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Body Surfing    by Anita Shreve order for
Body Surfing
by Anita Shreve
Order:  USA  Can
Little, Brown & Co., 2007 (2007)
Hardcover, CD

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* *   Reviewed by Hilary Daninhirsch

Anita Shreve returns to familiar settings and themes in her latest novel: the New Hampshire coast, the almost magical draw of the ocean, the history of a home, and the complexities of relationships. While the themes in Body Surfing are familiar, Shreve's story is original and absorbing.

Sydney, aged twenty-nine, has been both divorced and widowed. While trying to get back on her feet, she takes a job tutoring the sweet young daughter of the Edwards family. Sydney spends the summer with the family in their beach house in New Hampshire. Despite herself, she gets caught up in family issues, and falls in love with one of the brothers. The question is, did she choose the right brother?

Shreve writes in short, almost choppy paragraphs, but the narrative flows smoothly. She touches upon universal truths about the nature of love. Sydney's easy relationship with the patriarch of the Edwards clan is expertly contrasted with the tense one she has with the mother of the house. Sydney's maturity as the book progresses and her emotional struggles make her an authentic as well as sympathetic character.

While this is not my absolute favorite Shreve novel (that honor belonging to Fortune's Rocks), she proves herself time and time again to have a deep understanding of the human heart. Body Surfing will appeal to her myriad of devoted fans.

Audiobook review by Rheta Van Winkle:

I've read and enjoyed several of Anita Shreve's books, but this is the first audiobook of one of her works that I've listened to. Body Surfing is read by Lolita Davidovich who is an actress and who does a wonderful job of bringing this book to life. She changes her voice subtly when different characters are speaking, making a clear delineation between them.

I like to be read to, and find it a relaxing, interesting way to enjoy a book on an airplane or during a car trip through annoying traffic. Submerging myself in the twists and turns of this novel made the time fly by on a recent three-hour plane trip, with noise-deadening earphones assisting in my escape from the cramped reality of the flight. Being able to close your eyes on a flight and not have to hold up a book in uncertain lighting is another advantage to an audiobook.

Anita Shreve's descriptive powers took me to the beach in New Hampshire and within an old house with an interesting history. Sydney, the main character, is a somewhat tragic figure after enduring two failed marriages by the age of twenty-nine. She divorced her first husband because she was afraid that she would be left a widow, then married a man with a safer occupation, who dies of a sudden illness. She manages to throw herself back into the life of the family who lives in this house, however, becoming emotionally involved with three members of the family and experiencing a surprising change in her own life, with an additional surprising conclusion. Sydney is a likeable young woman, who has more than her share of difficulties to overcome.

I think that Shreve's descriptive powers were more evident to me in listening to this book than they have been in the books that I read. The old house, the rose garden next to it, and the surf beating against the shoreline nearby were all a welcome background to the story taking place.

The music which swells now and then, however, was not welcome. Although it didn't really take anything away from my enjoyment of the book, it did clue me in to an upcoming crisis or ending. Shreve's writing alone is sufficient to convey the mood and action, and background music isn't necessary.

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