Book Review: To Hear The Ocean Sigh by Bryant A. Loney

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I received a free copy of this book from Verona Booksellers in exchange for an honest review. This in no way influences my opinion of the work.

“It’s human nature not to think of storms when the ocean is quiet.”

This coming-of-age story follows Jay Murchison, a self-proclaimed loner who leads a seemingly comfortable life, but is filled with a yearning hope for something more. Fans of The Perks of Being a Wallflower can find familiar comfort in Jay’s noted self-awareness and observations of the people around him. Readers may also find such an air of mystery and need for understanding that can only be compared to that of Looking for Alaska‘s.

It seems that overnight, Jay has fallen into step with a close-knit group of friends. These friends are church-goers, weekenders (for lack of a better term), and dysfunctional in the way that most of us were/are at 15 years of age. One might think their motto is: Sin on Saturday/Repent on Sunday. I sincerely apologize if that offends anyone, as that is not my intention. Basically, Jay transitions from wallflower-status to partygoer. More notably, a mistakenly sent text message results in Jay forming a close “textual” relationship with a girl named Saphnie. These new relationships converge and slowly unravel as Jay attempts to make sense of a tragic event and the incidents leading up to it. If you want any more information about the plot, you will just have to read the book.

Before I get into what I liked and disliked about the book, I would like to point out that this would have been a lot more enjoyable if I hadn’t already experienced my own horrific version of high school. Maybe I am getting too old for coming-of-age stories. Nevertheless, I was pleasantly surprised to find that this was a very quick and (mostly) painless read. My thoughts are a bit scattered though, so bear with me.

I was only a few pages in before I became skeptical of the direction of this book. I’m referring to the interaction that Jay witnesses between Nick and the distressed girl on the bus. Would anyone seriously outright ask someone if they considered killing themselves? Much less a stranger? In retrospect, Nick seems like a truly disturbed being so I’m not as confused/annoyed by this conversation anymore.

And then there was that little comment by Aunt Nancy regarding Canadians. “They’ve got a fuggin’ marijuana leaf as their flag”. I laughed out loud. It’s true though. I never thought of it that way, but it’s more than fitting if like myself, you’re from British Columbia (“BC Bud”).

And then there was this gem regarding a picture that Jay’s mom took: “Sometimes you’re the pigeon, sometimes you’re the statue.” Why is this so relatable? I actually had to pause to think about this. It is so relevant.

I want to say that Saphnie, but more specifically her perspective on things, was my favourite part of this novel. After Jay tells her about some troubling events, she responds with “I like how your friend suggested you be a photographer since you clearly need to find your focus.” Saphnie, you witty, little ray of sunshine.

Without bombarding you with too many quotes, I want to note a few things that could have been better:

1) There was too much high school drama. That being said, this wouldn’t be a coming-of-age story without it. Maybe this is just me being old and bitter.

2) I understand that technology/social media was important in forging and maintaining Jay’s relationships, but it is really annoying reading text message threads in a book. The majority of the dialogue seemed like it was through text message. On another note, I will say that it wasn’t as bothersome to me as it has been in other books. So maybe it was well done.

3) There was a paragraph near the beginning that basically sold me on exactly what was going to happen. I won’t even post that here in case in deters someone from wanting to pick up the book. Luckily, I kept reading because I still wanted to see how everything unfolded.

Besides that, I quite enjoyed this read. Normally, I determine the strength of a book by the impression it leaves on me, whether that be negative or positive. This was a small moment in the grand scheme of things, but I kept thinking about when Jay says: “Let your parents deal with this, not you.” I wish someone would have told me that when I was younger (when I was 9, or 10, or honestly any year after that). Picking up the pieces of broken plates and broken people is not a skill anyone should acquire from a young age. It’s just not right. Fortunately, I’ve seemed to keep the pieces together so far.

We all have this need to make sense of the things around us. Why do people say or do certain things? What do we really know about ourselves? What do others really know about me? What do I really know about others? It’s all about perspective. This book is a great example of that.

I want to give this book 3.5 stars, because there’s always hope. And oceans. But it’s definitely closer to a 4, so I’m giving it ★★★★, and hope, and oceans.

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