Saturday, March 16, 2013

Strait to You by Fran Reinert

Reinert, Fran. Strait to You: A Novel. Tate Publishing and Enterprises: 08/28/2012.
Publisher: Perfect Paperback ISBN-10: 1620241692 ISBN-13: 978-1620241691 $22.99
Publisher: Tate Digital Edition $15.99
Amazon: Kindle Edition ASIN: B008FQRFAO $7.99
For their thirtieth wedding anniversary, agoraphobic Fran plans an Alaskan cruise for herself and her husband Larry. She works with a travel agent to be sure there are no buses. To be sure there is a table for two. To be sure there are direct flights between Philadelphia and Seattle. All to deal with Larry’s phobias. The direct flights were not quite so straightforward, and they have to ride a bus from the airport to the ship, however there is a table for two.

At last they embark on the last cruise of the season, and things go well until the ship, with engines silenced, passes groaning glaciers. Larry and Fran watch from the terrace of their cabin. Suddenly, the ship's captain urgently asks all passengers to return to their rooms since there is a lot of glacial motion reported. Fran and Larry continue to watch, as massive pieces of ice break off and crash into the water, as the ship heads for the last port of call, a logging village called Pastore.

After visiting a few tourist shops, they head to an arena to watch a logging demonstration. Fran realizes they left the video camera in their room. Concerned Fran’s arthritis is bothering her, Larry seats her on a bench. There, just above they landing, where people are catching tenders going to and coming from the two cruise ships anchored some distance off shore, she can sit and watch for him. Larry moves toward the tenders, and Fran tries to keep him in sight, but soon the end of the line beomes the middle of the line…

Suddenly sirens go off in the town. Then the bone-chilling whistles of the cruise ships begin to sound their emergency signal. People with panicked faces rush toward the line leading to the gangways to the tenders. Fran loses sight of Larry as she joins the other passengers focused on getting to their ships. She panics. All she wants is to get to her room and Larry. Larry is not there. There is no sign Larry has been there at all. Anywhere. Fran falls to her knees.

Thus begins a journey. Way beyond her itinerary. Way beyond her comfort zones. With the help of God and the people she befriends, Fran sets out to find Larry. To go home. And to never leave again.
Reinert sends her vulnerable characters loose in Alaska where people take care of each other, just because that is what people do. Being in Pastore, the temperate fictional coastal town, a day’s drive from Anchorage, across the strait from Russia, as winter begins, provides layers of urgency and suspense to Fran’s search. The right people, in the right place, at the right time is a little over-simplistic. But, at the same time, this allows the reader to remain focused on Fran as she bravely sets out to do something she has never had to do before, without the one person she has been able to lean on since she was a teenager.

Minor inconsistencies in grammar and sentence structure, and uses of clichés gives the writer opportunity to grow as she explores other characters in other settings. Reinert handles twists in the plot that could easily look contrived, in such a way to keep the reader turning pages. And, at the end, the reader will want to follow Fran home to see how the new Fran handles being home again. The reader will also want to follow Reinert home to see where she will take us next, and whom we will need to cheer on as we did Fran.

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