The Sea-Child Thing – Russell Hoban

POINTS: 3 out of 10.

Bechdel:  0 points
Variety of characters: 0 point
Good story: 2 points
Discretionary ideological points: 1 point

I had never read this before, and I am still finding it hard to figure out what to say about. It fails our tests on almost every level. No female characters at all, no diversity, just birds, but this story kind of transcends all of that. Reading it aloud wasn’t just fun, it was an absolute treat. The story soars in that magical way that stories around fire soar. Or stories told in the dark on a beach.

I am sure C couldn’t have understood most of it. He got that the sea-child was sad and lonely, and the crab was kind of scared, but the deeper stuff? There’s no way he could have got it, and yet he lay against me, curled up and still, listening through the whole thing in a way he hardly ever does except for the stories he really loves. At the end he was quiet for a moment, and then he said, “Did he go home, Mommy?” And I said, “Yes, baby.”

It felt the way stories should feel, magical and almost like a ritual. It’s hard to be critical when you fall so totally in love with a tale at first reading. 🙂 It hasn’t happened to me in a long time, but man, I love this story. I don’t even think I can explain why. It lives in that magical story place. It has perfect rhythm, and is a simple story bearing deep deep truths. The kinds of truths you can only get to sideways through poetry.

Be who you are. Everyone has a home. Fear holds you back.

It’s beautiful. Don’t take my word for it. Go read it.

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