Cover image for The one true ocean
The one true ocean
Martin, Sarah Beth.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Naperville, Ill. : Sourcebooks, [2003]

Physical Description:
351 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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There are two oceans, mom used to tell me. There is one that is blue-a clean, bright Disney World blue, which simply is the mirror of a clear sky above. But look at the ocean on a cloudy day, she would say, and here lies the green ocean-the true ocean, full of algae and kelp and slimy creatures, evil lurking in the shadows.

The One True Oceanis a searing "what happened?" novel driven by suspense and tension when a twenty-something artist returns to her abandoned childhood home and begins to dig into her past. In a search for answers to her aunt's suicide and her father's identity, Jenna discovers that her seaside house holds dark secrets that will unravel her family history and shatter the truth she has come to believe.

In this eloquent debut novel, Sarah Beth Martin mixes dark psychology and real emotion with breathless storytelling to explore the deep connections between past and present, love and loss, the dead and the living.

Author Notes

Sarah Beth Martin began her writing career with a story published in Mostly Maine: A Writer's Journal. Since then, she has been published in Pearl, West Wind Review, and Animus, among others, and ran the literary journal Foliage. Martin lives in Yarmouth, Maine, and is currently at work on her second novel.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

In Martin's debut novel about an inexplicably dysfunctional family, an old house on the rugged coast of Maine holds many secrets. Chapters alternate between Renee, who gave birth at age 15, and her daughter, Jenna, now 26 and recently widowed. Renee relied on her older sister, Adeline, when she was a new mother, and Jenna's childhood memories have always centered on her beloved aunt. When Jenna is seven, Adeline dies in a mysterious wreck, her car swerving into the ocean, and Renee and her daughter abruptly move away. After her husband dies, Jenna returns to the family home and slowly begins to fit together the buried pieces of her mother and aunt's fractured relationship. Tapping into long-hidden family archives and the memories of neighbors, she eventually comprehends the jealousy and miscommunication that drove the sisters apart--all the clouded layers of guilt and regret. Martin's perceptive voice calls up moments in a young widow's life that remain clearly etched in her readers' minds, adding a unique ingredient to the usual romantic suspense novel. --Deborah Donovan Copyright 2003 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

A woman's effort to seek out her biological father's identity leads her into a hornet's nest of lurid family secrets in Martin's debut, an atmospheric if rather ponderous novel. Artist Jenna McGarry is in mourning following the death of her husband in a car accident. After a period in the doldrums, McGarry decides to rent the house her parents owned on the coast of Maine before they moved to Massachusetts. McGarry's mother, Renee, is startled by her decision, largely because it takes her daughter back to the scene of a family tragedy-when Jenna was seven, her mother's sister, Adeline, committed suicide. As Jenna settles into the old house, she finds traces of her mother's first love-letters, even a photograph. But it is a talk with an old friend that leads her to suspect that her actual father may be long dead. Martin is a smooth, engaging storyteller, and she does a nice job of weaving together the various narrative threads. The flashbacks to Renee's adolescence are clumsy, however, and laced with leaden, dramatic pronouncements. Martin gradually reveals the rivalry between Renee and older, unbalanced Adeline for the attentions of Jenna's father, which comes to a tragic head at the novel's climax. Martin's plotting shows promise, though overwriting weighs down her debut. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Table of Contents

Part 1 Aftermathp. 1
Part 2 The Origins of Thingsp. 23
Part 3 A More Horrible Deathp. 57
Part 4 The Riftp. 83
Part 5 The Color of Waterp. 111
Part 6 The Thawp. 139
Part 7 Awakeningp. 165
Part 8 The Calmp. 203
Part 9 The Livingp. 229
Part 10 A Fertile Greenp. 255
Part 11 Buried Thingsp. 269
Part 12 The Umbilicalp. 281
Part 13 Undertowp. 299
Part 14 In the Wake of Greenp. 317