Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Motion of the Ocean will make you root for monogamy

I loved Janna Cawrse Esarey’s The Motion of the Ocean: 1 Small Boat, 2 Average Lovers, and a Woman's Search for the Meaning of Wife. It was funny. It was personal. It moved fast, most of the time. And most importantly, it was self-reflective, but not necessarily self-absorbed, which is a pretty tough posture to assume convincingly.

The story is simple: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy leaves girl, boy meets girl again, girl dumps girl, boy meets girl, boy moves in with girl, boy marries girl (FINALLY), boy and girl sail 17,000 miles from Seattle to Hong Kong to see if their marriage will actually work. You know, that old chestnut. Janna is the “girl,” and she tells the story of her romance with passion, joy and energy. She doesn’t shy away from the nasty bits, whether discussing herself or her “boy,” Chinese-speaking, and all-around bronze bod goddy, Graeme.

Without giving away the answer to the central question of the novel, namely, can two people overcome their shared and difficult history to create one life out of the two that their break-ups have created, I can say that the book is in turns very romantic, very comic, and very disturbing. Although the backdrops are stunning – Mexico, Micronesia, and Hong Kong among them – they are not a “character” in the same way the locales are in other travel-oriented memoirs, such as Eat, Pray, Love. Rather, they play second-fiddle to the love story, providing little more than location for a story of relationships. I actually appreciated that, because the author isn’t trying to make her story some kind of allegory – the places are incidental because the story truly is paramount here.

To be honest, the author’s personality is so very close to my own (perfectionist, justice-oriented, emotional, petulant), and her husband’s so very close to my husband’s (entrepreneurial, calm, egalitarian, aloof) that even though we have 10 years both in age and marriage on the couple, I couldn’t help but root for them. I would absolutely recommend this memoir to people who love travel, who appreciate the beauty of a long-term relationship, and who have ever wondered whether love is a force of destiny or a work in progress.

So that’s my body of water title. Loved it! Two-thirds of the way through the What’s in a Name 3 Challenge. Next up is my title title, The Madman and the Professor. I’ll also be using this for the Summer Season Challenge on Goodreads.


  1. That is so funny, how you describe yourself and your husband, because I can see myself and my husband echoed in your descriptors. In fact, I call my husband (lovingly) a "flat-liner." While I'm ranting, just occasionally, he's calmly waiting. One of my favorite stories is that when I didn't calm down, after failing my National Board certification the first time, he said, "I think the best thing for our family right now is for you to go upstairs." Sent to my room at 48...sigh.

    Well, I digress, but I love travel, I saw ourselves in your post, and I'm glad you visited me today. Nice to meet you!

  2. Nice to meet you too! And I could definitely see my husband sending me to my room as well -- glad he hasn't thought of it yet. Looking forward to your future reviews!


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