Twelve-year-old Crow was just a baby when she washed up in a skiff on the shores of Cuttyhunk Island, one of the Elizabeth Islands off the coast of Massachusetts. She was rescued and taken in by two of the islanders, Osh and Miss Maggie, who protect her fiercely and teach her how to become a true islander. Crow’s life is full to bursting with everything that the island has to offer, including fishing for lobsters with Osh, gathering medicinal plants with Miss Maggie, and piloting her skiff across the bay. Crow loves her life, but she is still full of questions, wondering where she came from, why she was abandoned, and who her birth parents were. Osh and Miss Maggie allow Crow to start exploring her past, not knowing that Crow’s questions will lead to discoveries that will put them all in grave danger. Before they know it, this remarkable family encounters a ruthless treasure hunter, treacherous storms, unsettling gifts from the past, and disturbing truths about the island’s conflicted relationship with the abandoned leper colony on nearby Penikese Island.
Jorjeana Marie is the perfect choice to narrate this thoughtful coming-of-age story. She is a sensitive and deft narrator who is able to communicate small nuances in speech and emotion without resorting to exaggerated dramatics. Small but welcome touches—a pause of understanding, a suppressed smile that can somehow be sensed even in the audio—add to the captivating atmosphere.
Marie skillfully voices a wide range of characters, capturing Osh’s gruff, but tender taciturnity, Miss Maggie’s spirited, no-nonsense manner, and the treasure hunter’s chilling menace. Where Marie truly shines, however, is in her depiction of Crow. Marie’s authentically youthful voice matches Crow’s curious, quietly determined nature so closely that she effectively erases the boundary between narrator and character. Instead of hearing a narrator reading a story, Crow’s words and thoughts feel immediate, transparent, and real.
Marie’s character depictions alone make this a memorable audiobook, but her talents extend even further. She also excels at pacing and timing. Running alongside the story of family, forgiveness, and self-understanding is a harrowing adventure story, and Marie skillfully conveys the urgency and tension inherent in these scenes. As the book reaches its climax, listeners may very well find themselves on the edge of their seats, biting their nails in sympathy for Crow’s plight.
A blend of poignancy, lyricism, mystery, and thrilling adventure, Beyond the Bright Sea has something for everyone. The audio will touch your heart and make you wish that you, too, could spend an afternoon with Osh and Miss Maggie on a skiff, floating and fishing in the calm waters of the bay.
Beyond the Bright Sea, by Lauren Wolk, read by Jorjeana Marie. 7 hours, 15 minutes. Listening Library, 2017.