In this bold and lyrical debut, Sondra weaves personal narrative with philosophical themes, crafting a story about love, solitude, and the unsayable urges that run beneath our lives. Sleeping in the woods outside a medieval city in Spain, Sondra ponders her decision to abandon a more ordinary life. “I am here to decipher nature,” she writes. “But as the stone glints back, I know this is a lie. Humans can decipher nothing but their own small lives."
Entranced by a mysterious musician, yet yearning for the man she left behind, she struggles to find the path to connection while retaining her identity. As she befriends people on the margins, she is compelled to confront the ways pain and privilege haunt both relationships and societies. In the process, she finds love in unlikely places and healing at the limits of language.
Idea: Charbadze's The Sea Once Swallowed Me is an impassioned work of personal and travel memoir, in which the author searches for connection to the natural world; a sense of greater philosophical purpose; and--ultimately--romantic love. Her path toward understanding herself, her choices, and the nuances of the world around her, will captivate readers.
Prose: It is apparent that the author has carefully crafted each line of prose. Her words are meaning-laden and potent, with not one wasted word or syllable. The result is a text that reads like a series of poetic, vignette-like moments connected through the work's thematic and tonal cadences.
Originality: Memoirs of travel, growth, and self-fulfillment are familiar. While this work explores familiar themes of displacement, solitude, and the quest for identity, the author's poetic writing and unique structural approach allows this to stand apart.
Character/Execution: This is a memoir that relies less on chronological events and circumstances, than on the author's internal processes, philosophical reflections, and incremental growth. Readers of literary fiction will be particularly drawn to Charbadze's unflinching and lyrical storytelling.
Date Submitted: October 03, 2021