Excerpt from Tides by Sara Freeman, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Sara Freeman

Tides by Sara Freeman X
Tides by Sara Freeman
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  • First Published:
    Jan 2022, 256 pages

    Jan 2023, 256 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Tasneem Pocketwala
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On the long bus journey out, she doesn't cry or even have a single thought that she can name. She watches the dark impossibility of the road instead, the mostly empty seats ahead of her, the head of a woman a few rows up, listing forward and then jolting back. She does not sleep. She wants to be awake to make her declaration at the border. She will show her passport and when they ask, Where to? she will say without hesitation, The sea.

She does not have to leave. No one says: You must go. No clothes thrown out the window, no eviction notice. Her husband is already gone by then; she was the one to tell him that he had to go. She could say it was the baby – her brother's and his wife's. His sweet squawking through the open window in the apartment beneath hers. She could no longer live in this fixed way: their joy so firmly lodged beneath her grief. She could say that.

The motel advertises an ocean breeze but is nowhere near the beach. She waits in the small room, for something, for someone. She has turned her phone off, but she still feels it in her palm, waiting to bleat back to life. To deliver what message? I love you. I miss you. Come back. She left a note for her brother and his wife. No explanation or apology. I'll be fine! That's what she wrote. She asks at the reception desk about another motel, nearer the water this time. The woman behind the counter has eyebrows like tadpoles swimming lazily across her forehead. She says there is a town she might like, remote, for rich folks mostly, about thirty miles up the coast. There is a hostel there too. She puts her index finger on a map, her nail filed down to a tidy point. This one is canary yellow, the surrounding ones sky blue.

She gets a ride from a man who is delivering ice across the state. His eyes are blue and inflamed, his hands raw and meaty. The town sign reads: this road leads to rome, with an ugly drawing of the Colosseum, followed by the population, 2,353. When she gets out in the town's central square, she touches the hard shell of the truck with gratitude and it is so cold, the hairs on her arm stand up.

There is no coliseum in this Rome. Instead, a supermarket, a Greek restaurant, an Italian restaurant, a seafood spot, an ice-cream shop, a wine store, a laundromat, a pub, an inn, a garden center, a health center, a hardware store, a library, a clothing store, a pharmacy, a marina and a dump.

The sea, in this new town, is surprisingly hard to get to. It is somehow everywhere and nowhere. She needs an invitation, a private viewing: through the stately homes, and onto the other side, where everything is vast and pristine. The other her, the one she left behind, would have easily slid between the giant piles, past the outdoor furniture, past the slim lounging bodies and their pure-bred dogs. Everything belonged to her then; that was back when she believed that nothing that could so easily be had wasn't somehow already hers.

From her bedroom window in the hostel, she can see it best: the sea and its expanse, edging in and then pulling back. She doesn't want to be in it yet. It is warm out, but she still feels frozen, blood-let, fleshless. She is content, for now, to watch the comings and goings from afar.

In the evenings, she walks along the town's main drag. It is shaped like a horseshoe. She often sees the same faces twice, on the way to the ice-cream shop, and then on their way back. There are often tears on the return journey, mostly children's, but on one occasion a grown woman's and her wife's. Once desire is met, she thinks, there is only turning back from it. There is not much to do or see in the town at night: just tourists dining al fresco, prodding swordfish slabs and slurping oysters. A busker nearby crooning, Oh, oh, Mexico, as if he might be in this town in error. The first nights, she stops and finds a place among the small crowd gathered before him. But one evening, mid-song, he looks up and greets her with a complicit nod. Now, when she hears the busker's familiar sound, she passes by without so much as looking up.

Excerpted from Tides by Sara Freeman. Copyright © 2022 by Sara Freeman. Excerpted by permission of Grove Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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