On an ordinary morning in Fox Harbor, Wisconsin, Meg and Rex Van Dorn's lives are irrevocably altered when a drunk driver Meg's onetime best friend, Cindy Ann Kreisler slams into the Van Dorns' car, killing their six-year-old son, Evan. As Meg recovers from her own injuries, she and Rex are shocked when Cindy Ann receives a mere slap on the wrist. In their rage and grief, they buy a boat to sail around the world, hoping to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Cindy Ann. But when Meg returns to Fox Harbor for a family wedding, she's forced to face the complex ties that bind her to the woman who has destroyed her peace.
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About the Author
Hometown:Port Washington, Wisconsin; now lives in New York City
Date of Birth:1964
Place of Birth:Lapeer, Michigan
Education:MFA, Cornell University, 1991
Read an Excerpt
Blue WaterA Novel
By A. Ansay
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright ©2006 A. Ansay
All right reserved.
Forget what you've read about the ocean. Forget white sails on a blue horizon, the romance of it, the beauty. A picnic basket in a quiet anchorage, the black-tipped flash of gulls. The sound of the wind like a pleasant song, the curved spine of the coast --
Such images belong to shore. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the sea.
Imagine a place of infinite absence. An empty ballroom, the colors muted, the edges lost in haze. The sort of dream you have when you've gone beyond exhaustion to a strange, otherworldly country, a place I'd visited once before in the months that followed the birth of my son, when days and nights blurred into a single lost cry, when I'd find myself standing over the crib, or rocking him, breathing the musk of his hair, or lying in bed beside Rex's dark shape, unable to recall how I'd gotten there. As if I'd been plucked out of one life and dropped, wriggling and whole, into another. Day after day, week after week, the lack of sleep takes its toll. You begin to see things that may or may not be there. You understand how the sailors of old so willingly met their deaths on the rocks, believing in visions of beautiful women, sirens, mermaids with long, sparkling hair.
The crest of awave becomes a human face, openmouthed, white-eyed, astonished. The spark of a headlight appears in the sky, edges closer, fades, edges closer still. There's a motion off the bow, and I clutch at the helm, catch myself thinking, Turn!
But, eventually, I learn to let my eyes fall out of focus. Blink, look again. Wipe my sweating face. There is nothing out there but gray waves, gray waves.
Clouds. A translucent slice of moon.
We alternated watches, Rex and I: four hours on, four hours off. We had a ship's clock that rang out the hours. We had charts and a sextant, a handheld GPS. We had an outdated radar system; we had a small refrigerator, a water maker, clothing and books sealed in plastic wrap. We had five hundred pounds of canned goods, nuts, dried fruit and beans, powdered milk.
We had a ship's log, where we jotted down notes: latitude and longitude, course and speed, wind direction, weather, unusual observations.
We had a float plan, which we left with my brother, Toby; he posted it in the fish store, on the bulletin board behind the cash -register. People stopped by with farewell gifts: cookies sealed in Tupperware, a book of crossword puzzles, religious cards, funny cards, cards simply wishing us well. Everyone in Fox Harbor knew why we were leaving, of course, and this was another reason why I'd agreed to rent our house and move onto the sailboat Rex had bought in Portland, Maine. Our first destination was Bermuda, our ETA three to five weeks. From Bermuda, we'd continue southeast to the Bahamas, island-hop down to the Caicos. Perhaps we'd -winter over in Puerto Rico. Or perhaps we'd cross the ocean to Portugal -- who could say? We might even head to Panama, pass through the canal, find our way north along the coast to the Mexican Bajas. So much depended on weather, on wind. On our own day-to-day inclinations.
The plan, Rex liked to tell people, is not to have a plan.
It had always been Rex's dream to live aboard a sailboat, and Chelone was exactly the boat that he had wanted. A blue water boat, he called her. A boat built to sail around the world. He'd grown up on Cape Cod, sailing with his father; at twenty, he was captain of his college sailing team, and before heading west to Madison for law school, he'd worked as a mate aboard a private schooner, cruising the Virgin Islands. On cold winter nights as we lay in bed, listening to the east wind screaming off Lake Michigan, he'd tell me about the islands he'd seen, casuarina trees and pink sand beaches, sailboats at anchor outside each rustic harbor. Passing these boats, you'd see dogs racing from bow to stern, bicycles lashed to the safety lines, laundry fluttering from the rigging. Entire families spent their whole lives just cruising from place to place, dropping anchor wherever they chose. No bills to pay, no responsibilities. You didn't like your neighbor, no problem, you sailed away.
Maybe, he'd whisper, his breath warm against my neck, we could do the same thing someday.
I like our neighbors fine, Rex.
I am serious.
At the time, I couldn't imagine saying good-bye to Toby, to my friends at the accounting firm where I worked, to our fieldstone house overlooking the lake, to the small, Wisconsin town where I'd been raised. Still, after years spent trying to conceive a child, after the shots and surgeries, the herbal teas, the special masses; after trying to adopt the infant of a teenage girl who changed her mind, I started to pay more attention whenever Rex talked about heading to sea. I leafed through his copies of Practical Sailor, his scrapbook of sail plans and hull designs. I studied the glossy brochures he -received from boat builders around the world. I'd always enjoyed sailing, and though I'd only sailed on the Great Lakes, I figured that the ocean couldn't be all that different. Water was water, after all. You wore a life jacket. You learned to hang on.
Then, one week before my fortieth birthday, I discovered I was pregnant with Evan. After eleven years of marriage, we were -finally -- unexpectedly -- about to have a child. Our plans no longer belonged to us, and the truth was that we gave them up eagerly. We wanted to make sacrifices. We wanted to shake our heads ruefully, saying, But then we had the baby so we couldn't . . .
Six years later, our lives changed again, when Evan was killed in a car accident involving someone I'd known since grade school. Someone whose birthday parties I'd attended. . . .
Excerpted from Blue Water by A. Ansay Copyright ©2006 by A. Ansay. Excerpted by permission.
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