A poignant, funny and engrossing exploration of family life centred around a cataclysmic event and its aftermath, from the author of Night Waking and Signs for Lost Children.
Adam is a stay-at-home dad who is also working on a history of the bombing and rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral. He is a good man, and he is happy. But one day he receives a call from his daughter's school to inform him that for no apparent reason, 15-year-old Miriam has collapsed and stopped breathing.
In that moment he is plunged into a world of waiting, agonising, not knowing. The story of his life and the lives of his family are rewritten and retold around this shocking central event, around a body that has inexplicably failed.
In this exceptionally courageous and unflinching novel of contemporary life, Sarah Moss goes where most of us wouldn't dare to look, and the result is riveting - unbearably sad but also miraculously funny and ultimately hopeful. The Tidal Zone explores parental love, overwhelming fear, illness and recovery. It is about clever teenagers and the challenges of marriage. It is about the NHS, academia, sex and gender in the 21st century, the work-life juggle and the politics of packing lunches and loading dishwashers. It confirms Sarah Moss as a unique voice in modern fiction and a writer of luminous intelligence.
©2016 Sarah Moss (P)2016 Bolinda
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"In a league of its own for excellence!"
The Tidal Zone is quite a difficult title to write about because no other novelist at present is writing in this unique way to produce such a (almost literally) stunning impact on the listener. It richly deserves its 5+ stars.
Sarah Moss the author is an academic and The Tidal Zone is a highly sophisticated and multi-layered portrait of both a family and British culture, packed tightly with challenging and stimulating ideas and analysis. But don't be put off if this sounds a bit heavy - it is also utterly and beguilingly ordinary, presenting with stunning reality a family with all the stresses and strains of just about every family we know.
Adam looks after 15 year-old Mimi and 8 year-old Rose at home, putting his own academic work on hold as his GP wife Emma earns the money, returning home late each day drained by working for a struggling NHS, too exhausted to eat. All's well if stressful in a different way for Adam juggling household chores, children's needs, a preoccupied wife and his own attempts to keep up some vestige of academic research - until the call from school that Mimi has stopped breathing and has been rushed to hospital where she stays for the next fortnight before being returned home with the life-saving Epipen she must always carry with her in case the same happens again.
The power of the writing is in the portrayal of the effect of this shattering experience on each member of the family, the strain on the tenuous 'cobweb' which was holding Adam and Emma together even before the shock, and the painful lessons Adam has to learn in allowing Mimi to live again without strangling her with his overwhelming anxiety. All this is described against the everyday backdrop of Adam emptying the dishwasher, buying Rose's new school shoes, making the packed lunches and doing the thousand other domestic tasks as his world seems to have crumbled around him.
It's also about a great deal more than this - the NHS comes in for a great deal of beautifully made swingeing swipes - the night nurses in Mimi's High Dependency unit are paid less per hour than was paid to Father Christmas's elves in a superstore is just one example. University education with sultry students and Faculty meetings reduced to media speak is another target. These themes which are super-articulate - and when they come from Mimi (who reads The New Internationalist) arguing against doing her homework because it's 'a technique for social control' - they can all get too much, too clever.
But the other themes are wonderful and deftly interwoven, such as Adam's work on the rebuilding of Canterbury Cathedral which contributes to the novel's final resolution where life is rebuilt and does go on. And there's the tidal imagery and the real coastal tides, in which Adam's mother drowned when he was young, and where Mimi and Rose look for sea anemones and starfish at the end; tides that ebb and flow like Mimi's breathing in and out which her parents must now always reassure themselves is happening.
"Not one word misplaced or wasted."
I haven't read anything by Sarah Moss before - but I will certainly be seeking out her other novels now that I have read this one. This book is beautifully written, the story never loses pace or interest, and we are asked to consider the journey the human body makes from the moment of conception to that of death - or in this case, near death.
This is the story of a fairly ordinary family, Dad stays home and looks after 15 year old Miriam and her younger sister Rose while their mum works as a GP. Their daily life is described in minute but never boring detail, and we learn about the relationships that exist between these four likeable people. They are very normal and happy, intelligent and loving. Then one day Miriam collapses at school due to respiratory and then cardiac arrest needing CPR. None of the doctors are able to say why this incident has happened or whether it might recur and then there's the possibility that Rose might be affected too.
The story is compelling, we really feel for this family as the rug is pulled out from under their happy life and it seems as though they will never feel safe again. There is no conventional happy ending, rather the characters learn to live with their new situation as the unusual and frightening starts to become normal for them.
I can't recommend this book highly enough.
"Wonderful and insightful"
I have recently come across Sarah Moss as an author and have since voraciously read all her works but I think this is the best. You wonder at the beginning how a single event will sustain the book but it becomes the lynch pin around which she spins and interweaves a marvellous texture of stories moving from the present to the past. But it is not a whimsical book, it looks at cold realities. Her characters are honest, perhaps not always likeable but understandable. I enjoyed the narrator too. Would highly recommend.
Sarah Moss is a wonderful, versatile writer. Her latest is quite different to anything else she's written, but captivating from the very beginning. The novel deals with the dreadful possibility that a genetic glitch could carry off Mimi, elder daughter of a stay-at-home father (who is also a frustrated academic) and overworked GP mother, at any moment and without warning. A simple premise, but so beautifully expounded, the quality of the writing so superb, that the reader is there, in that family, feeling the parents' terror and the daughters' adolescent irritations, and the tensions of modern marriage with limited resources and not enough leisure time. A wonderful story, nicely narrated. Highly recommended.
"The rise and ebb of anxiety."
Parents could identify with this story. The anxiety provides the tension but the story is protracted and unremarkable, though beautifully read.
The fascination is in the description of everyday life by a stay at home father of two daughters while his wife is a working doctor.
"Sensitive insight into parental fears"
Engaging characters but somewhat sensational story line. A bit too many stereotypes in health care. Overall a good listening experience although the frequency of painful and tense episodes was too unremitting for this to be a relaxing read.
This took a little while to get into, but I really enjoyed it. Not my usual choice, but glad I stuck with it. Dilemmas facing modern parents interspersed with the history of the rebuilding of Coventry Cathedral, and hippy America in the '60's.
The narrator had a lovely soothing voice, and I've now bought the book in hard copy too, to share around.
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