One of the things that I’ve always enjoyed about reading books is the way that they can take you away from reality while often still educating you in a way that is unexpected and rewarding. The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs did just that for me. While on the surface it may seem to be a simple story about the sacrifices of love and marriage, it is sensitive tale makes you think about the things that military spouses have to deal with when their loved one is on active duty. Personally, the closest I’ve had to deal with someone I care about being on active duty was a couple years ago when my “older brother” (close friend who really is just like a protective older brother to me) was sent overseas to Iraq while he was in the Army, and honestly as much as I worried about him, I know that it was nothing like how a military spouse must feel when their loved one is away. I didn’t have any responsibilities to worry about or sacrifices to make besides being a supportive “little sister” so in reality I have no idea what a military lifestyle must really be like.
Luckily for me Susan Wiggs is able to give us a little bit of insight into this otherwise more hidden world. The Ocean Between Us tells a compelling story of the unraveling marriage of Grace and Steve Bennett. The Bennett’s and their three children have made their lives as a happy career military family. Yet as Grace prepares to hit forty she realizes that her entire life as been dedicated to her husband’s career, and as Steve leaves for yet another tour in the Navy, she finds herself torn between her loyalty to him and the Navy, and her own personal desires. Meanwhile, while his aboard Steve struggles to understand what has gone wrong with their marriage, and wonders if there will be a way to fix it upon his return.
I loved being able to read both Steve and Grace’s perspectives as their marriage falls apart and secrets are revealed. I found both characters to be likeable and it was obvious that they had grown apart as they had grown older. They are no longer the same people they were when they got married twenty years ago. Once upon a time, Grace was more than willing to ignore her own wishes to support those of her husband and family but, little by little she has found herself unwilling to do that. This new found strength of Grace’s is hard for Steve to fathom because it’s a side of her that he has never been able to see that side of her before or at least not since before they were married. It’s a candid situation filled with assumptions, misunderstandings, and expectations, which truly depict what lies beneath the surface of relationships.
By telling both sides of the story, the reader gets the chance to decide who is ultimately responsible for the marriage for falling apart, if there is one responsible party in this story. Ultimately though, The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs, is about recognizing the importance of the choices that we make, realizing that the things that made us happy when we are under may not still make us happy when we are older and also understanding that if something doesn’t make us happy then we have the right and the ability to change or fix it as we see fit. Steve and Grace are a beautiful couple who obviously love each other despite their individual flaws. Through flashbacks, the reader is able to see how the cracks in their marriage began occurring, and is able to struggle with them as they wonder if their marriage will ever be able to be repaired, especially when the unthinkable happens.
I loved The Ocean Between Us by Susan Wiggs because it gave me a look into a world I’ve never really known. It was obvious that Susan Wiggs did her research when it came to writing this novel. Not only was I able to enjoy the main story about The Bennett’s failing marriage but, I was also able to get swept away into the subplots that involved their children and their friends. For me, it was a quick and overall very successful read!