1933, Ellen abandons her husband and daughter rather than return to Ireland with them but is haunted by her decision. 1984, recently separated Mairead has always felt unloved by her mother. Brigid’s cancer diagnosis forces her to reach out to her daughter to beg her to find her birth mother Ellen.
The Girl Across The Sea is a dual timeline novel set in the 1930s and 1980s, in America and Ireland.
Ellen is terrified at the thought of returning home to Ireland and in her desperation she runs away from the ship. Her husband and daughter sail on without her and she has nothing except a green suitcase. What could she possibly have done that would make this seem like the only choice?
Mairead is going through a tricky patch. Her husband has left her for a man, her daughter is trying to break into acting and her mother continually rejects her. Now she faces the loss of her mother and her desperate pleas to find her biological grandmother.
The chapters alternate between the third person viewpoints of Ellen and Mairead. Both timelines are very emotional and full of mystery as secrets are gradually revealed. The tension between Mairead and Brigid is heartbreaking and uncomfortable even when we understand the reason. Meanwhile Ellen endures so much which is even more emotional after the grief of separation from her child.
The Irish and American landscapes are brought to life as well as the two historical eras. The poverty of the 1930s and the burgeoning technology in the 1980s were detailed enough to give an authenticity.
The Girl Across The Sea is an interesting and engaging historical dual timeline novel. I have previusly reviewed The Island Girls by Noelle Harrison.
Book: The Girl Across the Sea
Author: Noelle Harrison
Pub Day: Nov 10th 2021
About the Book:
Ellen looked into her daughter’s green eyes. Her chest felt tight, and her heart was cracking. If only she could be sure her secret was safe. If only she could go home to Ireland…
New York, 1933. Ellen looks at her sleeping husband and precious daughter for the last time. They have longed to return home to Ireland for many years, but now the time has come, and the boat is ready to leave. But Ellen knows the dark secret she hides means she can never go back. Heart breaking into a million little pieces, she kisses her little girl goodbye and lays a precious turquoise necklace down beside her head, before fleeing into the night.
Ireland, years later. Mairead’s world is falling apart. Recently separated, she has returned home to nurse her dying mother, Brigid. As Brigid passes, she calls out for her mother, Ellen, a woman Mairead knows nothing about.
All alone in the world, Mairead is stricken with guilt that she couldn’t honour her mother’s last wish. She travels to New York, the last place her grandmother was seen, clutching all that she has of her – a stunning turquoise necklace and a small black-and-white photograph. Mairead’s search leads her across America to Arizona where she discovers that Ellen was on the run, a wanted woman, accused of a terrible crime.
Mairead can’t believe that the young woman with laughing eyes and an innocent smile could have such a dark past. But as she uncovers the secrets and lies that forced her grandmother to abandon her only daughter, will Mairead’s own future be ruined by the shadows of her family’s secrets?
Be transported to the wild west coast of Ireland by this beautiful read about the sacrifices a mother will make to protect her child. Fans of The Light Between Oceans and Lisa Wingate will adore this heart-breaking book.
Author Bio and Social Media
Noelle Harrison is the Irish author of nine novels and five plays and has been translated into over 13 different languages. Her short stories have been published in Lines of Vision, Irish Writing on Irish Art, & Gutter Magazine of New Scottish Writing. In 2016, Noelle co-founded Aurora Writers’ Retreats building on 20 years’ experience of teaching creative writing in Ireland, Scotland, Norway and England.