Beyond the Bright Sea
By Lauren Wolk
Published by Corgi / Random House
ISBN 978 0 552 57430 3
Lauren Wolk’s debut novel, Wolf Hollow, was one of the stand-out titles of 2016; luckily fans of this exciting writer haven’t had to wait too long for a follow-up read. And again, Wolk has hit the jackpot with a stunning novel very different in subject matter and themes from the story she told in Wolf Hollow.
Wolk is an award-winning poet and visual artist, and it shows. She is a writer who knows how to get readers fully involved in the story she is telling, and she does this by using her artist’s eye, imagination, and the way she uses words to create memorable characters, plot lines, and settings. Her new novel, Beyond the Bright Sea is another evocative work of fiction.
Crow is a 12-year-old orphan who has lived all her life on a tiny island off the coast of northeastern America. The Elizabeths are a chain of small islands with a total population of less than 100.
When Crow was a baby, a lonely fisherman called Osh found her abandoned in a tiny boat that had caught on the rocks near his hut. The rickety craft had obviously been set adrift from one of the other islands – and the most likely answer is Penikese, the site of a former leper hospital. Who on this dark and dreadful island would want to send a newborn out to certain death?
But Osh asked no questions. He named her, and with the help of Miss Maggie, a kind neighbour, raises her. But while she’s happy at home, Crow can’t understand why the other islanders avoid her – they still assume she came from Penikese, despit showing no symptoms of leprosy.
Crow’s world is peaceful and safe, but she is starting to question her identity. She wants to learn who she is and where she really comes from. Penikese is meant to be deserted, so why, one night, does Crow see a fire burning on the island’s shore?
The mystery is unveiled right from the first pages, and Wolk piles on the suspense in each chapter. Persuading Osh and Miss Maggie to investigate the origins of the fire, Crow takes the first step on an emotional quest to discover the identity of her birth family. She is soon caught up in a dark past that threatens to destroy her and her adoptive family.
The mystery at the centre of the novel, and Wolk’s simple but powerful storytelling style are compelling and draw the reader effortlessly into Crow’s world and the secrets it hides.
Wolk should already be clearing space on her mantelpiece for awards to come. This is superb.
John Millen can be contacted on