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Beachcombing for a Shipwrecked God

beachcombingI received this book as a Christmas present from my grandmother in 2001. She is effectively my dealer, and we are basically each other in different generations and one of our strongest connections has been through our love of reading. Please do not let the word God in the title scare you away. This is not a religious novel. Joe Coomer has written a book that I have come back to time and time again and the story is always fresh, always new, always heart wrenching. I come back to comb the beach for hope.

Our main character Charlotte has lost her husband and to escape his parents’ incessant need to mourn him through the leaching of her memories she relocates to New Hampshire to heal and possibly start anew. She finds a small kitten to keep her company and then an unconventional rental situation on a houseboat with Grace and Chloe and the fucking ugliest, nastiest dog you will ever have read about (but whom you will love anyway). Grace is an older woman, living on the yacht she shared and traveled on with her deceased husband, and Chloe is an eccentric seventeen-year-old trying to find her place in the world.

The bond that these three women form is so sweet and real. Charlotte is working through very real, raw, and recent grief. She is helped by Grace, who continues to mourn her late husband in her own way, but this grief is like an old chair that she relaxes into. Chloe’s dealings with her boyfriend and her estranged family give the reader the perspective that not all loss is negative, and that we can become stronger if we are willing to let some things go. They can all only hide from their problems for so long on the lovely house boat, and each must deal with moving forward in their own ways, but always with support from the others in turn.

Another strength of this book is the scenery. I can almost smell the ocean as I read, feel the sand beneath my toes, hear the creaking of the boat as it rocks the characters to sleep. I can hear the accents and sense the community that exists in such a small town. Reading this book is like taking a short trip to New England, giving you small tastes of the sights, sounds, and smells. What an absolute joy.

This is not a recently published book, but if you have never read it you should add it to your reading list. It is a beautiful story makes us laugh, cry, and hope that when tragedy happens we might have such wonderful people around us to help us find our way through the darkness and back to ourselves.

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