Small books can tell big tales
By Kimberly Richardson
“No man is an island,” truer words were never spoken. No matter how much one may want to live apart from the world, the reality is that no one truly can. Whether we like it or not, our lives and choices affect many others: some who know us well and others who do not know us at all. Sally, the main character in Robin Beeman’s novella A Minus Tide, lives and dies as an example of this truth. After her car and body are found off a cliff on a highway north of San Francisco, the rest of the story is told in the voices of those that knew her well and not so well: her sister Mattie, Mattie’s husband, Evan (Sally’s lover), Joel (another one of Sally’s lovers), and Joel’s ex-wife, Anna. With each chapter, the reader is given pieces of Sally’s life, a life filled with alcohol and low self-esteem, while providing more questions than answers in the search to discover why she died.
To be honest, I had never heard of this author until I picked up this slim volume at a library book sale. The picture of crashing waves on the cover drew me in. The synopsis on the inside flap interested me and I finally read the book weeks later. Instantly, I was drawn in by the character Evan’s words, and I immediately felt as though I had known him for years. Beeman’s writing makes you feel as though you just stopped at Mattie and Evan’s house for a cup of tea on a lazy Saturday not knowing of the tragedy they were about to tell you. When I opened the book, I sat rooted to the couch and then later in my cubicle during my lunch break wondering what kind of person Sally was and why I should even care about her. Strangely enough, I wanted to care about her. I wanted to take her sister and her lovers’ loss and recently discovered regrets and make them my own until the end of the book. These are not characters one can read about and immediately walk away from. Long after I finished the book, I could still smell the ocean water as it hit the rocks far below the California highway. I wanted to place a hand on Joel’s arm when he heard about Sally’s death, knowing that he would need a shoulder to cry on. I wanted to talk to Anna after she met her ex-husband’s lover for the first time asking her how she was able to do it. Later still, I wanted to make Mattie a cup of tea and let her know that it would be okay while she dealt with her own inner demons that suddenly came to light after her sister’s death. Beeman made me want to care because she cared when she wrote the novella; it is just that obvious. This is more than a novella. This is a slice of life in a place far enough away to be considered foreign to most yet close enough to our own experience that we, the readers, can feel a sense of understanding when someone we know suddenly leaves our lives for good. No man is an island and quite honestly, would anyone want to be? I know I would not.