Wild and Distant Seas: A Novel (Hardcover)

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Wild and Distant Seas: A Novel By Tara Karr Roberts Cover Image
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Staff Reviews

Elegantly conceived, taking as its starting point Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick (with bits of Ishmael’s story, and the story of Queequeg, Captain Ahab and the whaling ship the Pequod, woven seamlessly into the narrative), Wild and Distant Seas is Tara Karr Roberts stunning debut novel bringing to life four generations of remarkable women in a spellbinding epic. With tales of adventure mostly told by and peopled by men, Roberts has created an adventure story all her own, where four women—Evangeline, Rachel, Mara, and Antonia, seeking to chart their own futures, their own paths, go off to unknown lands to engage with the wider world-- from Nantucket in 1849 to Boston, Brazil, Florence and then Idaho, in a story of self-discovery as grand as the mythic quest in Moby-Dick. I was entranced by the story, reading it with a sort of magical delight (I liked the novel’s bit of magical realism, where each of the four women has a special “power” --whether to look into people’s minds to change their memories, or to see the path other people’s lives had taken, etc.) I loved the imagery and symbolism throughout, in this atmospheric tale of wanderlust and whales, of impossible quests, of going off to navigate the world, to explore, to question, to experience what Melville called in his novel “the strange untried, the immense remote.” Ed loved and highly recommends!

— Ed


A gorgeous debut, laced through with magic, following four generations of women as they seek to chart their own futures.

Evangeline Hussey has made a home for herself on Nantucket, though she knows she is still an outsider to the island’s small, close-knit community, one that by 1849 has started to feel the decline of a once-thriving whaling industry. Her husband, Hosea, and the life they built together, was once all she needed—but now Hosea is gone, lost at sea. Evangeline is only able to hold on to his inn, and her place on the island, by employing a curious gift to glimpse and re-form the recent memories of those who would cast her out.

One night, an idealistic sailor appears on her doorstep asking her to call him Ishmael. He seeks only a warm bed and a bowl of chowder, and yet suddenly, unsettlingly, her careful illusion begins to fracture. He soon sails away with Ahab to hunt an infamous white whale, and Evangeline is left to forge a new life from the pieces that remain.

Her choices ripple through generations, across continents, and into the depths of the sea, in a narrative that follows Evangeline and her descendants from mid-nineteenth century Nantucket to Boston, Brazil, Florence, and Idaho. Moving, beautifully written, and elegantly conceived, Wild and Distant Seas takes Moby-Dick as its starting point, but Tara Karr Roberts brings four remarkable women to life in a spellbinding epic all her own.

About the Author

Tara Karr Roberts is a freelance writer, science writer, and newspaper columnist. She is a lifelong Idahoan who grew up along the Pend Oreille River and now lives in Moscow, Idaho, with her family.

Praise For…

Beautifully conceived.... An inventive, atmospheric, female-centric story.... Ingeniously constructed.... Like whales, Roberts’ novel traverses great distances, following its four generations of resolute women as they strive to take the helm of their lives.... [A] stirring epic.
— Heller McAlpin - Christian Science Monitor

In her inventive debut, Roberts gives voice (and a little bit of magic) to those who are left behind: the women caught in the riptide of male ambition.... With language richer than the matriarch’s famed chowder and nautical descriptions so vivid you can taste the salt spray, Roberts offers a new and refreshingly feminine perspective on one of American literature’s most masculine classics.
— Charley Burlock - Oprah Daily

Reading this book is like exploring history with a whole new perspective.... With a terse yet poetic style that calls to mind the prose of Hawthorne and Melville, Roberts brings this story to life with a quiet energy and yearning that is palpable.... A beautiful book.
— Jane Siciliano - Bookreporter

Marvelous.... Grounded in the small passionate details of the great Melville novel, yet seeking meaning in a very different way.... this luscious novel may open a longing to re-explore the tale of the whale and the men who pursued it.
— Beth Kanell - Historical Novel Society

Tara Karr Roberts breathes new life into a classic tale with a radiant cast of women at the helm. Wholly absorbing and beautifully written, Wild and Distant Seas is sure to someday be a classic in its own right.

— Ruth Emmie Lang, author of Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance and The Wilderwomen

A lyrical and beautiful work of historical fiction.… Charming and atmospheric, Wild and Distant Seas celebrates the complexities of womanhood through the ages and poses questions about memory, family identity, one’s legacy, and the nature and power of free will. What stories do we inherit and how much can we alter the narrative of our lives and of those of our loved ones? And when is it time to let go? At its heart, this is a story of loss, redemption, tenacity, and hope.

— Julie Gerstenblatt, author of Daughters of Nantucket

Stunning.... Roberts writes with confidence and dynamic range, mixing earthy details of dead fish and whale oil with sublime descriptions of the women’s psychic abilities.... This is beautiful.
— Publishers Weekly, starred review

Sweeping.... The magic is subtle, woven seamlessly into the narrative, so it does not feel out of place in this otherwise traditional work of historical fiction. Each woman’s story builds to a beautiful conclusion, and the themes of love, motherhood, and the quest to find one’s purpose in life resonate throughout.
— Patricia Smith, Booklist, starred review

Product Details
ISBN: 9781324064886
ISBN-10: 1324064889
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Publication Date: January 2nd, 2024
Pages: 304
Language: English