Our Wives Under the Sea

Spoiler alert: I have found one of my favorite books of all time. I read this in January, and then read it again in February, and there’s a chance I read it again before the year is done.

The story follows wives Miri and Leah. We join them when Leah has returned from a mission that lasted longer than expected, so much longer that Miri believed her to be dead. Miri spends her time trying to care for Leah and trying to deal with the organization that Leah works for and that sent her on this expedition. But Leah is not the same as when she left. She’s bleeding randomly, her skin looks weird, and her behavior is not quite the same. What happened to Leah beneath the ocean? Is she changing?

Leah is a marine biologist and was sent on a mission to study marine life in the ocean. She’s put on a submarine, sent below, but then everything shuts off and her and her two crew members sink to the bottom of the ocean. In alternating chapters, we see Leah’s life while on the submarine, and Miri’s life both while Leah is gone, but primarily while Leah is back and she is navigating these changes. As someone who doesn’t like submarines, and is deeply afraid of being in one AND having it sink, I really thought that Leah’s chapters were gonna make me lose my mind. Happy to report that that is not the case haha. It’s not like we are not aware of the situation, we are, but the more interesting matter is what is happening to the three of them on the submarine. It’s still relevant where they are, but it’s not pulling the focus.

Miri is quite possibly the definitive example of a partner committing to “for better or for worse.” She is trying to understand Leah and her new needs, trying to understand what is happening to Leah, trying to navigate her feelings about Leah being back after she thought her dead. She has so much on her plate, so much that is unexplained, and she is doing her best. She fights things at first, her confusion bringing with it anger and irritability, but slowly adapts to them, makes the necessary changes to make Leah more comfortable. She really loves Leah and you can see that in everything she does.

This book has so many beautiful quotes in it. Quotes about love and loving someone so much that it hurts. And we get to see how both of these women love each other through their chapters. I read Armfield’s short story collection Salt Slow late last year and really loved her writing style, and Our Wives shows that it wasn’t a fluke, she really just has the most captivating and beautiful and slightly eerie voice. I’m beyond eager and desperate for her next novel. I want her to take the time she needs in order to produce great work, but I must admit I am a tad impatient. Regardless, I can reread both of her books should I feel a pang for her writing and beautiful storytelling. Oh and if it wasn’t clear, I recommend this book. If you like beautiful writing, solid characters, love and all the ways it manifests in our lives, and heartache, then you will love this book. And as a bonus, it’s pretty short too. Love me a short book that packs a massive punch. I’m going to end this on a quote that I just really love that I don’t think spoils anything.

“All of this is easy enough, at close range — bright flashes, a relationship borne out by evidence, the bits and pieces that make it a fact. What is harder is stepping back far enough to consider us in the altogether, not the series of pictures but the whole that those pictures represent… Easier, I think, to claw through the scatter of us in the hopes of retrieving something, of pulling some singular thing from the debris and holding it up to the light. So in pieces, then: a long time ago, we met.”

Published by keelinrita

A Chicago girl with a lot of feelings about fictional people.

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