The Width of the Sea by Michelle Chalfoun

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This is the story of empty oceans and the men who fish them.

The fortunes of the Albins and the Fitzes have been twined with the sea for generations, and now the tie is starting to fray. Their tiny fishing community of Rosaline chafes against the imposition of fishing quotas, the closure of the local fish processing plant, and the encroachment of an exploitative tourism industry that buys up their precious waterfront properties and repackages their traditional ways as nostalgic museum fodder. With the town elders paralyzed by drink and bitter resentments, family and fiscal responsibilities fall to an unprepared younger generation: John Fitz and Chris Albin, best friends since childhood and fishers together on the Pearl; barmaid Kate, neglected wife of Chris and indifferent mother to their son, Martin; and Yve Albin, the longtime girlfriend of John, who at twenty-nine sees life passing her by.

When the government threatens a total moratorium on cod fishing, John and the rest of the fishing community face the loss of their boats, their homes, their incomes, and their futures. Although he doesn't yet realize it, John also faces the loss of Yve. A new crew of sailors has come to Rosaline to restore an old schooner destined to be the main tourist attraction, and Yve finds herself drawn to the charismatic captain.

As the schooner nears completion, tensions in the town -- between friends and within families -- reach a breaking point, and the fishermen of the Pearl set out on one last desperate, dangerous, and hopeless expedition. Propelled by suspenseful action, stormy passions, and exhilarating narrative, The Width of the Sea is an unforgettable odyssey of good people gone astray and how they must navigate the darkest moral shoals to find redemption.

The unflinching eye and uncompromising prose that have led critics to praise Chalfoun's debut novel, Roustabout, have been honed to razorlike precision in this resonant and powerfully written novel that reveals -- through the struggles of one community -- a dilemma that is frighteningly universal.


About Michelle Chalfoun

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Published May 1, 2001 by HarperCollins Publishers. 336 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction. Fiction

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Publishers Weekly

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Earnest and closely observed, Chalfoun's second novel (after Roustabout) chronicles the lives of a small crew of fishermen and their families, who endure the demise of the fishing industry.

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