Safe Harbor (©2002)
by Luanne Rice
The sacred bond of sisterhood is explored in painstaking detail in Rice's newest offering (after Summer Light), a warm and weepy drama set in the picaresque seaside town of Black Hall, Conn. The novel sets sail slowly when a grief-stricken Dana Underhill returns home to care for her two nieces, Quinn and Allie, following the death of her sister, Lily, and Lily's husband, Mike, in a sailing accident.
Dana, a professional painter, had intended to whisk her nieces back to France with her, but her plans are put on hold when she realizes that change may not be what's best for Quinn and Allie. Indeed, Quinn, a cigarette-smoking 12-year-old with a chip on her shoulder, is dead set against leaving, particularly since she's determined to uncover the circumstances surrounding her parents' deaths.
The mystery of Mike and Lily's drowning and the state of their marriage before the accident weighs down the second half of the book, but the pace picks up when Dana's
childhood acquaintance, oceanographer and Yale professor Sam Trevor, arrives to provide Dana with a shoulder to lean on and to help Quinn find the answers she seeks.
While Quinn and Sam make plans to recover her parents' sailboat, Dana struggles to overcome her sister's death and to paint again. The affection between Dana and Sam is heartwarming and convincing, but the novel's finale involving the rescue of Quinn and Allie during a fierce storm with the aid of a little divine intervention is anticlimactic. Less a romance than a somber meditation on the importance of family ties, this saccharine read is buoyed by Rice's evocative prose and her ability to craft intelligent, three-dimensional characters.