The Ocean in Winter

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What to expect

The lives of the three Emery sisters were changed forever when Alex, eleven at the time, found their mother drowned in the bathtub of their home. After their mother’s suicide, the girls’ father shut down emotionally, leaving Alex responsible for caring for Colleen, then eight, and little Riley, just four. Now the girls are grown and navigating different directions. Alex, a nurse, has been traveling in India and grieving her struggle to have a child; Colleen is the devoted mother of preteens in denial that her marriage is ending; and Riley has been leading what her sisters imagine to be the dream life of a successful model in New York City. Decades may have passed, but the unresolved trauma of their mother’s death still looms over them, creating distance between the sisters.

Then, on a March night, a storm rages near the coast of northeastern Massachusetts. Alex sits alone in an old farmhouse she inherited from a stranger. The lights are out because of the storm; then, an unexpected knock at the door. When Alex opens it, her beautiful younger sister stands before her. Riley has long been estranged from their family, prompting Colleen to hire the private investigator from whom they’d been awaiting news. Comforted by her unexpected presence, Alex holds back her nagging questions: How had Riley found her? Wouldn’t the dirt roads have been impassable in the storm? Why did Riley insist on disappearing back into the night?

After her mysterious visitation, Alex and Colleen are determined to reconcile with Riley and to face their painful past, but the closer they come to finding their missing sister, the more they fear they’ll only be left with Riley’s secrets. An unforgettable story about grief, love, and what it means to be haunted, The Ocean in Winter marks the debut of a remarkable new voice in fiction.

Critics Review

  • “Do we choose our memories, or do our memories choose us? That’s the central question for the three sisters in Elizabeth de Veer’s emotionally rich, incandescent debut novel. Ocean in Winter is a page-turner of a book with a family mystery at its core, and profoundly explores the ways in which women struggle to rebuild their lives after grief and trauma. You won’t want to put it down once you start.”

    Holly Robinson, author of Beach Plum Island and Chance Harbor
  • “This tale of love, loss, grief, and connections is one that could shatter your heartstrings. It is a saga of family turmoil that hints of the supernatural—a world of spirits that try to alert of danger, the past, and the way forward.”

    Mystery & Suspense
  • The Ocean in Winter is a compelling, well-written debut with the title being more than significant for this riveting novel as it illustrates the emotions of grief, pain, and even happiness which are often synonymous with the cold, destructive, and mysterious sea.”

    New York Journal of Books
  • “With sharp, tender insight, Elizabeth de Veer’s gorgeous novel lays bare the inner worlds of three sisters trying to cope with devastating, incomprehensible loss. I came to love these brave, flawed, easily recognizable characters as they reached for answers, and for each other, across some divides that could be breached and some that couldn’t. Fiercely intelligent and always engaging, de Veer does what the best novelists do: she takes the full measure of her difficult subject, and transforms it through some alchemy into hard-won wisdom and grace.”

    Elisabeth Elo, author of Finding Katarina M. and North of Boston
  • “A compelling portrait of a wounded family seeking a path forward. Elizabeth de Veer writes with nuanced understanding of the complexities of hurt and healing, and she knows how to tell a damn good story. Rich in dialogue, action, and a keen sense of place, The Ocean in Winter pulls the reader into the swirling vortex of three lives shaped by a family legacy that will not let them go.”

    Rilla Askew, author of Kind of Kin
  • The Ocean in Winter is my absolute favorite kind of novel: wise, beautiful, moving, sad, rich. This magical tapestry woven from the lives of three sisters trying to reconnect to each other and themselves in the wake of their mother’s death does what the best fiction should: it makes you feel less alone on the trying, miraculous journey of being alive. I cried for the last forty pages—from joy and gratitude.”

    Jenna Blum, New York Times bestselling author of Those Who Save Us and The Lost Family

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