“No man is an island.”
Truer words ne’er spoken; no matter much one may want to be apart from the world, the reality is that they never truly are. We, whether we like it or not, affect many who know us well or those who don’t even know who we are. Sally, the main character in Robin Beeman’s novella A Minor Tide, lives (and dies) up to that quote. After her car and body are found off a cliff on a highway north of San Francisco, the rest of the novella is told in the voices of those that knew her well and not so well: her sister Mattie and Mattie’s husband (and Sally’s lover) Evan, Joel (another of Sally’s lovers) and his ex-wife, Anna. With each chapter, the reader is given pieces of Sally’s life, a life filled with alcohol and low self-esteem while providing more questions than answers in trying to explain just why she died or perhaps killed herself.
To be honest, I had never heard of the author until I picked up the slim volume at a library book sale; I was drawn to the picture of crashing waves on the cover. The synopsis on the inside flap of the book interested me somewhat until I finally read the book weeks later. Instantly, I was drawn in by Evan’s words at the beginning and immediately, I felt as though I had known him for years. Beeman’s words make you feel as though you had just stopped at Mattie and Evan’s house for a cup of tea on a lazy Saturday, not knowing of the tragedy they were about to tell you. When I opened the book, I sat rooted to the couch and then later in my cubicle at work during my lunch break, wondering just what kind of person Sally was and why I should even care about her. Strangely enough, I wanted to care about her through her sister and lovers. I wanted to take their loss and recently discovered regrets and make them my own until the end of the book. These are not just characters one would read about and then immediately walk away from. Long after I closed the book, I could smell the ocean water as it hit the rocks far bellow the California highway. I wanted to place a hand on Joel’s arm once he heard about Sally’s death, knowing that he would need at least a shoulder to cry on. I wanted to talk to Anna after she met her ex-husband’s lover for the first time, asking her how she was able to do it. And later still, I wanted to make Mattie a cup of tea and let her know that it would be okay while she dealt with her own inner demons that suddenly came to light after her sister’s death. Beeman made me want to care, because she apparently did when she wrote the novella; it is just that obvious. This is more than just a novella; this is a slice of life in a place far enough to be considered foreign to most and yet we the readers can feel a sense of understanding when someone we know suddenly leaves our lives for good. No man is an island and quite honestly, would anyone want their life to be that? I know I would not.