This novel revolves around immediate family members, Ray and Sarah, who are parents to Tick and Josie. Josie is the protagonist and narrator and the other voices are seemingly narrated through her. There are two geographical locations, Cleveland, Ohio and Woods Hole, Massachusetts. Cleveland is the family home and Woods Hole is the place where Josie and her husband, Daniel reside and work in the field of Marine Biology, and where Josie has walled off herself from her family and history.
Josie, as a character, is unique in that she is African American woman scientist and the story makes use of this. Josie discovered as a child how much at home she feels when in the water…it is her emotional safe space that offers new discoveries. She holds on to this to make a career of it and meets her husband, Daniel. The story is unique in that it addresses alcoholism and addiction in an African American family.
Josie is a very straightforward narrator and the story is laid out plain with very little mystery. For that, I almost stopped reading, but Southgate does write tight in that she doesn’t waste words or space in the story which is why I didn’t stop reading. Given the topic and the circumstances the characters go through, Southgate did not overly emotionalize (in fact, very little emotionalism) the story and just laid it out as a storyteller. I appreciated her control over that which I think adds to the strength of the novel.
The drama unfolds when Josie’s wall begins to fall down. At first by the appearance of a new colleague in her department followed by Tick’s appearance in Woods Hole. At the end of the novel I was reminded of the song Stand by Donnie McClurkin. Sometimes that is the only thing left to do.