Review of THE OCEAN BETWEEN US by Susan Wiggs (see her website)
MIRA, April 2004
While back-to-school shopping with her teenaged children, navy wife Grace Bennett catches a glimpse of herself in the mirror and doesn't like what she sees. She's nearing 40, has gained weight, and is still 'waiting' to get started with her life. Things she realizes are important, like getting a house, settling down, and developing a career of her own have been put on hold to let her devote herself to her family and to her husband, Navy Captain Steve Bennett's career. When she spots and falls in love with a beautiful home, she decides she can't take the waiting any longer.
Steve Bennett knows that his navy career puts strains on the family. Still, Grace knew that when she married him and it doesn't seem fair that she's changing the rules now. And a house is silly, really, as he'll be transferred again as he moves up the career ladder. He blows off Grace's concerns--until a long-buried secret from his past rears up and puts a tear in their already damaged relationship.
Steve and Grace's children are dealing with their own issues: their son is rebelling against his father's pressure to attend the Navy Academy; their older daughter is dealing with her new-found sexuality--and gets caught in a dangerous situation she can see no way out of; the younger daughter is the shy one--a curse in a family that moves every few years and must make new friends, new alliances whenever they do. The pressures military service puts on families are echoed in the problems and joys faced by Grace's circle of friends, especially her fitness coach Lauren, who has fallen for a young navy airman.
Author Susan Wiggs (see more BooksForABuck.com reviews of novels by Wiggs) brings a strong emotional focus to the issues of the military spouse and woman's search for identity in a world still largely defined by men. Grace is a strong and sympathetic character, torn between her love for a man and her own need for autonomy, reinforced by her discovery that he has kept a secret from her throughout their marriage. Wiggs further hooks the reader by dealing with the issue of date-rape. Ultimately, the story is that of Grace's growth. She transforms herself from a woman who defines herself by her husband to a woman who can stand on her own feet--yet is strong enough to welcome a man into her arms if he is prepared to treat her as an equal rather than someone to whom orders can be given.
It took me a few chapters to get into this story but the payoff was definitely worth the investment. Wiggs demonstrates again why she is one of the top authors in romance/woman's fiction today.
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