Review of “The Story of Land and Sea” by Katy Simpson Smith

This story takes place between 1771 and 1794 in the small coastal town of Beaufort, North Carolina. It chronicles the very harsh lives of three generations beginning with Tabitha, the granddaughter, and going back in time to Helen the mother, and Asa, the grandfather. Helen’s slave Moll also figures in the narrative.


The story is bleak, and what little bits of hope the characters occasionally have pretty much always get dashed. At the end, it doesn’t even end. And the takeaway? There isn’t any, as far as I could see. Other reviewers were impressed by the writing, but for me, writing needs to take me somewhere. This book seemed less like a coherent story and more like a series of set pieces about bad lives in rough times.

Evaluation: While I didn’t get much out of this relatively short novel, for a different viewpoint be sure to check the mostly positive reviews on Goodreads.

Rating: 2.5/5

Published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins, 2014


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6 Responses to Review of “The Story of Land and Sea” by Katy Simpson Smith

  1. sandynawrot says:

    I’d be very much interested in the time and location! I absolutely love the Low Country. Too bad it had to be such an overall buzzkill.

  2. BermudaOnion says:

    Writing needs to take me somewhere as well so I’ll probably skip this.

  3. Jenny says:

    Yikes! That’s disappointing!

  4. Beth F says:

    Interesting. I started this one and really liked the writing, but for some reason I got distracted and never went back to it.

  5. Synopsis sounded good to me, too. Sorry it was such a let down!

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