Science, romance blend in ‘Language of the Sea’
“The Language of the Sea” (Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin’s Press), by James MacManus
Saturday, May 14, 2011
In his second book, and first novel, James MacManus blends science and romance, producing a gripping combination for readers in “The Language of the Sea.”
Set at a marine biology facility on Cape Cod, Mass., the book focuses on Leo Kemp, a scientist whose fascination with seals borders on the fanatical, and his unhappy wife, Margot, who has no burning interest in anything anymore.
The book opens with the death of Leo and Margot’s only son, 10-year-old Julian. Leo had taken the boy on a research trip into the Atlantic Ocean. It was a calm day in September, but in one of the tricks that fate loves to play, a giant tree far from its rain forest home was floating in just the right spot. The boat flipped over and Julian’s head hit the log.
A once passionate couple, Leo and Margot drift so far apart they cannot comfort each other. Their daughter is the only reason they stay together.
Leo begins to self-destruct.
After pushing the marine biology facility too far with his outspoken criticism, he plans one last outing with his students, a day of studying the seals on a small island.
After a rogue wave washes Leo overboard, he uses it as an escape — and a chance to pursue his real love, the seals.
As Leo becomes more seal than man, his wife and daughter struggle to deal with his absence.
Strong writing and characters make for a believable story that builds tension and holds interest throughout.