Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck

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Here is an unprecedented fiction debut that is cause for celebration. Growing up in a family that valued the art of storytelling and the power of oral history, Thomas Steinbeck now follows in his father’s footsteps with a brilliant story collection. Down to a Soundless Sea resonates with the rich history and culture of California, recalling vivid details of life in Monterey County from the turn of the century through the 1930s. Steinbeck accomplishes an amazing feat: his stories have the feel of classic literature, but his haunting voice, forceful narrative drive, and dazzling imagery are unmistakably his own.

In seven stories, Steinbeck traces the fates and dreams of an eccentric cast of characters, from sailors and ranchers, to doctors and immigrants—as each struggles to carve out a living in the often inhospitable environment of rocky cliffs, crashing surf, and rough patches of land along the California coast and the Big Sur. In “Blind Luck,” a wayward orphan finds his calling at sea, only to learn that life must concede to the whims of authority and the ravages of nature. In “Dark Watcher,” with the country at the start of the Great Depression, a professor craves a plausible discovery to boost his academic standing—and encounters the Indian myth of a shadowed horsemen that may ruin his career. “An Unbecoming Grace” tracks the route of a country physician who cares for an ill-tempered cur—but feels more concern for the well-being of the patient’s beleaguered young wife. The collection concludes with “Sing Fat and the Imperial Duchess of Woo,” a novella that follows the tragic love story between a young apothecary and the woman he hopes to marry.

Deeply felt and richly imagined, full of compelling drama and historical authenticity, Down to a Soundless Sea heralds the arrival of a bold new voice in fiction. Thomas Steinbeck has written stories as memorable and rugged as the coastline that inspired them.

From the Hardcover edition.

About Thomas Steinbeck

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Thomas Steinbeck began his career in the 1960s as a motion picture cinematographer and photojournalist in Vietnam. Interspersed with his writing, speaking and producing obligations, Mr. Steinbeck has taught college-level courses in American Literature, creative writing, and communication arts. He serves on the board of directors of the Stella Adler Theatre Los Angeles and the National Steinbeck Center. He has written numerous original screenplays and documentaries as well as adaptations of his father’s work. Thomas Steinbeck lives on the central coast of California with his wife. He is currently at work on his first novel.From the Hardcover edition.
Published November 9, 2011 by Ballantine Books. 320 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, History, Business & Economics. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Down to a Soundless Sea

Kirkus Reviews

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The marketing behind this debut collection invites the natural father-son comparison, yet it’s almost as though the younger Steinbeck is afraid to try for the grandeur of the elder, as though the land he is pulled toward is out of his jurisdiction, somehow already drawn.

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Publishers Weekly

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Nature is a major presence in almost all seven of these stories, especially in two of the shorter entries: "The Night Guide" deals with the adventure of a young boy who uses his skills to locate his mother in the woods during a storm, while "The Wool Gatherer" describes the awe of a young man (a ...

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Book Reporter

I would not want to be Thomas Steinbeck.

Jan 21 2011 | Read Full Review of Down to a Soundless Sea

Project MUSE

Thomas Steinbeck's first book, Down to a Soundless Sea, is labeled a collection of stories, though it is more accurately a collection of seven tales, three of which are novella length.

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