Welcome to another session of Turning Pages!
Today my flying book-boat icon is especially apropos, as I'm talking about a time travel book, where the travel took place onboard a pirate ship. Now, I don't actually love time travel novels, because a.) I personally would have fared poorly in ANY time period, and b.) I Have Questions about changing the course of history, etc. etc. and most time travel theories don't speak to them. However, I was surprised to really enjoy this novel, not only because it touched on my questions, but mostly because the underlying narrative isn't about time travel so much as it is the ultimate question of When Do We Stop Trying To Please Our Parents.
This is kind of a lifelong query for me, so I was in.
Synopsis: When it's inconvenient, sixteen-year-old Nix is less a daughter, and more unpaid crew to her Navigator father, Captain Slate. Her life begins and ends on the decks of her father's ship, The Temptation -- the ship which she both loves and hates. Loves, because it contains what's left of her family - Bee and Kashmir, Rothgut and Slate. Hates, because Slate uses the ship to chase after his dream -- to Navigate back into the heaving swells of Time and sail back into the life of Nix's mother, who died when she was born. Slate has been trying - for years - to find the way. All it takes to time travel, for a Navigator, is the right map - and Nix is excellent at maps. They buy them from antiquities dealers and liberate them from old books - maps of all kinds of places, at all points in history or myth. However, the map they're really after is for 1868 Honolulu - and they're coming back with a cure for whatever fever killed Nix's mother.
At no point does Slate articulate his understanding that his quest is basically making it Nix's burden that her mother died. He seems not to realize how much he's hurting her, how much of the blame for her mother's death that she's absorbed, yet he's very resentful of her, and at times is just plain unkind. He's her father, by virtue of conquest - he took her from the woman who was caring for her, calling it a "theft" day, so he's not really even sure when Nix was born - but after all that effort, he basically dropped her onto his ship like a possession, content to sit with his syringe and his spoon and his opium, and dreams a world where her mother is - abandoning Nix in the here-and-now, alone with the crew. Bee and her ghostwife love Nix, Rothgut always feeds her well, and Kash would steal the world for a smile - and his liberated-from-elsewhere gifts at least make Nix pucker up in annoyance enough to forget her troubles. All of her people love her, but for Nix, it's not really the same. Her father doesn't seem to want her, won't teach her the ropes to Navigating, and he doesn't want to let her go, either. He could leave her anywhere - in his 80's New York, or even in Hawaii where she was born, to see if she can't find her own fated love out in the world, but instead, he's dragging her along, tied to his dream - where she's been for years.
An opportunity to make all the searches end comes in 1884 Oahu, in the form of a gentleman who says he has what Slate needs - only, there's a price. His organization, the League, would like Slate and his time-slipping cohort to commit a crime for the map. Nix knows she shouldn't help her father do something which will negatively impact the Hawaiian island's independence and integrity. But, she's torn - her father wants this one thing so, so much. If she could give it to him, wouldn't she begin - at last - to truly matter to him?
Observations: This book is detailed and twisty and one of the most different and imaginative things I've read in awhile. A ragtag collection of truly individual characters, the author manages to weave this faux pirate crew into a family of diverse parts. Nix desperately wants to go out into the world and experience it, but she's being held close to fulfill her father's dream, which to me can be a metaphor for the many ways our parental relationships are just doomed. Nix seems to yield to the status quo fairly passively, which may frustrate some readers, but despite the emotional difficulty and the fear of losing everything, she puts her foot down in a way that is both brave and realistic.
I thought the dynamic of time-slipping was interesting, in that it meant that though Nix is biologically sixteen, she functions as an adult, for the most part, in the world. She is starving for information and loves to read newspapers from anywhere, trying so hard to anchor herself somewhere through her mind. This is again familiar; even if you've never been on a time-slipping pirate ship, this is a go-to activity for someone who feels they don't fit. Books - knowledge - information - can be the place you do.
I was gratified that though there was a brief, experimental foray into romance, the novel mostly avoids love triangles and allows the characters to emerge unscathed from acting on impulse. This is nice - in real life, the odd kiss is usually just A Thing That Happened, and not the end of the world.
Conclusion: This is a very complete novel, with a beginning, middle and end by way of "episode," so I was surprised to find that it's the first of a duology. This thick, immersive, lose-your-weekend length adventure may overwhelm some readers, letting them find themselves in a tiny bit in over their heads with some of the technical aspects of time-slipping, but I only had brief questions which may be answered in the sequel. I'll be intrigued to see which direction the sequel goes.
I received my copy of this book courtesy of the public library. You can find THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig at an online e-tailer, or at a real life, independent bookstore near you!