Anita Shreve is the author of eighteen novels which are popular subjects in Book Clubs across the country. Thus, I was quite surprised that I was unable to relate to much that she put forth in her acclaimed book “Sea Glass.”
Honora met and married Sexton Beecher in 1929 when she was just twenty and he was twenty-four. Sexton was a typewriter salesman who became captivated by the bank teller, Honora, with whom he conducted his business.
Sexton also became captivated with an ocean-front cottage which he wanted for their first home. It was a handyman’s fixer-upper, and he and Honora set out to make their find livable.
It is obvious to the reader from the start that Anita Shreve’s characters are not well-drawn. We seem to know very little about the couple and the other individuals who are introduced, each with his own chapter. It was difficult at first to discern how these unrelated personalities would finally meet and find some commonality. McDermott, Alphonse, and Vivian would soon become important personages in the lives of Honora and Sexton.
Anita Shreve uses an unusual technique, not often seen in fiction pieces, and which I had always believed is not a proper writing form. She told the story totally in the present tense, which is sometimes hard to follow.
Halfway through the story, I began wondering what the plot was. There seemed to be no purpose to the tale. As it unfolded, it was revealed to be nothing more than an account of marital infidelity.
The lives of the newly-weds came to a crushing halt when the bank manager revoked his original agreement to give Sexton a mortgage. Because Sexton’s prime concern was to hold onto their home, he was forced to sell his car, without which he was unable to keep his sales position. A job in the assembly line at the mill was the best he could come up with.
Sexton’s visits to the neighborhood saloon put him in touch with the mill workers who were planning a strike at the plant. Indications of socialist tendencies on the part of these men brought an entirely different issue into the rationale of the story.
Some comic relief was introduced in the character of Vivian who most definitely was patterned after the role of Blanche played by Rue McClanahan in “The Golden Girls.” Vivian was Honora’s neighbor from down the beach who gave sage advice to the more reserved Honora, even though their style of dress and of living was entirely different.
Sea glass, from which the title derives, is a recurring theme throughout the book. Honora collects the shards and pieces of glass which she finds on her walks along the beach. It is a pleasant diversion for the reader, but still it serves no purpose in moving the story along.
Sadness, tragedy, and disbelief hang heavily over the subplots of this story. I was disappointed that an author who is so highly regarded should have this disappointing yarn as part of her body of work.
Sea Glass by Anita Shreve (2002)