Burning the Sea: A Novel

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9781555836443: Burning the Sea: A Novel
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In an airport in the Dominican Republic, two searchers are drawn together by a suggestive smile and a shared sense of longing. Michelle is a young American with holes in her past and a need to wander so strong that she walks in her sleep. Tollomi is a native of the West Indies, thoroughly Americanized by education and in search of his truer self. Haunted by elusive secrets of the past, they forge an intense connection that allows them to comprehend each other's secrets while remaining blind to their own. For Tollomi, the route to salvation lies in his deep involvement in Dominican politics; for Michelle, it is the rebuilding of a family home, long abandoned, which she hopes will hold the key to her lost memories. Michelle's blindly obsessive drive to complete construction and Tollomi's passionate love affair with a young Dominican man whose brother is involved in a growing revolutionary movement, pulls both into the vortex of volatile tensions between Dominicans and Americans surrounding increasing tourism and a national election, setting in motion an explosive series of events both heartbreaking and transcendent. In this remarkable debut novel, Sarah Pemberton Strong's poetically simple language enhances a story of emotional dislocation, cultural identity, and the powerful forces of memory and desire.
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Review:

This complex, mesmerizing first novel is both a traveler's tale and a lament for the home left behind. In the case of Michelle, a young American, her childhood home is barely remembered. But even when her body was sitting at the dinner table, her mind wandered: "I never knew when I was doing it. I tried to be my own jailer, but my mind was too quick for me. It slipped out between breaths, and I never knew it had gone until someone called to me from far away to come back and answer for my mind's behavior." What propels her is a search for a truer origin, a spiral path that will take her to the Dominican Republic, where her grandfather once owned a dilapidated house. On her way, she falls in with Tollimi, a political worker with a gift for disguising himself, for slipping the bonds of identity, that is even better-developed than Michelle's. Readers whose interest in the West Indies and Caribbean is stirred by Burning the Sea will find it makes a brilliant--and equally well-written--companion volume to Nelly Rosario's novel of Dominican family life, Song of the Water Saints. --Regina Marler

About the Author:

Sarah Pemberton Strong is also the author of the novel, The Fainting Room (Ig Publishing, 2013), and a collection of poems, Tour of the Breath Gallery, winner of the Walt McDonald First-Book Award (Texas Tech University Press, 2013). She is the poetry editor for New Haven Review, and her poetry has appeared in journals such as The Southwest Review, The Southern Review, Cream City Review, Spoon River Poetry Review, RATTLE, and The Sun. She lives in New Haven, Connecticut with her spouse and daughter.

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