Between the Tides by Susannah Marren with an Excerpt

Between the Tides by Susannah Marren with an Excerpt

Welcome to my review of a debut offering from Susannah Marren. Please read on for my review and an excerpt from this contemporary Woman’s Fiction title. A wonderful debut that is meant to be savored and enjoyed, this story shows the skills and promise of wonderful things to come from a new author to watch.

Between the Tides

Not unlike the waves on a sandcastle at the shore, Between the Tides reveals the fragility of relationships despite the façade, and the power that is required to keep or rebuild after the façade is shattered.

Lainie is a city girl, and quite content with her life and marriage in the hustle, bustle and go of New York. But when her husband takes a position with a practice out in the ‘burbs’.  The family is moving to an affluent New Jersey suburb, and Lainie’s world, indeed her entire life is turned upside down.  In the city, she had the water (Hudson River) her painting and the friends that recognized those things. New Jersey, and actually Charles, are less interested in her pursuits or dreams, and he can’t see the “point’ of them.

Marren uses the emotions of Lainie and her dissatisfaction with the ‘nothing is familiar’ refrain as her life quietly (and not so quietly) resets to a new reality. New Jersey is NOT New York, and she misses the easy if mindless busy day to day, it kept her from evaluating things too carefully, or searching for a ‘purpose’.  Now, even with the four children, she’s struggling for something ‘more’, something that fits her view of who she is, and what she is meant to do.

Connecting with an old frenemy (and there is no other word but that to describe Jess) plays on her feelings of upheaval as Jess is constantly in ‘one better’ mode.  Dealing with that is stressful enough, but the fact that Charles sees no faults in the new home, life or area, and can’t quite understand her unhappiness, vague as it is to him, doesn’t help.

Slowly but surely, Jess invades nearly every facet of Lainie’s life: from stepping in and commenting or acting inappropriately with her children (Mathilde in particular) and her husband: it’s a sort of “Single White Female in Suburbia” model.

Lainie has the most to lose, or gain in all of this: her own family, self-respect, sense of purpose and plenty of moments leading to thoughts of boundaries, Karma, forgiveness and nurturing relationships.  Marren uses several moments with broadened abstractions and asides to give a fuller sense of just who Lainie is, and those moments enrich the story greatly. The writing is wonderfully smooth, switches neatly between directed stream-of-consciousness like moments through dialogue, story-telling and a sweetly recurring theme involving selkies and the potential ‘skin’ hiding in the closet.

Between the Tides by Susannah Marren with an Excerpt

Title: Between the Tides
Author: Susannah Marren
Published by: St. Martin's Press
ISBN: 1250066735
Published on: 21 July, 2015
Source: Media Muscle/Book Trib
Pages: 304
Rated: four-stars
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See this Title on Goodreads

A debut novel following the fortunes of the happy-on-the-surface Morris family as it slowly comes apart after making a move from New York City to an affluent suburb

Lainie Smith Morris is perfectly content with her life in New York City: she has four children, a handsome surgeon husband, and good friends. This life she has built is shattered, however, when her husband Charles announces he has accepted a job in Elliot, New Jersey, and that the family must relocate. Lainie is forced to give up the things she knows and loves.

Though Charles easily adapts to the intricacies of suburban life, even thriving in it, Lainie finds herself increasingly troubled and bored by her new limited responsibilities, and she remains desperate for the inspiration, comfort, and safety of the city she called home. She is hopelessly lost—until, serendipitously, she reconnects with an old friend/rival turned current Elliot resident, Jess.

Pleased to demonstrate her social superiority to Lainie, Jess helps her find a footing, even encouraging Lainie to develop as an artist; but what looks like friendship is quickly supplanted by a betrayal with earthshattering impact, and a move to the suburbs becomes a metaphor for a women who must search to find a new home ground in the shifting winds of marriage, family, career, and friendship.

Between the Tides is an engrossing, commanding debut from tremendous new talent Susannah Marren.

A copy of this title was provided via Media Muscle/Book Trib for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.


Read an Excerpt 


The selkies are sea creatures, half woman, half seal. They wiggle out of their seal skins on the rocks to lie in the weak winter  sun. One fisherman watched  with his binoculars  from his fishing boat and waited.”

“He loved the prettiest one!” Claire interrupts. “That’s right, darling girl,” I say.

Jack sticks out his tongue. “Who cares about some stupid sealy lady?” he shouts.

I stop the story. “Jack, please sit down.”

Jack returns to the couch beside Tom, his big brother, who is on his iPad. Jack yawns and props his eyes open wide with his fingers. “Boring, Mom!”

“More! More!” Claire screams. She jumps off the chair and starts dancing around the den, waving her hands like flippers in her crazy water dance on land. “More!” she screeches.

Matilde, my solemn child, interrupts, “Mom, are you a selkie?”

I laugh and look out the den window that faces west. It is too dark to see anything. “No, darling girl, I’m not a selkie.”

“But you love the water and you swim every day. When we go to Cape May you lie on the jetties just like the selkies. You never answer us when you’re on the beach . . . it’s  like you’re not  even there. . . . Remember last February when—”

“Matilde, I am not a selkie.”

“Mommy,” Claire cries, “the sealy skin! The fisherman! Finish the story.”

Perhaps Charles is right and I ought to quit this tale. It isn’t Cin- derella or Snow White; there is no prince with whom to live happily ever after.

“Mom?” Matilde is waiting.

“Okay . . . well . . . the beach is empty in December when the fish- erman sees his chance. He sneaks up near the rocks and comes close to the prettiest selkie.”

“He takes her skin, Mommy! The man takes her seal skin!” Claire begins to sob as she always does at this part in the story.

“That’s true, Claire darling. The man takes her seal skin while she is in the icy sea. When she comes back to the shoreline, frantic to find her sealy coat, he is holding  it in his hands. He tells her she has no choice but to go with him, without her coat she will drown. But he promises to love her forever, that they will marry and have a family. That’s the deal.” The “forever” part gets to me.

“And she marries him!” yelps Claire. She begins to dance again. “She marries him and they have babies!” Claire is the cheerful one; she bounces from one side of the room to the other. She passes Tom and Jack, who watch her as if she were an alien creature. I wonder if Jack and Claire will ever share a thought, an interest. Fraternal twins are not a matched pair.

“Until one day . . .” I look up. “Jack, are you listening?”

Jack covers his ears. “I don’t care about seals and babies. It’s gross!”

“A dull story for the boys,” says Charles. He is in the doorway, ap- pearing out of nowhere, as usual. He is so stealthy, Charles, more burglar than surgeon.

The children  race to him and grab at his arms and hands, his legs, anything that is their father. Except Matilde, who stays close to me. “Lainie, how about another story? Something more realistic?

You could read to them from Tom Sawyer.”

Matilde leans in toward my ear. “I know why you like the story. I

know you’re a selkie. I saw your sealy skin.” Everyone is waiting.

“What sealy skin? What are you talking about, Matilde?”

“In the hall closet, hanging in a zippered bag. A black, thick coat,” she answers. “Hairy.”

“Oh, that. That’s from my grandmother. You’re right, it is made of seal, a long-dead seal. I wouldn’t wear it. I don’t have the guts to ditch it. I guess I’m sentimental.”

No one else speaks. Claire is frozen in mid-dance. Matilde says, “ The sealy needs her coat to go back to the sea. She has a land family now but she misses the sea.”

“That’s right. That’s how it works,”  I whisper. “The days become flat for her, days without any sun.”

“Until she finds the coat!” says Claire, twirling around in circles. Charles enters the room now, fully present, taking up the oxygen.

His loafers make a clicking sound on the wood floor. “Forget the sealy coat,” he says.

He is tall and strong, buff. He lifts weights, runs through Morn- ingside Park in rain or shine. Sometimes he wakes me predawn and invites me to run with him. “C’mon, Lainie,” he’ll say, “shake up your schedule and run this morning. Forget the pool every day.”

“Okay, Charles, soon.” Although I don’t mean it.

I walk the reservoir, around the track slowly, only to be by a body of water. I want water, any kind, like a vampire wants blood. Matilde is the one in the family who understands. She is only twelve but she realizes that if I didn’t paint pictures of water, I wouldn’t exist. If we didn’t live by the Hudson River or go to the ocean every summer, to my hometown, I’d wither and die.

Charles sits down in “his” green leather chair next to the fireplace  and faces my largest and best-known work of art, Trespassing: Drift- wood. The six-by-eight-foot painting has overwhelmed the living room these years, making me proud, sad, regretful, and attached to Charles. His eyes are on the piece as he speaks. “I have big news. Might as well talk now, while we’re together.”

I tilt my head and Matilde sits next to me on the couch. “Claire,” I say, “come here.” Claire pushes between us and I put my lips to her damp and clammy forehead.

“Tom?” says Charles. “Can you settle down with Jack?” Jack slides out of Tom’s reach and runs to Charles’s lap, clapping and yowling. Charles gives me one of his “Can’t you control these children?” looks while he tousles Jack’s hair and hugs him. Who can blame Charles for choosing order; he is a famous surgeon, skilled, popular, a pe- rennial Best of the Best in New York magazine. When he dons his scrubs, patients and nurses swoon. He is booked years in advance. Dr. Morris, Dr. Morris, Dr. Charles Morris. At home with his children, he softens—the only place and only time that he is soft.

“I’ve got a surprise for you,” says Charles. “A big surprise.”




About Susannah Marren

Susannah Marren is originally from Long Beach Island, New Jersey. She currently lives in Manhattan with her family and still spends her summers on the Jersey Shore. Between the Tides is her first novel.