The Surfman by David M. Schroeder
Jack Light has a secret – her name is Elizabeth. In David M. Schroeder’s The Surfman, Jack is one of the brave men who patrols the East Coast as part of the U.S. Lifesaving Service. One evening, during a routine patrol along the beach, he comes across Elizabeth’s waterlogged and nearly lifeless body, washed up on the shore in the dead of night. Jack’s first reaction is to bring the young woman to his patrol station and to alert his superiors of a possible shipwreck, but Elizabeth Harrison is clearly frightened, warning him that “the men” will be after her, and that Jack’s life is now in danger, too. So, for the first time in his entire career as a surfman, Jack decides to keep the woman a secret from his colleagues, for her own safety. But Elizabeth’s captors are not far behind her, nor do they believe – as Jack suggests – that she is dead, or swept out to sea. Jack and Elizabeth soon realize that though they barely know each other, their lives have become hopelessly entangled. Without trust, neither of them will survive this voyage.
There’s a passage in The Surfman that quite aptly summarizes the novel’s appeal: a philosopher tells his student that you can never step foot in the same river twice; the student corrects the teacher, saying that you can’t step foot in the same river even once. The mark of a great novel is that it holds different pleasures for different readers, and here in The Surfman, we find a story at the crux of several different genres: romance, adventure, historical fiction. What’s remarkable about Schroeder’s novel is that it employs narratives from several characters’ perspectives to weave together a compelling tale of loyalty, trust, freedom – and, of course, love. This is the perfect summer beach read: light but meaty, and brimming with originality and rich description.
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