Book review: Author explores huge questions in ‘Sea of ​​Tranquility’ |

By ASHLEY RIGGLESON FOR THE FREE LANCE–STAR

I have loved Emily St. John Mandel’s work in the past. So, I jumped into her newest novel by her, “Sea of ​​Tranquility,” synopsis unseen. My verdict: It was not what I expected, but it was bizarre and brilliant.

“Sea of ​​Tranquility” has many perspectives and moves back and forth in time. As the novel opens, readers are introduced to Edwin St. Andrew. It’s 1912, and Edwin is the youngest of three brothers. He comes from a high-class family in England, but he does not expect to inherit anything from his parents of him. And when he discusses some radical (for the time) political positions at his parents’ dinner party, he is almost immediately sent to Canada. Once there, a strange and inexplicable event happens in a forest.

The novel then quickly takes off and follows several different people: Mirella (who some might remember from “The Glass Hotel”); Olive, a novelist on a book tour in 2203; and a man struggling to find meaning in his life from him in 2401.

Because the novel changes perspectives and even centuries so quickly, I found this latest from Mandel to be initially confusing, and it was somewhat difficult to get into it. At first, I wondered how these nonsense pieces were connected, but as soon as Mandel’s purpose came apparent (for me around the halfway point), I was hooked.

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Although there is a clear storyline here, it helped me to consider “Sea of ​​Tranquility” as an elaborate thought experiment.

Mandel explores huge philosophical questions, asking about the nature of reality and what makes a life worth living. She also ponders what we are willing to give up so that we can live by our principles.

A lot of you must be thinking, “What makes this novel worth reading?” Well, Mandel’s prose is beautiful, her settings vivid, her characters sympathetic, and her plot masterfully constructed. After my initial hiccups, I sped through this novel. I found “Sea of ​​Tranquility” to be so compelling that I will think about this book for a long time. It is truly a beautiful novel, ethereal poignant, and powerful.

This is a book so unique, only Mandel could have written it. I came away from this novel with a greater respect for the human condition, and I am sure other readers, too, will find solace in these pages if they would only turn them.

Ashley Riggleson is a freelance reviewer from Rappahannock County.

Ashley Riggleson is a freelance reviewer from Rappahannock County.

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