In this spellbinding, intricately layered novel, the Printz Honor winner (Tender Morsels, 2008) puts her unique spin on selkies—haunting, mysterious, seal-human shape-shifters in a world of hardscrabble fishing villages, lonely islands and cold, restless seas.
At the story’s heart is unattractive, abused Misskaella, whose harsh life on Rollrock Island changes when, at age 9, she awakens to powers that include an exhilarating, terrifying connection to the island’s seals. Left largely unguided to develop her gifts, Misskaella grows up unloved, unmarried and feared. A secret joy makes life bearable, but loss soon follows. When she learns to draw forth a beautiful woman from a seal, life changes again. Island men set aside their human wives—girls and matrons who once ridiculed Misskaella—and pay whatever she asks for seal wives. Beautiful, strange, sad, they’re truly loved by the husbands and sons who refuse to see their unhappiness. Earthy, vigorous characters and prose ground the narrative in the world we know, yet its themes are deep as the sea. Daniel, son of a human father and his seal wife, wonders why “whosoever’s pain I thought of, it could not be resolved without paining someone else.” Intentions and actions, cause and effect are untidy and complicated, raising questions that will require generations to answer.
Bracing, powerful, resonant. (Fantasy. 12 & up)