Storm Tide

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

STORM TIDE, the title of this richly crafted novel, not only reflects the treachery of the fickle tides in the small Cape Cod town of Saltash, it presages the internal and external turmoil that visits the people who live there. The story is told through three major characters: David, failed major league pitcher, divorced and returned to the small town where he grew up; Judith, battle-scarred successful lawyer—a newcomer to Saltash—who falls in love with David; and Johnny, the political puppet master who controls the strings that operate the town. Other characters are introduced through the observations of these three; all are characters of compelling complexity.

Marge Piercy and Ira Wood devise an excellent tale, as complicated as it is fascinating. Although the writing style of the two authors differs, they have so closely woven plot and personae that it is impossible to find a seam—except in the tragic lives told in the story. The reader meets Crystal, desperate single mother trying to balance her love for David with her loyalty to his nemesis/her employer, Johnny. There is Gordon, Judith’s dying husband, who nominates David as his wife’s lover and for local political office. Even the minor players are fleshed out into complex believable persons. None is pure hero. Each has deep rooted flaws as well as seeds of greatness. The interplay of these elements leaves no one untouched by tragedy.

The linchpin and driving force of the plot is found in the opening chapter: a woman’s body is discovered in the muck of sand left by the receding storm tide. The reader is seduced into some assumptions about the body and driven to read on to discover how and why she died. The resulting tale is as powerful and perfidious as the tides from which the title is borrowed.