(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

As in his first novel, EQUAL DISTANCE (1985), in SEAWARD Brad Leithauser shows how an extraordinary experience can change a seemingly ordinary person. However, while the law student of the earlier work spent a year in a foreign country in order to expand his horizons, the protagonist of SEAWARD, also a lawyer, neither plans nor expects to encounter a ghost in the Dismal Swamp of Virginia.

Terry Seaward’s friends would think him an unlikely person to have a supernatural experience. A hard-working, highly organized person, he is a mainstay of his Washington, D.C., law firm. He is also the head of his family, the one to whom his improvident older sister turns whenever she is in trouble. Indeed, the novel begins with a discussion of Terry’s part in his niece’s upcoming wedding. Not only is he expected to act as her father at the ceremony, but he will have the privilege of paying for it.

However, after seeing the spirit of his dead wife, Terry is not certain about anything. To use Leithauser’s metaphor, he is at sea. Taking a leave of absence from his job, Terry spends hours talking with his colleague Adam Mikolajczak and his eccentric college friend Curly Kopp, then turns to experts on the psychic, in order to make sense out of his experience. Only when Terry accepts the fact that instead of being an ordinary person, as he had always assumed, he is a man of vision, born with supernatural powers, can he return to the everyday world, his law practice, and his family duties—in other words, to his harbor. SEAWARD is an admirable novel, perceptive, poetic, often humorous, and totally original.