The Song of the Sea by Jenn AlexanderThe Song of the Sea by Jenn Alexander is a debut novel that packs a punch.

Lisa Whelan’s life has been nothing but grief since her son, Mitchell, died shortly after his birth fifteen months ago. She can’t face everyday life in Toronto anymore, so she moves in temporarily with her aunt on Cape Breton Island. If nothing else, hopefully Lisa can reconnect with her work as a graphic artist and figure out what her new normal will look like. After all, the sea has always been a place that’s given her comfort and maybe she’ll even find some peace and a connection with Mitchell there.

Rachel Murray’s life hasn’t been easy, but it’s still rewarding, running a restaurant with her family and raising her son, Declan. If only she didn’t have to brace herself every day when picking him up from school, sure the other parents are judging her because she’s the young mom to the “bad kid” in grade one.

When Lisa goes to the restaurant where her aunt works as a cook, she’s surprised that she likes the look of the waitress. Her attraction to women has long been in hiding, no match against her grief. Unfortunately, Lisa can’t pursue anything with Rachel, because it’s too hard knowing that Rachel has Declan while Lisa can’t be with Mitchell.

But relationships that are meant to be have a funny way of taking over, even when they’re not convenient or comfortable, and soon Lisa is attached to both Rachel and Declan. Can she find the strength to reach for a beautiful new future, even if Mitchell can’t be there to experience it too?

The Characters

These characters are so real and their struggles are hard, and yet, relatable. Rachel’s truly trying the best she can with Declan, but with a largely absent co-parent who upsets their quiet life when he manages to show up once in a while, it’s hard. Lisa is also going through something unfathomably difficult, feeling like the world has moved on while she’s standing alone with her pain.

It’s easier for Rachel to acknowledge her attraction than it is for Lisa, and I love that she’s willing to move at Lisa’s pace, even accepting Lisa’s request to just be friends in the early stages of their relationship. Their happy ending is hard won, but so beautiful when they get there thanks to hard work and a lot of love.

The Writing Style

I was afraid this would be my angstiest read of the year and was pleasantly surprised that it’s not. It’s sad, to be sure, and I cried occasionally when reading it, especially in the second half. But it’s not all grim, because there’s lovely chemistry chemistry between the leads and fun flirting at times, which balance Lisa’s tough moments.

Also, I’m Canadian, so how could I not love the Canadian setting?

The Pros

It was brave as hell for Alexander to tackle infant death, because that’s the kind of subject matter that might scare off some readers. I hope it doesn’t, however. This is a beautiful story that’s well worth reading.

The Cons

This isn’t a con, but I don’t know where else to put it, so here we go.

To all the people who have lost an infant or had a wanted pregnancy go very badly, you might be wondering if this book will be too hard for you. It might. I can’t say for sure because I don’t know you or your circumstances. Speaking from experience as someone who lost a much-wanted baby to a medical abnormality when I was 4 months pregnant, I found it healing to read. My circumstances were very different from Lisa’s, but her grief felt so similar, and reading her story helped me feel seen.

victorias favourite booksThe Conclusion

How is this Jenn Alexander’s first book? It’s both gentle and powerful at the same time and I highly recommend it. I will be eagerly awaiting her next book and hope in the meantime that you’ll all give this one a chance.

Excerpt from The Song of the Sea by Jenn Alexander

Catherine’s Restaurant was a quaint yellow building with blue lettering, situated between a hardwood shop and a bakery, on the side of the road overlooking the ocean. [Lisa] pushed open the door and was greeted with a wave of warmth and the soft aroma of seafood and spices. Her stomach rumbled as she stepped eagerly inside, only then realizing just how hungry she was.

“God, it smells amazing in here.”

“I’m glad you think so,” a woman answered, pushing out of the kitchen.

It was clear from the hurried way the waitress moved that she was busy, probably juggling multiple responsibilities. But the warmth of her smile caught Lisa off guard.

She felt a lightness bloom in her chest, and she couldn’t help but mirror the smile.

The waitress was pretty, with dark brown curls pulled back in a ponytail, a few loose strands falling free to frame her face. Lisa took in her soft curves as she strode to the front to greet her, but it was that smile that she was really drawn to. Warm, and genuine, and contagious.

“Table for one?” the woman asked, and Lisa was pulled out of her head and back into reality, feeling her face redden as though she’d been caught staring.

She nodded, surprised at the direction her thoughts had taken. It had been too long since she’d noticed another woman, and even then, she didn’t usually feel the same magnetic pull.

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781612941516
  • Publisher: Bywater Books

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