Sunday, January 30, 2011

Review: The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman

The Pirate Queen
On the day Saphora plans to leave her husband, he comes home and announces he has terminal cancer. He has only a short time to live, and wants to go to the very same beach house Saphora was planning to retreat to, in order to be treated and prepare to die.

Feeling a bit trapped into this, Saphora heads there with him and their grandson, Eddie, since their son doesn't have anyone to take care of him. Almost immediately upon arriving, they meet a young boy Eddie's age who is a bit of an old soul and immediately charms them. With family coming in and out, surgery and treatment for Bender, Saphora finds herself examining her life and her relationships.

Okay here's the truth. Any synopsis I write of this book cannot possibly do justice to just how beautifully written and deeply introspective it is. I read that synopsis and think it sounds like nothing special, but in truth, this is a very special book.

Hickman is a fantastic and literary writer, and this is a very deep examination of the soul of Saphora. Hickman knows this character fully and so does the reader as the book progresses. Saphora is unflinching in her honesty. Even as her husband is dying of cancer she resents him and this turn her life has taken. She's had years to feel like nothing more than a trophy wife and now her own personal plans have been thwarted again. At the same point in time, she longs to bring some reconciliation to their relationship in these end days. Every character is so well drawn--the family love and tension is so well realized on the page. Saphora has very frank thoughts about her adult children and where they have succeeded and failed.

And then there's Tobias. Tobias is the young boy they meet on the beach. To avoid spoilers I won't say too much about his condition, but he has one and I love everything about his struggle is portrayed. It's a wonderful way of emphasizing and enforcing the gorgeous theme of this book.

The Pirate Queen is published by a Christian publisher, and I fear that's going to scare some people off. And while there is a spiritual thread it's so well done, so real without ever being preachy, it's everything I ever hope to discover in the best of faith based fiction. It's authentic, beautiful, and offers hope. But it deserves to be discovered by a wide audience, and not confined by genre and market expectations it's just that good.

The Pirate Queen is a stunning story about living fully present in your life, and unearthing the treasures that exist around you everyday in the people you know and in yourself. Never sentimental, never cliched, and never despairing, it epitomizes what I long for in fiction. I laughed, I cried, I went along on the journey--to the low points and the sweet hopeful conclusion. I just can't believe I've waited this long to read anything by Patricia Hickman, but how wonderful to discover she has an extensive backlist for me to discover.

Rating: 5/5
Source of Book: Review copy from publisher
Publisher: WaterBrook Press (Random House)
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