Disclaimer: I received a free copy of The Pirate Queen from WaterBrook Multnomah’s Blogging for Books program.
I was looking forward to reading The Pirate Queen because I’d heard good things about Patricia Hickman’s writing. And there is much to like here: interesting characters, honest and compassionate treatment of some difficult issues, a charming setting.
Saphora Warren is about to leave her philandering surgeon husband, Bender, after thirty-odd years of marriage, when he informs her that he is dying of brain cancer. And not only that, he wants to spend his last days in the very beach house Saphora was planning to escape to. Saphora, accustomed to serving those around her, succumbs to his plan, and soon the house is full of family and friends new and old. And Bender keeps turning her expectations of him on their heads.
In the course of Bender’s decline, Saphora learns to forgive him and to love him again, just in time to lose him. But the hole in her life is filled in unexpected ways (not another romance–that’s all the spoiler you’ll get from me). And since this is Christian fiction, of course she also renews her relationship with God.
It should be a deeply satisfying story. But for me, it somehow just missed. I had a hard time believing in some of Saphora’s feelings and actions (though others were completely authentic). And other things I expected her to feel and do seemed curiously absent.
In addition, I found myself annoyed time and again by one of Hickman’s writerly quirks: she continually tells readers what we already know. She shows a character experiencing a certain emotion or making a certain deduction, then immediately turns around and spells it out for us. Here’s an example from early in the book (italics mine):
She stuffed the nine-hundred-dollar blouse into the dry-cleaning bag. She was leaving behind the expensive stuff, the part of her wardrobe she had passed through Bender’s impeccable filter, and taking her everyday clothes. She wondered if she would ever see that blouse again. [. . .] Saphora shoved the blouse deep into the dry-cleaning bag as if she didn’t care what happened to it.
Now, seriously, didn’t you already know she didn’t care what happened to it? We’ve deduced that from her actions and thoughts up to now; we don’t need to be told.
I think it is largely this one quirk that caused the story to fall short of really moving me. If Hickman had been content to show characters’ reactions, and leave readers to get the point on our own, I think I would have been much more involved in the story.
It’s entirely possible that readers who are less alert than I am to this kind of thing would find the book perfectly satisfying, so don’t let me put you off. As I said before, there really is a lot to like in The Pirate Queen; I just wish some critiquer or editor along the way had been more liberal with her red ink.