The Ocean Between Us

The Ocean Between Us

by Susan Wiggs
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The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs

After years of following her navy officer husband on assignment around the world with their three children, Grace Bennett realizes that she's left something behind—herself.

Steve Bennett can't understand the unraveling of his wife's heart. He wants to set things right, but when a secret from his past is revealed just as he's sent out to sea, their already-strained relationship is pushed to the edge. Now, with plenty of space to ponder the true distance between them, Grace begins to reinvent herself.

Just as her new self is coming to terms with her family life, the unthinkable happens. A disaster aboard Steve's ship shatters Grace's world and all she can do is gather her children around and wait for news to come, good or bad. A navy wife's worst nightmare collides with the cold truth that life's biggest chances can slip away while you're busy looking for guarantees.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780778320357
Publisher: Harlequin
Publication date: 04/01/2004
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 6.16(w) x 9.50(h) x 1.13(d)

About the Author

When Susan Wiggs’s recent novel, Fireside, landed at #1 on the New York Times bestseller list, the author responded by jumping fully clothed into her swimming pool. In February. In the Pacific Northwest. After thawing herself out, the author put on her lipstick and vacuumed the living room. Why? Because on the tiny island where she lives, news travels fast. She knew her girlfriends would show up momentarily - which they did - with the customary champagne and bags of Cheetos. She toasted her loyal readers, whose unflagging interest in her books propelled her sales upward. She toasted her friends and family as well, since they have always been the source of her inspiration.

From the very start, her writings have illuminated the everyday dramas of ordinary people. At the age of eight, she self-published her first novel, entitled A Book About Some Bad Kids.

Today, she is an international best-selling author, with millions of copies of her books in print in numerous countries. Her Lakeshore Chronicles novels celebrate the power of love, the timeless bonds of family and the nuances of human nature that make headlines every day.

She lives on an island in the Pacific Northwest and is perpetually working on her next novel.

Read an Excerpt

The Ocean Between Us

By Susan Wiggs

Thorndike Press

Copyright © 2004 Susan Wiggs
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0786266716

Chapter One


Mishap: Unplanned or unexpected event causing personal injury, occupational illness, death, material loss or damage, or an explosion of any kind whether damage occurs or not.


USS Dominion (CVN-84) 0037N 17820W

Speed 33 2215 hours (Time Zone YANKEE)

Steve Bennett glanced at the clock on his computer screen. He ought to be in his rack and sleeping soundly. Instead, he sat with his feet propped on the edge of the workstation, hands clasped behind his head while he stared at a scenic Washington State calendar and thought about Grace.

He was ten thousand miles from home, on an aircraft carrier in the middle of an unofficial communications blackout instigated by Grace herself. His wife. The mother of his children. The woman who had not spoken to him willingly since he'd been deployed.

She had maintained radio silence like a wartime spy. He received official communiquis about the children, and sometimes the occasional report that made him regret giving her power of attorney. But never more than that.

The cruise was nearly over, and for the first time in his career Steve felt apprehensive about going home. He had no idea whether or not they could put their marriage back together again.

"Captain Bennett?" Anadministrative officer stood in the doorway with a clipboard in one hand and a PDA in the other.

"What is it, Lieutenant Killigrew?"

"Ms. Francine Atwater is here to see you, sir."

Bennett hid a frown. He'd nearly forgotten their appointment. In the belly of a carrier there was no day or night, just an unrelenting fluorescent sameness, stale recycled air and the constant thunder of flight ops rattling through the steel bones of the ship.

"Send her in." He unfolded his long frame and stood, assuming the stiff and wary posture schooled into him by twenty-six years in the Navy. Killigrew left for a moment, then returned with the reporter. Steve would have preferred to use the public affairs office on the 01 deck, but apparently Ms. Atwater was adamant about exploring every facet of carrier life. It was, after all, the era of the embedded reporter.

Francine Atwater. Francine. A member of the "new media," eager to take advantage of the military's newly relaxed information policy. According to his briefing notes, she had arrived COD - carrier onboard delivery - and intended to spend the next two weeks in this floating city with its own airport. Both the skipper of the Dominion and Captain Mason Crowther, Commander of the Air Group, had welcomed her personally, but they'd quickly handed her off to others, and now it was Steve's turn.

"Ms. Atwater, I'm Captain Steve Bennett, Deputy Commander of the Air Group." He tried not to stare, but she was the first civilian woman he'd seen in months. In a skirt, no less. He silently paid tribute to the genius who had invented nylon stockings and cherry-colored lipstick.

"Thank you, Captain Bennett." Her glossy lips parted in a smile. She was a charmer, all right, the way she tilted her head to one side and looked up at him through long eyelashes. Still, he detected shadows of fatigue under her carefully made-up eyes. Newcomers to the carrier usually suffered seasickness and insomnia from all the noise.

"Welcome aboard, ma'am."

"I see you've been briefed about me," she said, indicating his notes from the PAO.

"Yes, ma'am."

"What a surprise. Everyone on this ship has. I swear, the U.S. Navy knows more about me than my own mother. My blood type, shoe size, visual acuity, sophomore-year biology grade -"

"Standard procedure, ma'am." Even in lipstick and nylon stockings, the media held no appeal to the military. Still, he respected the way she stood her ground, especially while wearing three-inch heels. Civilians were advised on practical shipboard attire, but apparently no one had wanted Francine to change her shoes.

A tremendous whoosh, followed by a loud thump, rocked the ship. She staggered a little, and he put out a hand to steady her.

"Tell me I'll get used to that," she said.

"You'd better. We're launching and recovering planes around the clock, day and night. It's not going to stop." He slid open a desk drawer and took out a sealed plastic package. "Take these. I always keep plenty on hand."

"Earplugs?" She slipped the package into her briefcase.


He motioned her to a chair and she sat down, setting aside her bag. She took out a palm-size digital recorder, then swept the small space with a glance that shifted like a radar, homing in on the few personal items in evidence. "You have a beautiful family."

"Thank you, ma'am. I think so."

"How old are your children?"

"Brian and Emma are twins. They're seniors this year. Katie's in ninth grade. And that's Grace, my wife." A world of pain and hope underlay his words, but he prayed the reporter wouldn't notice. Every day he looked at that picture and tried to figure out what would fix this. He'd never deceived his wife before, so he didn't know how to undo the damage he'd caused. An ordinary husband would go home, take her out to dinner and say, "Look, honey. The truth is ..." But Bennett couldn't do that from the middle of the ocean.

And sometimes he wondered if he even wanted to, damn it.

He'd done his best to keep her from being hurt, but she didn't seem to appreciate that.

In the photo, taken at Mustang Island when they were stationed in Corpus Christi, the four of them were laughing into the camera, sunburned faces glowing.

"This is a great shot," said Ms. Atwater. "They look like the kind of people nothing bad ever happens to."

Interesting observation. He would have agreed with her, right up until this deployment. Grace and the kids were part of the all-American family, the kind you saw on minivan commercials or at summer baseball games.

"What's it like, being away from them for months on end?"

What the hell did she think it was like? A damned fraternity party?


Excerpted from The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs Copyright © 2004 by Susan Wiggs. 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.


Heart to Heart Interview with Susan Wiggs

Heart to Heart: This novel's topic is incredibly current. What do you think of the book in light of the events of the past year [2003]?

Susan Wiggs: Good question! It's always a little eerie when, as a fiction writer, you tap into the zeitgeist without really meaning to. I began working on the book after 9/11 but before the second Gulf war, and I was conscious of the conflict as I wrote the story. In fact, a number of my U.S. Navy research sources were deployed, leaving my questions unanswered. Now that the book is finished, I feel incredibly proud of it. I believe it's an honest, heartfelt portrayal of an American family and their triumphs, troubles and sacrifices.

HtoH: Why write a novel about a military marriage? Why does it intrigue you?

SW: The topic, common as it is, fascinates me. I think in the book I likened another couple's marriage to an undiscovered country. However, unlike many fiction writers, I'm not all that interested in relationships that fail. It's the successful ones that intrigue me. So I wanted this book to be about a good marriage between two people who love each other but, over time, have lost each other. Fiction is about conflict, so the marriage had to be both conflict-ridden yet good at its core. Setting the marriage of the Bennetts (yes, that's a nod to Jane Austen) in a military milieu provided the perfect answer. A navy pilot's way of life is inherently dramatic, and there were all sorts of delicious possibilities for testing and exploring the couple's relationship with each other and with their almost-grown children.

HtoH: Your main characters, Grace and Steve, have 20 years of marriage behind them when we meet them. How difficult was it as a writer to pick up with your characters so far into their story?

SW: For me, this wasn't difficult at all. I knew Grace and Steve extremely well. Before I ever sit down to compose a draft of a novel, I've done heaps and heaps of preparatory work on the story, the characters, their backgrounds. I write a 500-to-1,000-word first-person bio about the major characters, finding their voices and their defining issues that way. I often write scenes that never make it into the book, but that inform me so I can write a rich, believable story. For example, in this book, I actually wrote the first meeting of Grace and Steve when she's a college girl and he's in naval pilot training. I also wrote about them moving to Guam and dealing with snakes, and her saying goodbye to him while pregnant with twins, knowing he won't be home for the birth. I had a real sense of Grace and Steve as people, and I hope that comes through in the novel.

HtoH: In The Ocean Between Us, Grace forms a special bond with several young military wives. Could you speak about the bonds between military wives that you witnessed during your research?

SW: "Young" is the operative word. They are incredibly young, because that's when the military needs their husbands. In any gathering, a good percentage of the women will be pregnant. What I observed among navy wives was that they could meet as strangers and 15 minutes later be the best of friends. Because they move every three years or more, they learn to form swift, strong bonds and to support each other through thick and thin. When someone gets in trouble, the others flock to her. The gossip -- good and bad -- flies faster than the speed of light, I swear. It's a wonderful community.

HtoH: What's next?

SW: A treat! No aircraft carrier disasters and visits from the chaplain! In July 2004, I'll have a classic beach read on the stands. Summer by the Sea is a novel about food, fun, and family set against the backdrop of an Italian restaurant at a seaside resort. Recipes included, just for fun. Thanks for asking!

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Ocean Between Us 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 84 reviews.
kristielippert More than 1 year ago
As a Navy brat growing up, seeing my dad go on several deployments to a Navy Wife watching my husband leave as well, this book brought everything together for me. Not only did it show the thoughts and feelings of the military man that was deployed and what he had to endure, but it also showed the children and wife he left behind and what they went through without him. I truly bonded with this family and highly recommend this book! You will cry, laugh, etc along with the characters as Susan Wiggs really opens up each one of them for you to see into their hearts.
hannahprescott More than 1 year ago
For twenty years Grace Bennett has been the perfect navy wife to her husband, Steve, traveling the globe with each re-station and raising their three children. There is conflict between Grace and Stephen that serves as a reminder of how much family members sacrifice also, so that their loved ones can serve in the military. Steve knows that his navy career puts a strain on his family. Grace is almost 40, has gained weight, and is still WAITING to get started with her life. She wants to settle down, start a career of her own.SOMETHING! Steve is bewildered by Grace's sudden change of heart towards him, when he believes that his career proves how much he cares for his family and his country. Their children are dealing with issues. Their son is rebelling against his father's pressure to attend the Navy Academy; their older daughter is dealing with her sexuality and gets caught in a dangerous situation; the younger daughter is shy, a curse in a family that is forced to move every few years and must make new friends. A past secret rears its ugly head amongst the naval suspense thriller background and the emotional struggle drama that is thought-provoking and keeps the reader spellbound! Another one that kept me absolutely spellbound was EXPLOSION IN PARIS!
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wasn¿t sure how I was going to feel about this book, An Ocean Between Us, as I knew it was not a historical romance (which is my preferred genre of love stories to read) and that it contained the story line with many characters (I was worried I might get lost along the way with too much going on) and that it was a book heavily on the military life of a Naval family (I knew little about this way of life so, unsure if I would find it interesting or too different and a bit boring). But¿.true to form, SW writes another great one. Let¿s face it, real emotion, real conflicts, real life surpasses time and space so, when an author brings you into the heart of the story line you can¿t help but be interested and fascinated all at one time. I was impressed that SW had so many characters in live action in this book yet, no one got lost along the way. That included the main characters of Grace (mother/wife), Steve (husband/father/military man), kids Emma, Katie, Brian(their teen-aged children), Josh (Steve¿s unknown first child/military man), Lauren (Josh¿s love interest) and others such as Patricia/Officer Riviera, ex-wife Cissy, and others. As the book went on, I noticed each new chapter dealt with a different person and their view point/perspective and life event was profiled and then a new character would arrive and a switch would occur again. Eventually, you got to know everyone and back and forth it went and of course, the inevitable happens, the story life comes full circle and show why everyone is tied together. The difficulty Naval and other military families go through in service to their nation was a powerful and moving story to tell. Life apart is more common than life together. Sacrifice to a thankful nation is critical element to these families but, so is the impact of living apart for a life time when it comes to husbands, wives, kids and relatives. This book showed what can happen to even the best families when distance and time take their toll. Who do you become? What do you do? What do you hope, wish and desire? Who follows who? Who stays behind? How does life go on while loves ones are away? And all the difficulty to patching up a family due to the affects of distance and duty. I found all the twists and turns in this book enjoyable. The most important of course being, the soul searching Grace did as a middle aged woman with grown kids, a duty bound Naval man moving up the ranks of his profession and trying to figure out who you are in mid life with no career, no house, no set place to call home and a lost identity. Her journey of self ¿discovery was powerful and important ¿ I¿m sure many, many women can relate. Grace¿s story re-affirmed that you teach people how to treat you so¿treat yourself goooooood! Of course this book ended up being pretty thick and long. There was some elements that could certainly have used more time and expansion but, book can only get so big. This book over-all is a great read. Pick it up soon, read it and add it to your Susan Wiggs library. You won¿t be sorry you did. If you enjoy honest and real love stories and seeing the human spirit prevail, then this is the one for you.
Guest More than 1 year ago
For two decades Grace Bennett has been the perfect navy wife to her beloved Steve while traveling the globe when her husband gets restationed and raising their three delightful children. So why is the devoted family matriarch feeling worthless and dissatisfied? Perhaps it is simply that her youngest is in ninth grade and like her older siblings needs mom less, but Grace thinks it goes deeper as she believes it is her identity that she lost....................................... Steve is bewildered by Grace¿s sudden change of heart towards him, as he believes that his career proves how much he cares for his family. Now deployed, he knows his marriage is in jeopardy especially since Grace has established a communication black out. He refuses to accept that he lost her without going down fighting as he loves his wife and children, but panics that Grace will not be there when he redeploys. When Stephen¿s ship is in troubled waters, Grace may not have a choice whether to remain a sailor¿s spouse with the overseas danger to her husband and the rest of the sailors on board.................................... THE OCEAN BETWEEN US excitingly plays out on two levels. There is the conflict between Grace and Stephen that serves as a reminder of how much family members sacrifice so that their loved ones can serve in a military that constantly ships out to hot spots (whom else but the military and their family have really sacrificed anything for the Global War on Terrorism?). The second theme is an action subplot that shows how dangerous the world is. Both the relationship drama and the naval suspense thriller combine to make a terrific thought provoking tale......................... Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book at the library even though I'm not a big reader of romance novels. Well, I stayed on the beach until 6 p.m. so I could finish it in one day! Just loved this author and can't wait to read them all.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A 20 year marriage develops cracks. And situations force husband and wife to re-think their commitment.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The best book I have read in a while -- Susan Wiggs is a great author and this is one of her bests! Thoroughly enjoyed the story and became very connected with the characters-- I found myself laughing out loud in 1 part and choking back tears in another--- A very believable and well written story--Highly recommended!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very enjoyable and in true Wiggs' fashion. Loved all the characters and their interaction with one another.
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I give t his a 5-star rating. I've read this book twice and it's one I can't put down. Having been a military wife for over 18 years, and now retired with the same man many more years, I can totally relate to Grace and sense that she wants more out of life. She is the epitome of what a commanding officer's wife shoud be, be there for the women or men who are left behind when the ship (or unit or spouse) goes to seas or other shores. The problem is, who should she go to when she's blue, unhappy, scared? At the same time she can and should look for ways she can enhance her life beyond being the CO's wife. Sometimes it's hard, especially when you have children who also need nurturing when the spouse is gone. Grace did find her self and made some changes in her life that affected all in her family. She had the respect of her children and her friends, but she had to convince her husband of the changes she made in her life that affected him as well. A well written book by Susan Wiggs, as always. This book is fast reading and interesting; I hated to put it down.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Susan Wiggs has written another good read. The characters were believable and true to life. I look forward to my next one by this author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SW tells her most powerful story about how loves grows, changes, and needs to be nurtured in this fabulous book. It reminds us that we also change through our life and experiences, just like our relationships. I feel this is her most touching novel.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful story, great characters, really like this author.
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ASHCLOUD Locked out
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I want to train.
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Wiggs characters are believable and it's easy to get invested in their lives.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Susan Wiggs at her best. This is a great book. Hard to put down.
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