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Between the Tides by Patti Callahan Henry

Between the Tides is the second book I've read by Patti Callahan Henry.  I previously read and reviewed her book Coming Up For Air here on the blog (click the link to read that review).  I really enjoyed Between the Tides, and it was a quick read.  This is a lyrically written family drama steeped in the south and the mystery of a childhood tragedy that revealed a devastating family secret.

Catherine Leary is a woman who believes she's moved on from the childhood tragedy that ripped up her roots in the family's beloved Seaboro, South Carolina, but if moving on means not allowing herself to feel joy or love, has she really moved on?  Catherine reluctantly returns to Seaboro, the seaside village her family fled in the wake of a childhood tragedy for which Catherine has accepted and carried the guilt, shame and grief for nearly twenty years.  In Seaboro, Catherine is determined to make a short trip--in and out before her old friends know she's there--to toss her father's ashes in the Seaboro River and make sure that Forrest Anderson, her father's protege, who is writing a biographical article about her father, never discovers Catherine's role in the tragedy or the truth of why her family left forever a village they loved so much.

Catherine has carried the weight of the guilt and shame of the death of her best friend, Boyd's two year old brother since the summer day the little boy drowned in the same river where her father wants his ashes tossed.  Later that summer her family left Seaboro, never to return to the seaside village.  In the years since the family moved Catherine has also carried the blame for the family's flight from Seaboro because she has always believed they moved because of her role in the little boy's death.  All these years she has believed that her father never returned once to Seaboro, but Forrest insists that her father made several trips to the village in the years preceding his death.  Upon her own return to Seaboro, Catherine discovers not only that her father had made several trips back, but also visited their old friends, including the mother of the boy who drowned, as well as visits to an art exhibit at the courthouse.  Upon further digging Catherine realizes that the reasons her family left Seaboro and never returned may not be the ones she always believed and may not even be as closely tied to her role in the tragedy as what she thought, but rather tied to the secret laid bare in the immediate wake of the tragedy, one that bound both families to each other.

The story is as much about revealing the truth of a long ago tragedy that tore apart two families and forever altered the life paths of the children of those families as it is about Catherine seeing the truth of how she has allowed guilt and shame to hold her hostage.  Catherine finally realizes that a life not lived isn't a life at all, that letting go of guilt, of grief, of shame, can free her to live life the way it should be lived--with feeling, with joy, with love and with meaning.

--Reviewed by Ms. Angie


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