You know a book is in trouble when you like none of its characters by page 75. Then when you open the review template to start writing notes, you can’t think of anything you liked about the book. Oh yes, there was some minor character improvement toward the end of the book, but I still couldn’t enjoy Tidewater.
Sarann Bonniface thinks she’s going crazy. She can’t remember filling her gas tank, she misplaces things, and her mother was schizophrenic. Therefore, Sarann is convinced she must be, too. On top of all this, her 12-year-old daughter Abby is sullen and hateful – and demanding to know her birth father. Sarann doesn’t want to tell Abby the truth because she is afraid that Abby would be ashamed of being the product of a one night stand. Sarann also doesn’t want to disappoint or embarrass her husband, Rodger, the headmaster of a local school. Abby’s determination to find her father throws them all into a situation that can’t help but do both. Abby manages to bring her birth father, Ben, back into Sarann’s life at just about the worst possible moment.
I was not kidding when I said I didn’t like any of the characters by page 75. Sarann was the worst. She’s paranoid, and she bursts into temper tantrums at random times, often sounding like a harpy. She has lied to her daughter from the day she was born. Sarann is a total victim who can’t understand what’s happening to her. And is she dense – it never occurs to Sarann that someone could be gaslighting her. And she is such a wimp too. At one point, Sarann is in a mental hospital, drugged and confused, and all she worries about is pleasing Ben or Rodger. I can’t stand heroines who are constant victims. And I know this is nitpicky, but every time I read her name, all I could think of was Saran Wrap.
Abby is a resentful – at times hateful – child when we first meet her. She’s also manipulative and smart and manages to find her father on her own. Abby does soften a bit when she realizes what’s happening to her mother and whenever she’s around her father, she’s almost nice. Abby eventually turns out to be the most likable of the characters.
Rodger is a kind man who is somewhat put out with his wife. He’s staid and earnest, kind but he’s a cipher. Why he married Sarann is the 64-thousand-dollar-question. The one glimpse the author gives into their “courtship” is that while Sarann worked as a secretary at Rodger’s school, one night she worried about Abby being at home alone. Rodger’s proposal was to comment that she wouldn’t have to worry about that if they were married. That’s a proposal?! Now there’s a relationship to get invested in. Rodger is also more concerned about how the relationship looks to everyone else.
Ben, Abby’s real father, is a real jerk at the beginning in the few glimpses we see of him via e-mail with Abby. He’s hungover and hanging out with a younger blonde in tight clothing. Despite this terrible first impression, Ben shows a bit of potential and does become a better character when he actually meets Abby. He softens and discovers that he likes being a father. Ben’s reaction upon seeing Sarann again is not at all understandable. He’s rightfully angry, but illogically, he thinks he’s in love with her. A one-night stand. He doesn’t bother to call but once. He doesn’t think about her for 12 years, yet after all this, he sees her and knows he’s in love with her. Riiiight. Still, Ben is better than Rodger the dud.
While it’s apparent early on that someone is playing with Sarann’s mind, there’s some suspense while Ben, luckily a private investigator and former cop, checks into what’s been happening to her. He solves things rather quickly. The villain and his motive are truly creepy.
Tidewater is one of the most annoying books I’ve come across. Characters that rubbed me the wrong way and a mystery that was very obvious had me wanting to throw this against the wall. A few minor improvements in two characters save Tidewater from being an F, but just barely.