Monday, July 19, 2010

Flood Tide: a Free Book review

Flood Tide by Sara Ware Bassett (audiobook here) is the story of an elderly, eccentric tinkerer (Willie Spence) who tinkers with more than just gadgets. He's fix-it man to a small New England town almost a century ago, and he keeps getting "ketched by an idee" for some new contraption. But he also tries to fix some romances along the way, and they work out pretty well.

There are some things that are never spelled out--where does Willie's income come in? He's far from rich, but he has enough to get by on--he and live-in housekeeper Celestina Morton. Contributions from people he's helped out? Perhaps.

Willie's Panglossian faith in the basic goodness of people seems contradicted by the behavior of a former friend turned rapid viper, but Willie remains relatively serene. You'd think a tinkerer would realize the value of an adjustment, such as whacking the jerk with a wrench upside the head. "Straighten up, y' kooky ol' coot!" But that would detract from the generic inspirational preachment at the end.

Theologically, this is a bit on the brainless fluff side: though there are specifically Christian references, there are also references to "the gods"; there is also the contradictory optimism about human nature in the midst of People Behaving Badly. Still, if you don't take the theological implications seriously (while guarding against the humanistic worldview involved), there are some good messages here, especially where romantic relationships are concerned. Though this is ideologically motivated, the ideology doesn't really drive the story.

The characters are the primary elements here, and in their case, there is no ambiguity. They're the sort you want to follow around and watch, which is the joy of the story.

As the story opens, Willie has just had an idee for keeping propellers from getting caught in the eel grass when Celestina's nephew Robert Morton, who happens to have a naval engineering background, shows up for a visit. He takes an interest in the project and in a local girl, when some rich friends turn up and complicate matters.

An auspicious opening! Let's check the vital components list:

Obnoxious, shallow rich girl? Check!
Wise (grand)motherly mentor figure? Check!
Dark family secret revealed to flabbergastification of all and sundry? Check!
Quirky will and (in)convenient demise? Check!
Strange goin's-on, conspiracy-wise? Check!

Looks like we're good to go!

For all its twists, Flood Tide is a fairly laid-back story: no nightmare potential, no real real chance of elevating your blood pressure, just an entertaining and sometimes inspiring read.

Flood Tide:


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