When the brig Amaryllis was swallowed in a hurricane, the captain and all the crew were swallowed, too. For thirty years the captain's widow, Geneva Reade, has waited, certain that her husband will send her a message from the bottom of the sea. But someone else is waiting, too, and watching her, a man called Seward. Into this haunted situation comes Jenny, the widow's granddaughter. The three of them, Gran, Jenny, and Seward, are drawn into a kind of deadly game with one another and with the sea, a game that only the sea knows how to win.
The Eyes of the Amaryllis is a 1977 New York Times Book Review Notable Children's Book of the Year.
Eleven year old Geneva comes to stay with her grandmother (also named Geneva), helping her heal from a broken ankle. The elder Geneva lives by the sea and has spent much of her adult life mourning her husband who was lost at sea... sort of. Years ago, elder Geneva stood on the shore with her son watching her husband's ship come into port. But just as they neared the docking area, the ship just mysteriously and immediately sinks under the waves, almost like someone pulling the plug on a bathtub. Elder Geneva believes her husband was a victim of the mythical sea spirit who takes sailors and their ships underwater to guard treasures of past sunken ships. Because of this legend, Geneva spends the rest of her life believing that her husband is under the sea, alive but enchanted. She also believes that her husband is trying to find a way to send a message to her, to let her know he is okay and still thinks of her.
By the time granddaughter Geneva comes for her visit, it's decades later. Grandmother Geneva tells her granddaughter ("Jenny", as she calls her) about the sea legend and why she's never left her seaside home. She enlists Jenny to help her keep an eye out for anything that looks like it might possibly be a sign. They are also working against Seward, a man said to have been placed on the shore by the sea spirit to return / throw back in anything of value that comes out of the sea.
Oh wow, I LOVED this story! It's super short, only took me about an hour to read but it's so gorgeous yet simple in its writing. Grandmother Geneva reminded me so much of my own grandmother that it really made me homesick for a visit! I especially recognized Grandma Geneva's talk about "talk care of your hands, they're so rough / mannish!" Something my childhood tomboy self often heard from my naturally polished grandmother. X-D It was also great to read a story about redheads (being one myself) that didn't make them prostitutes, witches or homewreckers!
Short read though it was, nearly every page left me awed and smiling. This is definitely one I will be returning to for years to come and will be recommending to friends stuck in a reading rut!