After Surfing Ocean Beach: A Novel

by Mary Soderstrom
ISBN: 1550025090

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A Review of: After Surfing Ocean Beach
by Desmond McNally

Although a murder is of central importance in this offering by Mary Soderstrom, After Surfing Ocean Beach is by no means a "mystery" or a "whodunit".
The author has a sharp, efficient style, though not sparing in her descriptive narrative. Nor does she diminish the import of what we the readers are to discover. In fact by the end of the first chapter, we are already presented with a body lying in a pool of blood and made witnesses as Rick, acting defensively, stabs a man who comes to offer him assistance.
Rick leaves the scene of the crime in a panic. It's almost as if Soderstrom has decided not to procrastinate, and indeed, her pacey narrative serves to hone our interest.
The story is conveyed to us in alternate chapters by the characters Rick and Annie, and we are soon made aware that the murdered man is Will, Annie's son. Rick and Annie were deeply in love with one another in their youth and Soderstrom informs us of the propinquity of Rick and Will, a relationship that is both tragic and crucial to the story. Consistently the author is generous with details, allowing her readers to be aware of these familial connections.
Through the dialogue of Rick and Annie we are often treated to stirring accounts of the decisive moments in their lives, including the people who influenced them. The past is described nostalgically. Besotted by true love for the first time, in those uncomplicated days, this was Rick and Annie before life's hardships set in, before the birth of children and failed marriages. The issue in current time is what Rick intends to do about his crime and how Annie will react to the horror of it.
Soderstrom's use of surfing in her plot is unusual but it works as an excellent metaphor for those in their formative years hoping for love, marriage and a mature relationship-it's all about waiting for the "perfect wave".
This is obviously the work of an experienced author; she handles the juxtaposition of young men and women growing to adulthood effortlessly, donning the mantle of the main characters and guiding us tenderly through their lives with an obvious affection and understanding of the conflicts they had to endure.
This is the first Soderstrom novel I have read and I believe that the back cover actually got it right-After Surfing Ocean Beach is "a haunting and engaging tale." Soderstrom is a writer of significant talent.

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