He plucks out the littler child, but before he can get to the others, the vehicle is swept away. When the devastated Frank returns to his family's horse farm in Wisconsin a few weeks later, he takes the components of an unexpected new life: the boy (whom he has not bothered to legally adopt), a huge horse named Glory Bee, and a young Irish groom. By this time he's learned that the boy he named Ian, who rarely speaks, has a telepathic gift—he can enter the minds of enraged people and make them calm down and be nice. Animals, too, as Frank sees when they descend into the cargo hold of their international flight, where Glory Bee and other zoo and domestic animals are going wild from the turbulent ride. "The boy had to jump back after the first time he touched Glory Bee's leg through the…wooden slats of the makeshift stall.…She was roaring, cantering in place. But the second time Ian touched her, she stopped, and if she were a woman, Frank believed he would have seen her stand there, sobbing." Frank recognizes the possibility that Ian's power could easily be used for evil—and soon enough, it becomes clear that very bad people are hunting him down, murdering those who get in their way. Meanwhile, Frank meets another woman, an equestrian psychiatrist who asks him to train her and her horse for the Olympics. As his heart begins to heal, he faces the challenge of protecting Ian from the mounting threat. A troubled protagonist, beset by disaster and malefaction, is touched by magic as he develops new emotional connections.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) balances love and loss in her new novel, Two If By Sea. It is a sweet story of one man’s road to recovery and the challenges he faces to protect the people he loves…It’s a universal adventure full of emotion and quite a bit of intrigue.”
“Suspenseful, otherworldly and nearly impossible to put down.”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
“A gripping family saga buoyed by hope and second chances…Racing to its conclusion, Mitchard's sweeping prose suspends natural boundaries. She forges a fresh sense of faith despite incredible odds.”
“A gripping new family drama… Mitchard deftly weaves together domestic drama with taut suspense as she builds to a heart-stopping climax…Mitchard explores new territory in this unusual and suspenseful tale.”
Paula McLain
"Soulful and emotionally arresting, Two If by Sea is somehow both a startling departure for Jacquelyn Mitchard and the deepest sort of coming home. With the intertwining fates of Frank Mercy and the mysterious, exceptional foundling, Ian, Mitchard masterfully mines the place where catastrophic loss meets near-impossible hope and healing, and where ordinary love and sorrow meet the most extraordinary interventions. This book will open your mind and heart in equal measures."
Jodi Picoult
"Mitchard's latest novel explores the fascinating question of those who have extraordinary gifts, what responsibility comes with those gifts, and where the line of morality falls between those poles. A thoughtful, sweeping read."
Wiley Cash
"A day after losing his wife and unborn child in a tsunami in Australia, American Frank Mercy rescues a mysterious young boy from the floodwaters. What happens next offers Mercy the opportunity to heal his new wounds while opening old ones. This sprawling family saga is a lot of things - a finely drawn character study, a transcontinental thriller, a portrait of grief and loss - but, most importantly, it is a very, very good book. Although it brings to mind the work of writers like Gail Godwin and Richard Flanagan, this is the kind of novel that only Jacquelyn Mitchard can write: a literary page-turner that is as propulsive as it resonant, as hard to define as it is to put down."
B.A. Shapiro
"Jacquelyn Mitchard has done it again. TWO IF BY SEA is a riveting story of loss, love, and redemption, driven by the tension between the worst of us and the best of us. Both supernatural and reality-bound, this tantalizing thriller won’t let you go. Kudos to Mitchard for such an insightful and compelling read.”
Brett Lott
"With grand landscapes, deep emotions, harrowing adventure, and genuine characters who aren¹t characters at all but people about whom we come to care so very much, Two if by Sea is a powerful blockbuster of the first order. There is magic here, both in terms of the vast story told, and in Ms. Mitchard¹s always-beautiful writing. This is a riveting book, a gift to readers everywhere who want to sink into a novel of history and love and grace and magic."

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.40(d)

Read an Excerpt

Two If by Sea


SO MANY THINGS happen when people can’t sleep.

It was always hot in Brisbane, but that night was pouty, unsettling. After getting Natalie and her family comfortable in their rooms at the inn, Frank couldn’t rest. His leg plagued him. The toll of oppressive weather on that kind of old injury was no old farmer’s myth. He rambled around, briefly joining Natalie’s brother Brian in the bar on the beach, then painfully mounting the switchbacked decks of wooden stairs that led to a kind of viewing platform just adjacent to the car park, looking out over Bribie Island Beach. Up there, he hoped the signal would be good enough to call home, his home, if home is the place you started. For Frank, that would always be a ramshackle horse farm in south-central Wisconsin—now probably more ramshackle than when he last saw it, three years before. As the brrrrr on the other end began, his pulse quickened. He looked up at the sky and thought of all the calls darting through the sea of radio waves tonight, swift as swallows—dutiful, hopeful, wistful, sad.

“Frank?” His sister, Eden, answered, her voice holiday-bright and holiday-brittle, suddenly next to him across nine thousand miles. He was about to ask her to summon his mother to the phone so they could all talk together when he saw it. Without thinking, and without another word to Edie, he let his phone slip into his jeans pocket.

He could not figure out what it was.

He would never remember it as a wave.

Wave was too mere a word.

Although there were hundreds of photos and pieces of film, some shot just at the moment, near this very spot, Frank could look at these and remain curiously unmoved. But should he close his eyes and let himself return, the sick sweats would sweep down his breastbone, a sluice of molten ice. He would hear again the single dog’s one mournful howl, and feel the heavy apprehension, something like that moment from his days as a uniform cop when a routine traffic stop went completely to shit and a fist came flying in from nowhere, but monumentally worse. So much worse that it routed even imagination. Many years later, Frank would think, this was his first sight of the thing that would sweep away the center of his life in the minutes after midnight, and, by the time the sun rose, send surging into his arms the seed of his life to come.

Just like that. Like some mythical deity with blind eyes that took and gave unquestioned.

He saw the wave as a gleaming dam, built of stainless steel, standing upright in the misty moonlight, fifty feet tall and extending for half a mile in either direction. Then, as it collapsed in place, it was water, surging lustily forward and drowning every building on the beach, including the Murry Sand Castle Inn, where Frank’s pregnant wife and her entire extended family lay asleep. For one breath, Frank saw the inn, its porch strung with merry lanterns, red and gold and green, and in the next breath, he saw everything disappear, every light go out, faster than it was possible to think the words that could describe it.

He shouted, “No!” and stumbled forward to make his way down the high tiers of wooden stairs he had only just ascended.

Hoarse, in the distance, another voice called, “No!” over a cascade of sound—the brittle pop of breaking glass, screams peppering the air like gunshot, and the throaty insistence of the water.

Even as Frank turned, the mud-colored tide was boiling up the stairs and leaping the boardwalk barricade. He plunged forward, trying to wade against it, to find the riser of the wooden steps, but there was nothing; his foot bounced against water; he was soaked to the thigh. Pulling himself up along the top rail of the fence, for he would certainly be able to see something of the inn from there, or at least hear something, he shouted, “Natalie!” There were no voices. No lights except the milky smear from the hotels and office towers far in the distance to his left, like a frill of fallen stars. No sound except the insistent gossip of the water, and he was wet now to his waist. Grateful that he was still at least relatively young and passably fit, Frank hauled himself over the fence. He skip-sprinted across the car park, to their little Morris Mini-Minor. Water was already frothing around the tires. Frank pulled open the door, throwing himself into the seat, fumbling for his keys, quickly gaining the highway.

He stopped again and got out.

He heard a man’s voice cry, “Help! Who’s there . . . ?” and then again the swallowing silence. Floodwater rocked at the verge of the road; now how many feet above sea level? Of the two of them, Natalie was, pound for pound, by far the stronger, fitter, even tougher. Of the two of them, she was also the more intrepid, the more likely to have found some way to outsmart and elude this cliff of tides. They would find each other, and he did her no service by stalling here, forsaking his own life for no purpose. Natalie would have hated him for that. He floored it, racing inland. Miles sloughed away and he felt rather than saw the dark shapes of other cars congealing around him.

At last, there was nowhere to move, and all the cars had to stop and Frank got out and walked.

Others walked, too.

An old man struggled under the weight of a gray-lipped girl. She was perhaps ten or eleven years old and her sweet, lifeless face had closed in a smile, her nose and eyes pouring saltwater tears. Frank saw a young woman wearing just one shoe. She clutched a bundle of wet clothes, among them a child’s small jersey embroidered with cross-stitched Santas. A man Frank’s own age sat sobbing near a great blooming evergreen frangipani. Frank avoided their eyes. He thought he might be able to get to a place where he could think, but he only walked farther. He met people hiking toward him, or saw them sitting in their cars, or standing still by the roadside, their hands like the pendulums of broken clocks. After some time, he came upon a large group gathered around a car whose young driver had removed his outsized speakers from the dash. A basso radio voice intoned, “Now you will hear that the tsunami happened because of climate change, friends. You will hear that it struck our coast because of a tropical storm deep in the Pacific. You will hear that this was a random event. But do you believe that? How can any man believe that it was coincidence that water swept into the Sodom of Brisbane on this very hallowed night? Intelligent people will say that we have failed to take care of our earth. But the Lord God Almighty does not care about the climate. He cares about the climate of our souls! As it says in Matthew, ‘Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.’ And so it has come . . .”

Frank walked around a curve in the road, and the preacher’s voice faded to a series of thumps, like the bass notes of a song from a car passing the open window of Frank’s childhood bedroom on the farm. A pale vein of light lolled on the horizon.

It would soon be dawn, on Christmas morning.

Meet the Author

New York Times bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard has written many novels for adults, including Two If by Sea. She has also written young adult novels; children’s books; a memoir, Mother Less Child; and a collection of essays, The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship. Her first novel, The Deep End of the Ocean, was the inaugural selection of the Oprah Winfrey Book Club, later adapted for a feature film starring and produced by Michelle Pfeiffer. Mitchard is the editor in chief and co-creator of Merit Press and a professor of fiction and creative nonfiction at Vermont College of Fine Arts in Montpelier. She lives on Cape Cod with her husband and their nine children.

Brief Biography

Madison, Wisconsin
Place of Birth:
Chicago, Illinois
B.A. in English, Rockford College, 1973

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Two If by Sea 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 21 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thi book had me hooked from the first few pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I almost put this book down several times but decided to keep reading. It started to pick up when Frank and Ian arrived in Wisconsin. When they moved to England the story fell off some. You know the bad guys are coming and they do and then the story is over. Wasn't thrilled with the end.
Luckygranadma More than 1 year ago
Very nice book, great plot, but I could have done with less of unnecessary lenghty writting. I finally started just to skim briefelly through chunks of sentences. But really well wort reading
Anonymous 10 months ago
Ilovemister More than 1 year ago
It was a good book. But, it was very confusing in certain parts. I don't know if I will read another by her.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Cecile-Sune-Book-Obsessed More than 1 year ago
Frank Mercy is an American expat in Brisbane, Australia, when his wife and unborn child perish in a tsunami. A former police officer, he is a volunteer first responder and helps rescue the survivors of the flood. Among them is a mysterious young boy whom Frank feels compelled to protect and care for. He decides to bring the 3-year-old back to the States with him, but he soon realizes that the boy seems to have supernatural powers and that dangerous people are looking for him. Back in Wisconsin, Frank takes up the family business as a trainer of elite show jumping horses, hoping to put the past behind him and give the child as normal a life as he can have, given his powerful gift. Two If by Sea is beautifully written, and Jacquelyn Mitchard is completely in command of her narrative. In addition, the main characters are well developed and complex. The book deals with family, grief and healing, and while it is sometimes dark, it remains deeply hopeful. The only negative comment I would have is that it seems a bit too easy for Frank to take the boy to the US, without legally adopting him. Other than that, this is a riveting book, definitely worth reading. Two If by Sea was sent to me for free in exchange for an honest review. Please go to my blog, Cecile Sune - Bookobsessed, if you would like to read more reviews or discover fun facts about books and authors.
thereadingchick More than 1 year ago
Two If By Sea is more than a tragic tale of a man who survives tragedy, only to find love again. It's about an honorable man, ex cop, Frank Mercy, who, after saving a young boys life, illegally takes him back to his home in the United States. It's about the bond he develops with this young boy, a bond that becomes stronger after discovering that Ian is different. Ian can influence others behavior, and that power may have ungodly potential, if the wrong people were to take charge of him. This is a tale of a father's love for his son and vice versa, and that is what is so compelling to me. That love is unquestioning even though everything about Ian is a big question mark. The tension in this story doesn't ever settle. Partly because the reader, as a witness to Frank's kidnapping (essentially) of Ian, becomes a partner in that crime. We witness how he extradites their removal to the United States, but don't fully understand why he made this unlikely decision until we are on the plane with Frank and Ian, and see Ian's first miracle. At that moment we, the reader, become Frank's partner in crime. This child must be kept safe. While Frank remains obtuse about the danger following them, the reader is looking over his shoulder, wanting to nudge him into acknowledging it faster. This was a great way for the author to amp the tension, while still telling a loving story. Ian, as he gains confidence in his safety, also becomes more precocious and funny, which draws the reader even deeper into caring about his well being. The mystical, magical nature of this story was well told. I felt each characters amazement, disbelief and acceptance. Claudia, Frank's love interest, had the most difficult job of building a relationship with the reader. I had felt Frank's devastation after the loss of his wife and son in the tsunami and found it hard to let go of his previous life, making Claudia work a little harder to find a place in my head and heart. It was only after Colin, Ian's brother entered the story that I saw that her calm rationalizing, and strength were needed to create that family unit. That she and Frank together we're what the boys needed. For me, their romance was secondary, but I fell in love with those boys. Other readers may feel differently, and if you do, let me know who turned out to be your favorite character. I was provided a copy of this book by the publisher, Simon and Schuster, through NetGalley for my honest and unbiased review. This book will be released on March 15, 2016.
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Whats_SusanReading More than 1 year ago
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderfully, well-crafted novel to savor!, March 31, 2016 By Susan Reading Verified Purchase(What's this?) This review is from: Two If by Sea (Hardcover) If you have been waiting for an exciting, interesting, thrilling novel written by a great author here it is : Two If By Sea is the newest superlative novel written by Jacquelyn Mitchard. It is simply and elegantly enthralling. From the very first few pages, I found it very hard to stop reading. Her telling of a man watching the horrific decimation brought by a tsunami in Brisbane, Australia and it's seemingly never-ending aftermath is written with such amazing imagery, I found myself breathless. The story's protagonist is Frank Mercy, a former Chicago policeman, who loses his beautiful wife and their unborn son to this terror of nature, along with most of her family, and is then sent reeling into a life where solid footing is literally and figuratively an impossibility. Much like the debris and wreckage that the tsunami leaves behind, Frank numbly moves about, eventually finding some purpose in being a first responder/rescuer, although he is still really in shock and running on auto-pilot. When he rescues a little boy from a flooding car, his path once again changes course, and keeping this frightened child safe from harm becomes his main goal. Mitchard's writing is beautiful, even when describing devastation. Her way with words is so artistic, it reminds me of watching someone paint a picture, adding color and shading and depth with every brushstroke, drawing you in slowly, until you are completely captivated. It was easy to visualize this story as I read it and that is part of the reason I didn't want to put it down. The words she chooses are so perfectly luminous they beg to be read over again. Her writing should be savored; she really is a master of the written word. Two If By Sea is a novel about love, and creating a family. It is a heart-pounding thriller, and I dare you to read the last few chapters without feeling nerves-on-edge anxiety, or rooting for the heroes. or getting a lump in your throat. It has elements of mystery and magic and wonder, yet it is about real people. And it is now the latest addition to the shelf in my library reserved for Books I Love, although there will be many other shelves it may find itself residing upon, such as Highly Recommended, and To Be Read Again (and Again). It was an excellent novel, and well worth the wait.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Story idea good, telling of it not so much,
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
He is busy chasing Sparks and trying to male her love him again at w&p
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I dont mean to be rude. BUT WOULD U DO THEM A FAVOR AND LEAVE???????????~ROSE
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Walks in... c-can i p-play.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You go first.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Join titanic team.