Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

A Sea So Far

A Sea So Far

Jean Thesman
For ages 12 to and up
Viking, 2001   ISBN: 978-0670892785

Kate Keely and Jolie Logan are as different as can be. Kate has to make her own way in the world, an orphan who has only an old, frail, and poor aunt as family. Jolie on the other hand comes from a wealthy family and has always had a life of comfort and luxury. What Jolie does not have is good health. A terrible bout with scarlet fever has left her with a weak heart and body. It is unlikely that two such girls would ever meet under ordinary circumstances but on April 18th 1906 their worlds were rocked to the core and they were set on a course that would end up with them becoming good and close friends.

Early in the morning on April 18th 1906 San Francisco was shaken by a dreadful earthquake. Homes collapsed and dreadful fires spread out of control until much of the great city was destroyed. In this disaster Jolie’s mother is killed and Kate and her aunt loose practically everything they have except what they can carry. Because of these awful events Jolie needs someone to help care for and entertain her, and Kate badly needs a job to help support herself and her aunt. With the help of a friend Kate becomes Jolie’s "companion," always there to help the frail young woman who often gasps for breath and who is unlikely to ever be able to live a normal life.

When Jolie and Kate travel to Ireland together to stay with Jolie’s aunt, Kate is delighted to be in her mother’s homeland and thrives in the green country where fields "unfold clear to the sea". Jolie also seems to be better and is able to get about a little. The girls become very close, their friendship growing all the time.

The experiences of the two girls change them both significantly, with Kate discovering a great deal about herself and Jolie learning to cope with the loss of her mother. By telling the stories of the two girls separately, in alternate chapters, the author brilliantly leads the reader to a point of convergence, where Kate and Jolie are both forced to look at themselves and their futures honestly and with courage. A wonderfully descriptive novel, “A Sea So Far” shows us how tragedy can affect people, and how two people can learn from, and through, each other about the world and their place in it.