Georgia moves back to her hometown of Miami, FL with her family in tow after her husband is involved in a scandal of sorts in Illinois. The trio moves in with Georgia’s father and stepmother, then decide to move into a rundown houseboat on a whim. They’re trying to put the pieces of their life back together, but they carry a lot of baggage with them: both Georgia and her husband Graham have severe sleep disorders resulting in insomnia (though Graham’s sleep disorder is significantly worse and cost him his job back in Illinois), and their three-year-old son Frankie refuses to speak even though nothing is physically wrong with him.
The family has moved to Miami because Graham has been offered a job at a marine research facility, and considering the scandal and his subsequent firing in Illinois, the family can’t afford to turn down the job offer. The only problem is that his work — tracking hurricane patterns aboard a research vessel — will take him away from his family for weeks at a time. Georgia and Frankie have nothing but time on their hands while Graham is away, and Georgia finds work as a part-time personal assistant for a loner who lives in Stiltsville.
Charlie is a grouchy, successful artist who prefers to live in seclusion. He and Georgia slowly come to an understanding and form a friendship, but the real transformation occurs between Charlie and three-year-old Frankie: Frankie immediately brings out the best in Charlie, and little by little, Frankie starts to speak. It’s only then that Georgia starts figuring out why Frankie stopped speaking in the first place. Georgia’s still trying to come to terms with that as all hell breaks loose and Hurricane Andrew descends upon Florida.
Sea Creatures is utterly mesmerizing (I read more than half of it in one sitting). It started out slow, but then completely sucked me in. You really have to feel for Graham (and, to a lesser extent, Georgia) with the severity of their insomnia — Graham’s is so bad he goes for days without sleeping, then has to take strong medication and cuff himself to the wall so that he doesn’t endanger himself or others while sleepwalking. The disorder has cost him everything: his job, his career, and possibly even his family, considering all the strain his sleep disorder creates. I actually felt more sympathy for him than Daniel probably intended; my biggest problem with the book was that I never fully bought all of the events that arose based on Graham’s health problems. In my mind, he’s unfairly made a scapegoat for a lot of things when Georgia should be taking some of the responsibility.
I still really enjoyed this book, though. Daniel’s portrait of Stiltsville was fascinating (I plan to read her first novel, Stiltsville, because of that). Her writing is so fluid, and I thought the pacing was fantastic. There’s a lot going on in this book — sleep disorders, marital issues, a child who won’t speak, a loner with his own set of baggage, new relationships, lost relationships…drama, drama, drama! — but Daniel does a beautiful job of juggling it all without getting cheesy.
Sea Creatures was released on July 30, 2013 by Harper Books, an imprint of HarperCollins. The book is on tour right now, so check out what other bloggers are saying about it.