Every once in a while it’s nice to read an easy book—a book where you go in familiar with the tropes, the character types, the checklist of plot points the author will hit along the way so you don’t have to think too hard, you just get effortlessly carried along into the story. These are the beach reads, the books you read on planes and trains while traveling long distances, the ones you read when you’re home sick and bored with daytime television. Jenni Ogden’s upcoming A Drop in the Ocean is one of those feel-good, easy reads.
On Anna Fergusson’s forty-ninth birthday she discovers that the grant she’s been using to pay for her Huntington’s disease research lab has been discontinued. Forced to dismantle her lab and wish her research assistants luck, Anna has some time to consider what she wants to do next but given her age, she isn’t particularly hopeful about her prospects. Her friend, Fran, thinks a change of scenery and distance from the work that’s consumed her adult life so when Fran finds an ad looking for someone to watch over some campgrounds on a remote island off the coast of Australia, she urges Anna to take it. On a whim, Anna does and she discovers that life on the remote and sparsely populated island helps her confront some of the ghosts from her past so that she can finally move forward with new relationships and a new sense of purpose.
As I was reading this book, I kept thinking of the other books and film adaptations of books that fit in this difficult to describe sub-genre—Under the Tuscan Sun, The Divine Secrets of the Ya-ya Sisterhood, Where the Heart Is, and so many more. It’s not a genre I can handle in excessive amounts but once in a while it’s nice to read a book of straightforward self-discovery and re-evaluation of one’s priorities. It’s interesting to see how the same series of tropes can be written and rewritten so many times—the life changing event that starts it all for the protagonist (loss of job, loss of spouse or significant other usually to cheating/divorce/abandonment); the drastic relocation to start fresh; adjusting to a new community and way of life that is eccentric and disjointed but ultimately wonderful and welcoming; there’s almost always a birth and a death to balance each out and occasionally a wedding as well; reconnecting with one’s parents and/or the difficult times in the shared past; friends new and old who find themselves in distress through marital problems and/or illness and the protagonist gets to be there for them; and finally, there’s usually a romance. A Drop in the Ocean checks off most of these as well.
What A Drop in the Ocean does particularly well is weave the scientific threads of the story together. Anna’s experience as both a researcher and one who specialized in Huntington’s disease ties in conveniently to the Australian island’s sea turtle research team, its research efforts, and its members. The descriptions of the Great Barrier Reef and the wildlife of Anna’s Australian island are a perfect contrast to the sterile confines of a research lab and function well in her transcendental journey as she compares the two experiences. Her growth and self-awareness of that growth is part of what make the story straightforward.
For the type of novel it is, A Drop in the Ocean fits the genre well.
A Drop in the Ocean will be available for purchase May 3, 2016.