How far does a girl have to run to escape a lifetime of pain and loss at the hands of Alaska’s notoriously unforgiving Bering Sea? Twenty-seven-year-old Aesa Fredriksen thought landlocked Columbus, Ohio would suffice, and it does until the fear of regret drives her to return to Dutch Harbor in a final attempt to make amends with her nearly-estranged father. Intent on salvaging the wreckage of their relationship, she reluctantly agrees to join him—the only family she has left—as he heads out to fish for king crab, forcing her to brave the very waters that pulled him away from her as a child. The waters that stole her mother’s life.
When the day finally arrives for the Norwegian Queen to sail off into an uncertain future, Aesa can’t help but fear the worst. Beyond the violent swells and impending storms, there is far more than death and danger awaiting her on her journey: love awaits her too.
Decker, a young but seasoned member of her father’s crew, is a force of nature as strong as Aesa, He’s her perfect match, and even she can’t deny it. But he too is a man of the sea, and with memories of tragedy and abandonment etched so deeply into her mind, can she overcome her demons and let him in or will she drown in her darkness, forever caught in its undertow?
“I’m sure that you have a lengthy list of requirements for the men you date.” He chuckled lightly before his tone regained its seriousness. “You should. Standards are important.”
“I don’t have a list at all,” I countered. “I don’t really date. I don’t have time, but, on those rare occasions when I do, my finding is that men typically want only one thing from me. What’s even more fascinating is that, whether or not they get it, the outcome is the same.”
“And what’s that?” he asked, his playful expression hardening.
“They leave.” My voice was softer than I had expected to hear it, implying a certain sorrow that I didn’t really feel. At least I didn’t think I felt it.
“Those aren’t men, Aesa,” he said, staring back out the window before him. “A man doesn’t seek out a woman because he wants to screw her and leave, nor does he leave because he can’t screw her at all. That’s an asshole. A real man goes after a woman because he knows that life with her far surpasses that without her. He should be stimulated by her very presence, lack of clothing notwithstanding. That is a man. Apparently you don’t have much luck finding any of those.”
My breath caught at his words. He was an oracle, a beacon of wisdom, found in the most bizarre place. How and why he knew what he did was still a mystery, but I couldn’t help but think of the story behind it.
He had inadvertently cut to my core when it came to men. What disturbed me most was whether I had somehow always known that the choices I made would ultimately result in those men leaving. Was it both nature and nurture leading me to recreate that which I’d always known—solitude? What I had once thought was indifference to the level of commitment I found in the opposite sex suddenly seemed like self-sabotaging behavior instead. It made me wonder if I would always be alone. Surely the “men” Decker spoke of wouldn’t want someone as emotionally unavailable as me.
“I guess I don’t.” It was all the response I could muster while in my introspective stupor.
“Maybe you should start a list after all,” he added, turning to face me again with an expression that was far more at ease. “’Not an asshole’ would be a great number one.”
I really enjoyed Undertow, I found it interesting that it took place in Alaska on a crabbing ship; it was different. I admit I was unsure about the book in the beginning, it started a little slow for me, but once Aesa and her father started getting over their initial awkwardness in chapter 1 I was good to go! Aesa has returned to Alaska after a 9 year leave, she left home to attend college and med school but has since returned in an attempt to mend the broken relationship with her father. With her homecoming she also meets Decker, one of her men on her father’s ship. I loved watching their relationship develop slowly; friends first. Everything was so vividly described in this book the whole thing played out like a movie in my imagination. Undertow was full of genuine heartfelt emotion, (I related with Aesa and her feeling toward her father feeling similarly towards mine after I lost my own mother). I truly enjoyed this story of loss, learning how to let go and forgive and finding love in the most unlikely of places.
This gets 4 stars
If you’re dying to know more about me, allow me to put you at ease. I’m a sharp-tongued, sarcastic cancer, who loves vegetable smoothies, winter storms, and the word portfolio. I should NEVER be caffeinated, and require at least eight hours of sleep to even resemble a human being. At thirty-four, I just now feel like I can keep a straight face while saying the word “rectum” (which is actually a huge lie because I just laughed out loud while reading this to my husband). I live with my iPod firmly affixed to my body, drive too fast, and laugh/cry at inappropriate times.