After Surfing Ocean Beach: A Novel|
by Mary Soderstrom
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|A Review of: After Surfing Ocean Beach
by Desmond McNally
Although a murder is of central importance in this offering by Mary
Soderstrom, After Surfing Ocean Beach is by no means a "mystery"
or a "whodunit".
The author has a sharp, efficient style, though not sparing in her
descriptive narrative. Nor does she diminish the import of what we
the readers are to discover. In fact by the end of the first chapter,
we are already presented with a body lying in a pool of blood and
made witnesses as Rick, acting defensively, stabs a man who comes
to offer him assistance.
Rick leaves the scene of the crime in a panic. It's almost as if
Soderstrom has decided not to procrastinate, and indeed, her pacey
narrative serves to hone our interest.
The story is conveyed to us in alternate chapters by the characters
Rick and Annie, and we are soon made aware that the murdered man
is Will, Annie's son. Rick and Annie were deeply in love with one
another in their youth and Soderstrom informs us of the propinquity
of Rick and Will, a relationship that is both tragic and crucial
to the story. Consistently the author is generous with details,
allowing her readers to be aware of these familial connections.
Through the dialogue of Rick and Annie we are often treated to
stirring accounts of the decisive moments in their lives, including
the people who influenced them. The past is described nostalgically.
Besotted by true love for the first time, in those uncomplicated
days, this was Rick and Annie before life's hardships set in, before
the birth of children and failed marriages. The issue in current
time is what Rick intends to do about his crime and how Annie will
react to the horror of it.
Soderstrom's use of surfing in her plot is unusual but it works as
an excellent metaphor for those in their formative years hoping for
love, marriage and a mature relationship-it's all about waiting for
the "perfect wave".
This is obviously the work of an experienced author; she handles
the juxtaposition of young men and women growing to adulthood
effortlessly, donning the mantle of the main characters and guiding
us tenderly through their lives with an obvious affection and
understanding of the conflicts they had to endure.
This is the first Soderstrom novel I have read and I believe that
the back cover actually got it right-After Surfing Ocean Beach is
"a haunting and engaging tale." Soderstrom is a writer
of significant talent.