Review: The Whaler’s Bride by Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold

Love isn’t always perfect, but for those who have felt it, knows its power. Carla Maria Verdino-Süllwold’s novel, The Whaler’s Bride, is a love story that conquers all, even death. Mary Lee and Lucas had a marriage most people would envy. When they were together all could see how much they loved each other. Once when they stayed at the Billingsgate Motel for their fifth wedding anniversary they forgot to pack up their clothes and left them. All that matter when they were together was being together. Everyday life didn’t matter. Love mattered.

After forty years of marriage, Lucas succumbs to a sudden heart attack. She lives in their cottage with two Maine Coon cats and their Newfoundland, Ruffian. One day Mary Lee examines a scrimshaw that Lucas purchased for her during their honeymoon. At the time the couple couldn’t afford the piece, but Lucas had to buy it for Mary Lee. Over the years she has treasured it.

During a visit to the Whaling Museum in New Bedford, Mary Lee stumbles upon a scrimshaw exhibit. One piece by Lars Lindquist catches her eye. Not only is the detail astounding but it’s the spitting image of her dead husband, Lucas. This discovery sparks a fire to seek out information about Lindquist and the two scrimshaws. Oddly enough, the scrimshaw that Lucas purchased years ago looks like it was made by the same hands. Is there a connection? And are Mary Lee and Lucas connected to Lindquist and his bride? She sets out with Ruffian to seek answers. What she uncovers will warm your heart.

This is my second novel by Verdino-Süllwold. I feel lucky to have discovered her talent. This novel, like her first, is quite short. However, it is not short on story and entertainment. The opening pages tugged on my heart. Losing her husband after four decades and having to endure life alone seems cruel. I felt Mary Lee’s anguish as she recounted trips taken together and their love for each other.

While I enjoyed the story, what I loved most is Verdino-Süllwold’s love of language. She doesn’t just write Mary Lee loved to watch the ocean. She pens descriptions that immerse me in the story and I feel like I’m seeing it all first-hand. For example, Mary Lee “feared the anger of the surf in a storm, yet she reveled in the peace that the sea and sand brought on a clear day when she would stare for hours at the water as it met the sky and would drink in the rhythm of the tides.” Her use of language amazed me in her first novel and this novel does not disappoint.

If I had to name a complaint it would be that I wanted more. The love and mystery in this story, for me, demanded more attention. She’s a talented writer and selfishly I wanted to read more of her words. She dangled just enough of the story in front of me, but I sense that there’s more. Or maybe I just want there to be more so I can continue to discover words and images through her writing.

The Whaler’s Bride is a delightful story that will make you smile and believe in love. While I wanted more, I can’t fault the writer’s skill. Read her words and let her whisk you away into another realm. I give this novel 4.5 stars out of 5.



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Weiala Press