Two if By Sea, by Jacquelyn Mitchard*****

twoifbysea“Whoever really believed that thing you feared most would come to pass?”

It’s Christmas, and Frank is outside Brisbane, Australia celebrating with his wife Natalie and their family, awaiting the birth of his son. It’s to be a boy, and he’s so excited. But then the tsunami comes while he is away from the house, watching on high ground in speechless horror as Natalie and nearly all her family are washed away. Gone, just gone. Unthinkable!

I was fortunate enough to read this riveting novel in advance, courtesy of Net Galley and Simon and Schuster, in exchange for an honest review. And what follows the disaster is purest spun magic, laced with moments of breathless fear, anticipation, and gratitude. Because if this story doesn’t make you want to hold your family and even your pets close to you, nothing will.

Frank is in a boat assisting with the rescue effort when he pulls the little boy out of the sinking minivan. He has a child that appears to be 7 or 8 years old in a good firm grip, but the boy pushes his younger brother out and says to take him first, because he’s important. When Frank reaches back for the first boy after saving Ian, it’s too late. The van has gone down.

Frank tells himself that he will hang onto Ian for a bit, knowing that these family-destroying events are fertile hunting ground for pedophiles and other sick bastards on the hunt. That’s what he tells himself anyway. But ultimately, he can’t make himself drop the child off with the others that have been rescued, and the fiction develops that this is his nephew.

He takes him home with him.

One thing he had feared proves true: there are other people that are very interested in Ian, and willing to go to extreme lengths to find him and take him. Even the watchfulness of a former cop is challenged by those that are stalking his new little son. Ian has a way with people that is sometimes a better defense than what any cop could provide. Sometimes Ian’s method works; sometimes, not so much.

Mitchard incorporates elements of fantasy and the supernatural into this remarkable story, and when I sit back and analyze it, I don’t understand why I didn’t find myself rolling my eyes. When you take the story apart one step at a time, it seems absurd. No no no! But just as a lousy writer can’t make us believe much of anything, so can a gifted writer make us believe anything. Michard removed all doubt before it could even get a toehold near my imagination.

When I read something particularly excellent, I return to my desktop to see what else the author has published. In doing so, I discovered that Mitchard’s first novel is regarded as the second-most influential fictional writing in the UK (topped by Harry Potter, I am so sorry to report). That book will now hold place of pride on my extremely short list of books I’d be willing to pay for.

Whether you are headed to the beach or just looking for something to provide you with a really great weekend curled up at home, you have to read this book. So, as Ian advises, just “be nice.” Please? Get it and you’ll be glad you did!

This brilliant novel is available to the US public March 15, 2016.

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