Some people are brave. And by people, I mean authors. Jenn Alexander in this case. Grief, especially the grief for a lost child, as the topic of a debut novel couldn’t be handled by just anyone. Alexander does it masterfully.
Rachel Murray is a good mom but she can’t see it. Her six-year-old son Declan is hurting and she’s at a loss as to how to help him. He keeps acting out and getting in trouble at school and she wishes others could see what a delightful child he is. Enters Lisa Whelan. Something clicks between Declan and Lisa. Something entirely different clicks between Lisa and Rachel. Neither has felt such strong and perfect attraction in a long time. But Lisa is still mourning the loss of her stillborn son Mitchell and is in no place to start anything with anyone.
I’m a parent. Every day of my kid’s life so far, even the tough ones, the scared ones, the angry ones, has been a wonder to behold. I can’t imagine, I do not want to imagine the pain of losing a child. This book broke my heart from page one.
I won’t lie, The Song of the Sea is a hard book to read. It’s awfully sad. Unlike other reviewers, I didn’t find it depressing, however. There’s too much love for that. I know it’s cheesy but love really is the answer to everything (except to that specific question to which the answer is 42). Unwittingly opening herself to loving and being loved, by both mother and child, is what will save Lisa from the ordeal she’s going through. I don’t know if I’d classify The Song of the Sea as a romance. While there clearly is some falling in love, not all of it is romantic. There are three main characters in this story – Lisa, Rachel, Declan – and a very present fourth one – Mitchell. I could write that it all comes down to learning to love oneself again, but while it would be accurate for Lisa as well as Rachel and Declan, it would be unfair and oversimplifying. Jenn Alexander manages to give all three of them, as well as each relationship between them and between each one and other characters, multiple layers and infinite depth.
As debut novels go, this one is excellent. Sure, it’s at times repetitive but that’s how grief works. You get your head out of the water only to be overwhelmed by the next wave. One big step won’t get you out, it will happen gradually, in fits and starts. The way Alexander writes it, you feel all the bumps on the way but also the bursts of joy and happiness.
One last thing: I can’t end this review without praising the cover created by Ann McMan: simple, understated, perfect.