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Fiction Contemporary Women


A Novel

by (author) Sara Freeman

Penguin Group Canada
Initial publish date
Jan 2022
Contemporary Women, Family Life, Literary
  • Hardback

    Publish Date
    Jan 2022
    List Price

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"Brilliant, elegant, and unsparing." —Emma Cline
From an astounding new voice in Canadian literature comes an intoxicating, compact novel about a woman who walks out of her life and washes up in a seaside town

After a sudden, devastating loss, Mara flees her family and ends up adrift in a wealthy seaside town with a dead cellphone and barely any money. Mired in her grief, Mara detaches from the outside world and spends her days of self-imposed exile scrounging for food and swimming in the night ocean. In her state of emotional extremis, the sea at the town's edge is rendered bleak, luminous, implacable.
As her money runs out and tourist season comes to a close, Mara finds a job at the local wine store. There, she meets Simon, the shop's soft-spoken, lonely owner. Confronted with the possibility of connection with Simon and the slow return of her desires and appetites, the reasons for her flight begin to emerge.
Reminiscent of works by Rachel Cusk, Jenny Offill, and Sheila Heti, Tides is a spare, visceral debut novel about the nature of selfhood, intimacy, and the private narratives that shape our lives. A shattering and unforgettable debut.

About the author

Contributor Notes

Sara Freeman is a Montreal-born writer currently based out of Boston. She graduated from Columbia University with an MFA in Fiction in 2013. At Columbia, she won the Henfield Prize for the best piece of short fiction by a graduate student.

Editorial Reviews

One of:
The Globe and Mail's "Canadian books we’re most excited about in 2022"
Chatelaine's "5 Riveting New Books To Read This Winter"
Lit Hub's "Most Anticipated Books of 2022"
Apple's "Best Books of the Month"
Book Mark's "Best Reviewed Books of the Week"
Telegraph's “Four best debut novels to read in 2022” 

"Brilliant, elegant, and unsparing. Tides is a lyrical meditation on selfhood: Sara Freeman illuminates, with a poet's eye, the shifting interior landscape of a woman adrift." —Emma Cline
"Irresistible... I read it in an afternoon but I'll be thinking about it for a long time." —Douglas Stuart
“Sara Freeman is such a gifted writer, and she maps with great beauty and precision the territory of loss. This novel is lovely, dark, troubling, and deep.” —Alix Ohlin
"Delicate, unconventional, contemporary—Tides is a novel held together by electricity, like a storm that just won’t break." —Padma Viswanathan
“Gripping and chillingly topical, Tides is precise and pared down to the shape of myth with the electricity of a real encounter. A vivid, propulsive portrait of grief and resilience, it is impossible to not fall into its hypnotic rhythm — a masterful debut.” —Heidi Sopinka
"A compulsive read — this story and its characters seeped into me, so that I often thought of them between spells of reading. Freeman’s voice has a salt to it that feels both evocative of and independent from the sea-streaked setting. The main character has venom, but she seems more self-stinging than anything, which only adds to the story’s unsettling allure. From the crystalline prose to the plot's syncopated rhythm, Tides is an incisive, memorable debut."—Eliza Robertson
"I read Tides in two voracious sittings, thrilled by the push-pull of Sara Freeman's prose: the tightly-controlled surface lyricism barely containing the violent upheaval beneath. Freeman inhabits the mind of her nearly-unhinged narrator so fully that the reader comes to understand — and even identify with — the sometimes twisted logic of grief and unmet longing. Who are we, as women, apart from the ones we love, or try to love? A beautiful, painfully prescient debut from a wildly talented new writer." —Jamie Quatro
"Sara Freeman goes about her business in Tides with such cool composure that I didn't fully register the serious heat of the thing until my eyebrows had started to sizzle. I'm amazed that this is a first novel. There is something very large to be found in this wonderfully compressed work." —Laird Hunt

"Body and soul, heart and mind, spirit and ground: in this astonishingly moving, taut debut, Sara Freeman gives us a woman on the edge of her own emotional survival. A thrilling, visceral story of grief and renewal." —Stacey D'Erasmo, author of Wonderland
"To read Sara Freeman’s Tides is to witness the stunning aftermath of an intimate disturbance—a wave glowing in the dark. As readers we watch the exquisite beauty of its surface and are plunged inside its startling depths. Freeman reminds us of the grandeur and terror of being alive with others in whose company we might luminesce." —Jennifer Tseng

"A tale of internal exile, of a woman on the lam from her own loved ones and from the memories that cage her. Tides is a marvel — lyrical and suspenseful at the same time." —Jonathan Dee

"An irresistible debut novel about one woman's several loves. Sara Freeman writes wonderful sentences, wavy and surprising and full of sensations." —Christine Schutt

"One of the most carefully written, brave, honest, devastating books I've read for a long time. There were lines in it so emotionally accurate and merciless they made me squint up my eyes. It's explosive. But the effect is the inside-your-body, barely-heard-properly percussive receipt of a detonation felt at a distance." —Cynan Jones
"An emotionally charged story of wanderlust and longing unfolds in Freeman’s captivating debut....With an intricate narrative and in deceptively simple language, Freeman captures the full extent of loss. Complicated and enchanting, this prismatic examination of emotional endurance is a winner." —Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"[A] portrait of a woman’s psyche pared to the core, to unsettling effect....An intense and lyrical debut."—Kirkus
“[B]eautiful and translucent. Mirroring the ebb and flow of water, short paragraphs leave lots of empty spaces on the page, enhancing the emotional gut punches latent in the text, while moments of heightened action run uninterrupted.”Booklist (starred review)
"Freeman’s prose is taut and illuminating, a style that manages to be both detached and emotionally devastating… A powerful intelligence underpins this work, which concerns itself with familiar subjects of loss, legacy and love. So accomplished is Freeman’s interrogation of these matters that it is hard to believe it is her first book… [a] beautifully observed, elegantly written debut…"The Irish Times
"[A] beautiful portrait of a woman unmoored—and the connections that bring her back."—Lit Hub

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