Have you ever just wanted to leave your worries and responsibilities behind and go somewhere new? Well, that’s exactly what the characters in Amity Gaige’s new novel Sea Wife do. The story focuses on a young family who escape the monotony of suburbia for a year-long sailing trip that changed their lives in every sense of the word.
Juliet, the mother in Sea Wife, finds that the trip relieves her of the depression she had been experiencing. The children, Sybil and George, finally experience the joys of life as unencumbered children at sea. Despite being novice sailors, they learn to operate the boat together. Juliet and Michael’s marriage even improves through the experience.
The story is told in Juliet’s first person perspective paralleled with Michael’s captain’s log. Sea Wife is a story that shows the transformation a family experiences and the portrayal of optimism, disillusionment, and survival.
Gaige is the author of three previous novels, including O My Darling, The Folded World, and Schroder. I spoke with her to learn more about Sea Wife and her career as an author.
Where did the inspiration for Sea Wife come from?
AG: First of all, I wanted to describe the drama and beauty of the sea. I loved writing about waves, wind, and weather. I’m also interested stories about risk-taking and adventure. In 2014, I heard about a family who was rescued by the Coast Guard. They’d been sailing with their two small children when one got sick in the middle of the South Pacific. These various influences started to gel into Sea Wife, which is a totally fictional account of a family with little sailing experience who decides to throw off the fetters of conventional life, move to Panama, and sail into the unknown.
Sea Wife is a novel about unprecedented turmoil, which I’m sure many can relate to during these times. What aspects of the novel were intended to connect deeply with readers and their own lives?
AG: The whole thing! I relate to some of my protagonist Juliet’s challenges. She struggles with depression, but also with the daily stressors of being a mother and a wife, often losing herself in the process. I consider both Juliet and Michael’s problems to be quite commonplace. He wants to be a free, self-reliant person, and he’s frustrated by the political direction he sees the country taking. They are both trying to escape from their problems. Sadly, you can’t really escape your problems, even in paradise. Just as in our polarized country, Michael and Juliet need to learn to sail their boat together – or fail, at their own peril.
What lesson do you hope readers come away with after reading Sea Wife?
AG: Don’t let your personal grievances and wounds keep you from love and connection. Communicate, live, and love while you can.
Leaving reality behind and living on a sailboat full time sounds pretty appealing right now. Have you ever considered doing something like this in your own life?
AG: Ha, no! I’m a scaredy-cat. I’m not handy or brave – two characteristics of a good sailor. But I absolutely do feel the desire to leave reality behind. I think Sea Wife is a good quarantine read because it lets you ‘escape’ to a gorgeous tropical landscape, but as The New York Times review put it, the novel finally makes you appreciate the “firm, familiar ground’ under your feet.”
What’s next for you? Do you have any big dreams you’d like to fulfill in the near future?
AG: As it has with everyone else, the pandemic has shuffled around all my priorities. My goals have gotten a lot smaller. I’d just really like my two kids to go back to school! I dream less of climbing mountains or sailing oceans and more about having a day to myself, to read, think, and begin to process the meaning of all that has happened.
Sea Wife is available at BookHampton (41 Main Street, East Hampton).
To learn more about Sea Wife or to purchase a copy, visit www.bookhampton.com. To learn more about Amity Gaige, visit www.amitygaige.com.