Rockaway – Tara Ison

(Reviewed by JD Jung)

“…the relationship of note to note, that’s what music is, we should have been listening to music in all those art classes, trying to grasp color, refraction, translucence, perspective, the illusion of depth…”

It also occurred to her that she had been too afraid of color. She remembered her old college art professor saying, “I don’t care if it works or not, if it clashes. Get your hands dirty, Sarah. Mess it up. That’s what’s bold…Otherwise you’ll never have any depth. You’ll have no true perspective. No harmony. You’ll have nowhere to go.”

Nothing had changed. Thirty-four year old Sarah was still stuck. However, her current life would soon be challenged. While she was caring for her ailing parents in San Diego, she was offered the opportunity to feature her art in an exhibit. In order to find the time to paint, she would have to leave all of the distractions behind, including her job at the art supply store.

Her best friend offered Sarah her grandmother’s beach house in Rockaway Beach, New York for the entire summer. Here, Sarah would learn a lot about rekindling her passion for painting as well as discovering more about herself. This, of course, would happen with the unintentional help of  friends and strangers she meets along the way.

What I have enjoyed about the two novels of Tara Ison’s that I have read is not only her artistic writing style (as you can see with my massive quotes), but also her complex characters, even the supporting ones.  Like in her earlier novel, A Child Out of Alcatraz, the setting is also a character and plays a major role in the story.

However, what I particularly like about Rockaway–like in A Child Out of Alcatrazis the road traveled to the destination. The plot is not formulaic, but realistic. That is to say, as in real life, there is no final destination. Sarah will continue the road as she learns the importance of having options. Any realization will take time and become a continual process.

Rest assured, I am not giving anything away. Readers will be surprised and enjoy the unique characters and Sarah’s self discovery. In fact, I would be interested in reading a separate novel centering around one of the characters, a fifty-eight year old musician named Marty.

Yes, I would like to know what happens down the road for Sarah, but then again, that may take away from the complete story. Rockaway is a satisfying read all by itself.






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