Book Review: The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

Book Review: The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

*No spoilers

“We all live in patterns we do not see. We are all following magic ravens, even when we are lost. Otherwise there would be no story.” ~ Sarah Moss, The Tidal Zone.

Sarah Moss is now my favourite writer. She seems to be a occupied with the lives of women. However in this novel her protagonist is a man. Adam Goldschmidt is a stay-at-home dad and is an underemployed art history PhD who is not quite on the faculty payroll.

His wife is the high flying and overworked GP and together they have two beautiful and bubbly girls and live in a posh English commuter town. Adam is therefore (happily) the primary care giver for his two daughters.

In the novel’s opening chapters his 15 year old daughter Miriam has an unexplained accident at school where her heart suddenly stops beating and she stops breathing. Nobody knows why it happened or if/when it will happen again.

So begins the premise of The Tidal Zone. As Adam as the doting, domesticated primary care-giver for his girls tries to shield and protect Mimi from the randomness of how and when a heart may spontaneously stop beating (not possible) along with his own feelings of paralyzing fear about it all.

This is another darkly intriguiing book about the big themes: parenthood, love, the transience of life, youth, mortality, marriage and death.

This book is quietly horrifying and endlessly fascinating because it shows you what it would feel like to not know how or when your loved ones might die. Which essentially is still a relevant message for all of us, even if we try hard to not think about that devastating possibility.

The novel is unique in that it lets us peer into the world of domestication and gender roles without the baggage of this caregiving being done by a woman. It’s because the shoe is on the other foot and the ‘mothering’ is being done by Adam – a man, that we can see with clarity the painful and beautiful everyday moments of this invisible and underappreciated labour that is (mostly) still women’s work. Another unique and devastatingly brilliant novel by Sarah Moss. 5*/5

Lapland Over Four Splendid Seasons

“Stories have endings, that’s why we tell them, for reassurance that there is meaning our lives. But like a diagnosis, a story can become a prison, a straight road mapped out by the people who went before. Stories are not the truth. Begin with brokenness, begin again. We are not all, not only, the characters written by our ancestors. I have told my stories now, and we are still here, and the day has hardly begun. ” ~ Sarah Moss, The Tidal Zone.

3 thoughts on “Book Review: The Tidal Zone by Sarah Moss

  1. I’ve never read any Sarah Moss although I’ve heard wonderful things (including this review!). She was a visiting author during my Masters and I remember all the advice she gave was very thoughtful and eloquent. Thanks for your review! x

    1. How cool that she visited your University! Lucky you 🙂 Her books are all very compelling (I’ve read three so far) and she embeds her little nuggets of philosophical wisdom into her fiction too, which makes it interesting – like these two quotes from The Tidal Zone which I found pretty profound. I am a bit of a fan girl of hers as you can see hehe. I would recommend giving them a go, as they are very enjoyable. Her best I would say so far is Ghost Wall – it’s a proper masterpiece.

      1. Very cool, thank you for the suggestions! She certainly sounds like a beautiful writer from your review. And yes, those quotes, even without the context of having read the whole book, are quite thought provoking! x

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