In a House by the Sea

By Sandy Gingras

51/2" x 7 1/4"
72 pp.

ISBN 1-59322-013-8



In a House by the Sea:
Where Life can be Lived for Every Glorious Moment
By Perdita Buchan
Reprinted, in its entirety, from The Beachcomber, August 5, 2005, with permission.

I may be the perfect audience for the new book by Sandy Gingras, In A House By The Sea. After all, I do live in one which I guess makes me a "beach woman". Although I can’t say I always achieve the verve of Gingras’s "beach woman". I’m not always capable of closing my eyes and letting it be when the house is a welter of sand toys and wet beach towels, for instance. Still, a close association with the vast pathlessness of the ocean has made me a little better at embracing change and navigating life without, as Gingras succinctly puts it, a map.

In this charmingly serendipitous book, the writer addresses a number of topics in forms varying from the poetic essay, to pages of delicate drawings and even a rebus. Where she begins is probably where all beach lovers begin, with a childhood memory. She describes the family car trip, the arrival in the "overgrown driveway" of the summer house, running onto the beach, the open ocean, the high sun. That memory is universal because, as she points out, "this moment never really happened. A couple of parts maybe, but the rest is a mixture of fiction and dream and desire." This ability to describe that powerful mix of reality and dream and desire is what Gingras does so well. This gift, reflected in her earlier books like How To Live On An Island and How To Live At The Beach, allow her to transcend her particular beach place and create something that all beach lovers (and probably those who don’t love the beach) can recognize.

Summer at the beach is about becoming part of the natural world. You swim in the ocean, bury yourself in the sand. The beach is always with you. The sound of the waves follows you; sand is everywhere – in your shoes, in your bed. The house of the book’s title means more than a roof, four walls and a porch. It’s that psychic place that we all try to reach where the important dominates the petty. It’s a place where life can be lived for every glorious moment: every dawn, every sunset, every storm. How familiar are the things she describes: curtains blowing "like ghosts" in the sea wind, parents dancing to Frank Sinatra, Parcheesi at night on the porch. Who doesn’t remember that "one shampoo nobody likes" parked permanently on a ledge in the outside shower? And doesn’t everyone’s couch collect M&Ms and pen caps?

Gingras combines this eye for detail with gentle humor, as when she describes her neighbors barbecuing next door. There’s humor, too, in each page of whimsical drawings like "woman on vacation" or "flip flop moods" featuring the perennial beach footwear. In A House By The Sea is a mercurial sort of read, moving from humor and nostalgia to life lessons about change and acceptance and love. In a touching piece called "The Moon Is Sorry", she writes about the beach women, mothers and aunts, of her childhood. Did they, she wonders, ever get to just be or were they always taking care of someone – wrapping a shivering child in a beach towel, cooking corn and flounder for dinner?

Sandy Gingras writes particularly for women, "beach women" or not, urging us to let go of all the expectations that hamper us. I think she wishes us all what she wishes her mothers and aunts: a day "luscious and selfish enough to make the moon sorry". If there’s an element of self help here, it comes without the earnest proselytizing of most self help books. Just take a look at the "A Is For Attitude" alphabet: "Z is for zither and zoology and Zena the Warrior Princess and all those things that you will never do or be, and how perfectly ok that is with you." When we strip down to bathing suit and flip flops, we can strip away a lot of other things too.

If you like this book, you can keep the Gingras touch and the memory of a beach summer with you through all of 2006 with the How To Live At The Beach calendar (Down The Shore Publishing, $10.95). Enjoy.

Copyright c. 2005 Jersey Shore Newsmagazines

Sandy Gingras is an artist and writer with her own design company called “How To Live.” She and her son, three cats and a fat yellow Labrador live near the beach in New Jersey, where she is active in efforts to preserve open space and wetlands.

P.O. Box 3100, Harvey Cedars New Jersey 08008
email • fax (609) 597-0422

Copyright © 2005 Down The Shore Publishing Corp. The words "Down The Shore" and logo are a registered U.S. Trademark.