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The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel

The Sea of Tranquility: A Novel - Katja Millay This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.

I kept waiting and waiting to like The Sea of Tranquility. It has one of the highest ratings on Goodreads I’ve come across, with thousands of reviews, along with an overall 5-star rating on Amazon. But it never happened. I slogged through because of all the praise, but I was ultimately disappointed.
The main source of my disappointment was one of the two main characters/narrators, Nastya. Throughout the book, she references a horrible trauma without providing details. This trauma led her to stop speaking, turn her back on her family, dress like a “whore” (her words), and generally behave in an insufferably self-pitying matter. When the nature of the trauma is finally revealed at the very end of this too-long book, my reaction was, “That was it?” Don’t get me wrong; it was bad. Very bad. But Nastya’s own narration and behavior led me to believe that she endured suffering that was beyond comprehension. And…it just wasn’t. I think of people like those women kidnapped and held captive for more than a decade in Ohio, or people who survive accidents with horrific physical injuries. Short of death, what could be worse? Nastya can’t see beyond her own trauma to appreciate everything she DOES have, and it made it impossible for me to like her or sympathize with her.

An unlikable main character might be OK if her behavior made sense. Nastya’s lack of speech is presented as the focal point of the book and as evidence of her suffering. But one day, she suddenly decides to start talking to a character, even as she allows everyone else to think she’s mute. Her lack of speech seemed to me like nothing more than a means to garner attention and to punish the people who care about her. She tells us why she stopped speaking, but it didn’t make a lot of sense.

Josh, the other narrator, suffered equally, but differently, than Nastya. His story, even though it was overshadowed by Nastya’s, was the only thing that made this overly long story somewhat tolerable.

Note – I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.