Two If by Sea (Mitchard)

Two If by Sea 
Jacquelyn Mitchard, 2016
Simon & Schuster
416 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781501115578

From the author of The Deep End of the Ocean comes an epic story of courage and devotion that spans three continents and the entire map of the human heart.

Just hours after his wife and her entire family perish in the Christmas Eve tsunami in Brisbane, American expat and former police officer Frank Mercy goes out to join his volunteer rescue unit and pulls a little boy from a submerged car, saving the child’s life with only seconds to spare.

In that moment, Frank’s own life is transformed.

Not quite knowing why, Frank sidesteps the law, when, instead of turning Ian over to the Red Cross, he takes the boy home to the Midwestern farm where he grew up. Not long into their journey, Frank begins to believe that Ian has an extraordinary, impossible telepathic gift; but his only wish is to protect the deeply frightened child.

As Frank struggles to start over, training horses as his father and grandfather did before him, he meets Claudia, a champion equestrian and someone with whom he can share his life—and his fears for Ian. Both of them know that it will be impossible to keep Ian’s gift a secret forever.

Already, ominous coincidences have put Frank’s police instincts on high alert, as strangers trespass the quiet life at the family farm.

The fight to keep Ian safe from a sinister group who want him back takes readers from the ravaged shores of Brisbane to the middle of America to a quaint English village. Even as Frank and Claudia dare to hope for new love, it becomes clear that they can never let Ian go, no matter what the cost.

A suspenseful novel on a grand scale, Two If by Sea is about the best and worst in people, and the possibility of heroism and even magic in ordinary life. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Birth—December 10, 1956
Where—Chicago, Illinois, USA
Education—University of Illinois (no degree)
Currently—lives in Brewster, Massachusetts

Jacquelyn Mitchard is an American journalist and novelist. She is the author more than 25 books for adults, teens, and children. She is best known for The Deep End of the Ocean, which on September 17, 1996, was the first selection for Oprah's Book Club.

Born and raised in a suburb of Chicago, Illinois, Mitchard's father was a plumber, from Newfoundland, Canada, and her mother a hardware store clerk, a competitive horsewoman, and a member of the Lac du Flambeau Chippewa Cree tribe.

Mitchard studied creative writing for three semesters under Mark Costello (author of The Murphy Stories) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. In 1979, she became a newspaper reporter, eventually achieving a position as lifestyle columnist for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel newspaper. Her weekly column, "The Rest of Us: Dispatches from the Mother Ship," appeared in 125 newspapers nationwide until she retired it in 2007.

Mitchard is also a contributing editor for More (magazine) and is featured regularly in Reader's Digest, Good Housekeeping, Hallmark, Real Simple and other publications. Her nonfiction work includes the 1986 memoir Mother Less Child and essays in more than 30 anthologies.

In 1980, Mitchard married Dan Allegretti, a reporter for The Capital Times; the couple had three children and a daughter from Allegretti's previous marriage. In 1993, after 13 years of marriage, Allegretti died of cancer. He was only 45.

The idea for a novel first came to Mitchard in a dream in the summer of 1993, and after her husband died, she began writing what would become The Deep End of the Ocean. All the while, Mitchard continued to work—as a freelance writer for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and in a part-time job in public relations for the University of Wisconsin–Madison.

Deep End was published in 1996. Bolstered by being featured by Oprah, the novel sold close to 3 million copies by May of 1998. It was listed on the New York Times Bestseller for 29 weeks—13 of those as #1. The book was adapted to film in 1999, starring Michelle Pfeiffer.

All of Mitchard's other novels have been bestsellers and garnered critical acclaim—particularly for The Most Wanted, Cage of Stars and The Breakdown Lane. The Most Wanted was nominated for Britain's Orange Prize for Fiction, and Cage of Stars for Britain's Spread The Word Prize.

In 2004 Mitchard entered the field for young readers. That year she published two books—Baby Bat's Lullaby (a picture book) and Starring Prima! The Mouse of the Ballet Jolie (a middle-school book). In 2005 she released Rosalie, My Rosalie: The Tale of a Duckling (middle-school), and in 2007 she issued Ready, Set, School! (a second picture book).

Personal life
Mitchard and local thespian J. Patrick performed together in the theatre play Love Letters by A.R. Gurney at the Performing Arts Center at Oregon High School in 1999. She performed as Mrs. Cratchit in the CTM production of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol.

Mitchard lives in Brewster, Massachusetts on Cape Cod with her husband, Christopher Brent, and their children.

In 2011, Mitchard wrote that she and her husband had lost millions of dollars and most of their possessions to investment advisor Trevor Cook, who was convicted of operating a Ponzi Scheme.

One Writer's Place
Hoping to create a place for women and men in disadvantaged circumstances created by divorce or widowhood, in 2007 Mitchard founded One Writer's Place, a residence dedicated to healing through creativity. Though a successful endeavor, One Writer's Place was closed in the spring of 2011.

Adult and young adult fiction

1996 - The Deep End of the Ocean
1998 - The Most Wanted
2001 - A Theory of Relativity
2003 - Christmas, Present
2003 - Twelve Times Blessed
2005 - The Breakdown Lane
2006 - Age of Stars
2007 - Still Summer
2007 - Now You See Her
2008 - All We Know of Heaven
2009 - No Time to Wave Goodbye
2011 - Second Nature: A Love Story
2013 - What We Lost In the Dark
2016 - Two If by Sea

(Author bio adapted fom Wikipedia. Retrieved 3/24/2016.)


Book Reviews
Bestselling author Jacquelyn Mitchard (The Deep End of the Ocean) balances love and loss in her new novel, Two If By Sea. It is a sweet story of one man’s road to recovery and the challenges he faces to protect the people he loves…It’s a universal adventure full of emotion and quite a bit of intrigue.
Fort Worth Star-Telegram

[C]ombines elements of science fiction and suspense with a heartfelt meditation on family and grief, to mixed results.... Mitchard’s usual strong characters and emotionally resonant prose are evident here, but a few predictable twists and a shoehorned-in love interest drag things down.
Publishers Weekly

[H]eartbreaker.... Frank Mercy [loses] his wife and all her family in Brisbane's Christmas Eve "inland tsunami." During the flooding, he's managed to rescue a little boy named Ian and breaks the rules by taking him back to his family home in America's Midwest.
Library Journal

A gripping new family drama… Mitchard deftly weaves together domestic drama with taut suspense as she builds to a heart-stopping climax…Mitchard explores new territory in this unusual and suspenseful tale.

After losing his wife and unborn son in a tsunami in Australia, an expat horse trainer adopts a psychic 3-year-old.... A troubled protagonist, beset by disaster and malefaction, is touched by magic as he develops new emotional connections.
Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions
1. What if there really were a child with Ian’s gift? What would the people who love such a child owe him? To protect him from those who would use him and let him have an ordinary life? to develop his gifts and learn to share them? What would such a child owe the world? How would you protect someone with abilities like Ian’s? Evaluate Frank’s approach and Julia Madrigal’s.

2. There are many different types of families in Two If by Sea: for example, Tura and Cedric; the Donovan clan; Frank’s family; and Claudia, her sisters, and her widowed father. How does each character draw what he or she needs from their biological family—or the family he or she creates?

3. Jacquelyn Mitchard uses beautiful language to describe the magical relationships that can exist between people and animals, especially horses. Why is it important to the novel that Frank is a horse trainer? What do the horse farms and the community around them add to the novel? How do the relationships with animals add to our understanding of Ian’s abilities and the power and vulnerability that come with them?

4. Were you surprised by Frank’s decision to take Ian? How do you explain this? Can there ever be a time when doing something that is wrong in the eyes of the world be the only right choice?

5. In the aftermath of the tsunami, Frank thinks: “Life was not a statement of choice in the fucking good earth or whatever Cedric had said. Life was as random as a pair of dice with ten sides.” Is Frank right? Or is Cedric? Why or why not? Do you think by the end of the book that Frank would still feel that way?

6. Do you believe that Ian has supernatural powers? Or do you believe that Ian is no more than an especially charismatic little boy? How does your understanding of Ian’s skills change throughout the course of the novel? How does it change when more of the boy’s history is revealed?

7. When Ian talks for the first time at Eden’s wedding, how does that moment function as a turning point? How does it affect Frank? At what points do the words Ian says to Frank cause him to take the next step at every critical point in their relationship?

8. Consider the following passage, as Frank proposes to Claudia: “Love can make people cruel. Love can make people weak. Love doesn’t always stay the same. And sometimes it goes dark, like a star that gets extinguished and just leaves the memory of its light.” Despite its cruelties and pitfalls, why is love worth the trouble? Why does Frank ask Claudia to love him, despite all the challenges he faces?

9. Has Frank fully experienced his grief when he asks Claudia to marry him? Why or why not? When, if ever, does Frank come to terms with his feelings for his dead wife?

10. Two if By Sea considers parenthood from every possible angle and in every possible iteration. Discuss how each character approaches the idea of parenthood. What does the power and responsibility of parenthood mean to Frank? To Claudia? To Hope? To Eden and Marty? Even to Glory Bee? What is Mitchard (who has nine children of her own, both through birth and adoption) asking the reader to consider about the bonds between parents and their children, the bonds of blood and those of choice?

11. What is the significance of the novel’s title?

12. Why are the relationships Ian and Colin forge in Britain ultimately so important? Why does Frank feel safe enough to let the boys out alone?

13. Frank’s mother says about leaving their farm: “It’s as if I’m not leaving home, Frank, it’s leaving me.” There are strong themes of finding a sense of home and family throughout Two If by Sea. Which qualities create a sense of home for each character? What creates a sense of family? Are they same thing? Why or why not?

14. The book starts with Frank seeing the wave “that would sweep away the center of his life in the minutes after midnight, and, by the time the sun rose, send surging into his arms the seed of his life to come.” How did tragedy make way for what would come next in Frank’s life? How did tragedy inform the lives of other characters? If there is a message about human existence behind the author’s insistence in seeing the “next wave,” what is it?
(Questions issued by the publisher.)

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