From the beloved New York Times bestselling Luanne Rice comes a heartwarming yet heart-wrenching portrait of three far-flung sisters who come home to Martha’s Vineyard one last time. Their mother’s beach house is the only place any of them ever found true happiness and they need to begin the difficult process of letting go. Memories of their grandmother, mother, and their Irish father, who sailed away the year Dar turned twelve, rise up and expose the fine cracks in their family myth-especially when a cache of old letters reveals enough truth to send them back to their ancestral homeland.
Transplanted into the unfamiliar, each sister sees life, her heart, and her relationship to home in a new way. But how do they let go of a place that contains the complicated love of their imperfect family? Without the house, where will they be together?
The novel is a season on Martha’s Vineyard; a mission to Ireland; a cast of friends, including one wildly off-the-grid Zen genius; passionate love in the surf; and three very different sisters with lives filled with beauty, sorrow, and deep love they’d never been quite sure they could trust. The Silver Boat is Luanne Rice at her very best, complete with her singular talent for capturing a family in all its flawed complexity.
“Will strike a chord in every mother, daughter, or sister.”
“Popular Rice, in her mellifluous style, captures the essence of family and sisterhood as each character deals with love and loss.”
“Rice’s writing effortlessly conveys the way family can bind as well as buoy us, reminding us that when the sea of life gets too choppy, by setting our prows toward the places that made us, we will find a safe harbor. Another winner from one of America’s most beloved authors.”
“Rice enriches familiar themes of family, failure, redemption, and romance with a watercolor-lovely portrait of Martha’s Vineyard and sketches of the tug-of-war between sea and sand, rich and poor, development and preservation characteristic of the island.”
“Compelling . . . a satisfying and worthwhile ride.”
In many ways my process has changed very little. My novels always begin with a character. I wait for her to tell me who she is; often she inhabits my dreams. Once I know her name, I'm ready to start writing. Although I now work on a MacBookPro 15, I still like to write the earliest scenes on a yellow legal pad with a fountain pen. The Internet makes research go faster, but something is lost. It's too easy to search for information, take what I need, and move on. I prefer to do research from books, getting lost in the background and immersed in the realm of whatever I'm trying to learn.
The importance of family is a recurring theme in your novels. How did your own upbringing influence your decision to become a writer?
My family was loving but complicated. Our house was filled with secrets and bass notes. As a child I was a detective, listening at walls and going through drawers, looking for answers to what was wrong. My writing has been my lifelong solution to figuring things out, finding the love I know was there, learning everything I can about the way families work, ways of loving and trying to be happy.
"Was that the inspiration for Dulse's latest adventure? Dar wasn't sure. She only knew that her ideas came from deep down, experiences and emotions of her own" (p. 282). Part of what makes your novels so heartfelt is that each of them comes from a deeply personal place. What was your inspiration for The Silver Boat?
The answer has three parts:
a) Like the McCarthy sisters, my sisters and I had to face what to do with our beloved family beach cottage after our mother died. It was an immense challenge. The house contained so many ghosts and memories. My grandparents had built it; no other family had ever occupied it. It sits on a granite hill, and the top step still has three pennies placed there by my grandfather in 1938, the year it was built. We put it on the market for ten seconds—selling felt unthinkable. My sisters were very generous and let me buy them out. I still want it to be the family house.
b) My father had a way of disappearing. Not forever, like Michael McCarthy, but frequently, and without explanation. I've been writing my way into that situation my whole life.
c) The silver boat actually exists.
Harrison is such a glorious character. Is he based on someone you've known?
Yes, but like the character, he would want to remain a mystery.
In your blog, you have a section called "Advice to Young Writers." What is the one bit of advice that you consider most important to a writer just starting out?
Write every day; don't worry what your parents, true love, or teacher will think; go to the library, find the shelf where your book would be, and imagine it right there.
In an alternate universe, is Luanne Rice still a novelist, or is there a "road untaken" that the other Luanne has followed?
One of the best parts of being a writer is that I get to take all those roads; for months on end I've lived the lives of an oceanographer, gardener, sculptor, anthropologist, veterinarian, actor, beachcomber, researcher at the Louvre, and many more.
Poetry always has a prominent supporting role in your novels. Who are your favorite poets, and why?
W. B. Yeats for the language, beauty, mysticism; Eavan Boland for her strength and evocation of Dublin; Mary Oliver for her connection to nature and the sea; Jim Harrison and Ted Kooser for their friendship; my sister Maureen Rice Onorato because her work is tender and powerful.
Dulse is another name for a type of seaweed also called "Irish moss." Why did you give her this name?
Dulse's element is water. She is a fluid character, flowing in and out of fantasy and dreams. She leads Dar deep into her own subconscious, allowing her to bring forth things buried inside, answers she didn't know she had.
I chose the name because it's beautiful to say. Also in honor of the seaweed that fills tidal pools, hides sea creatures, smells like life and death, and because I love its Latin name, Chondrus crispus.
Also because the short story "Dulse," by Alice Munro, affected me greatly when I first read it in The New Yorker.
You describe Dulse and her world so vividly that the reader can really picture the pages. Is there a graphic artist whose work inspired Dar's?
My niece Amelia Onorato inspired me and helped me research the character. She is a writer and an artist, getting her master's degree in cartoon studies, working on her first graphic novel.
Have you found the seed of your next novel yet? If so, could you share a bit of the story?
It starts with a crime, continues with an unexpected visitor, threads of estrangement, lost love, and the kind of deep love a person can have for someone she's never even met.