Annie, Celia, Imelda, Natalia and Myra each hoping to have the life they wanted yet chained and confined to the one they created or bound. What happens when all you want is your freedom but others control your fate? What happens when the one choice you make leads you to others that create a downward spiral continues and never ends. As Annie goes to the student hostel and meets Fred she is immediately taken with him even though his motives for meeting with her are anything but honorable. Not allowed to meet with him in public, hoping that he will find his way to ask her for more than just a chance romance or moment she is devastated when he marries someone else. Annie’s mind and thoughts are clouded and her actions show that not only is she a naïve 16 year old but one that never really thinks through what she is doing.
Natalia is her best friend and covers for her with her parents when she needs to phone this man or wants to see him. Dance classes and school fill her time but her goal is to escape Russia, the Russian mores and find her way to another place never thinking of what she is giving up or what the end result will be. Meeting Roberto you would think might change it all as he is attentive, kind and seems to really care for her. A mother that dominates his life, a man who has his own rules for how a young woman should act, Annie is drawn in by his promises, advances and finds herself in what she later learns is a loveless marriage. Hoping to find some semblance in her life she moves with him to Costa Rica is under the rule and thumb of his mother who criticizes and shuns her every move as women are supposed to be subservient to their husbands, wash, clean, cook and keep house and not think about what is happening outside in the world. Wanting more she seeks and gets a job tutoring in a school and has money of her own. Wanting more hours, wanting to see her friends and often trying to find out what happened to Fred, Annie once again falls prey to her own insecurities, flaws, inconsistent behaviors and never realizes that sometimes being alone, thinking things through and confiding in the right person would bring better results. Befriending Myra has its benefits when things get rough with her husband and he becomes abusive, But, not every situation or friendship works out and she meets Arnoldo another young man who woes her, finds her appealing and wants to help her get her immigrations papers in order so that she can work full time and come and go as she pleases. But, nothing is quite what it seems and although he wants to help her she falls prey to his mother, her rule and her wants finding herself no better off than she was with her husband. As the author continues we learn that Annie and Imelda, his mother are no different except the mother seems to be able to wield her power over him since she carries the purse strings and Annie who promised to follow him to Russia with his mother’s encouragement is paying the price for convincing him to return home. From Russia to Costa Rica to Canada Annie makes her way into the lives of many different men and lands herself in places no one would like to be.
Myra a free spirit needs to find her way and has her family with her and often rescues Annie but at what price to both women. Natalia sent to Siberia to study, still a true friend finds herself wanting more as we learn more about Celia whose life has become one affair after another with each of her superiors at the college where she is a secretary. Every step of the way we learn more about the indignities women suffer, the abuse at the hand of the man, the requirements of how they are supposed to act and the lack of freedom they have within their own society. Women are downplayed and when Annie speaks out she is chastised, hit by her husband, verbally abused by Imelda and finds herself at another crossroads as she leaves home once again, takes on a tutoring job with Thomas, marries this older man and the chains that confine her and take her spirit are even tighter.
Throughout the novel Annie’s fears, personality and insecurities are apparent but the fire and her spirit seem dimmer and she does not fight back when accused of attacking her husband, mistreatment by the police, lack of representation in the court and improper handling of her case. When some friends in the shelter where she was taken the end result give advice is wants to be deported back to Costa Rica. Annie’s drive, energy and ability to tell what is real and not seems in question at times. Despondent and deported she winds up with Myra and her family only to find herself out in the street when accusing someone of stealing her money and problems with the family.
What happens next is quite compelling as we see Annie before coming back to Costa Rica in jail, dealing with lawyers and then she snaps. Finding her way to the beach and a blue boat that she uses for protection she envisions scenes from her past, imagines people that she wants to see and is warned about the dangers of being alone. What she decides to do and how she rebuilds herself is quite interesting as she finds her way to the Red Cross. Will she ever learn to fight for herself? Will she start to eat and stop starving herself and living off the land or what she feels is her energy? When will Annie find Annie? When will Myra stop being Annie? What is her final fate?
Rebuilding her life meeting new friends and finding love with a man named Peter. Realizing that life can finally bring her some happiness and yet will Annie ever learn to love what she has and care about those that need her? Selfish, unfeeling, concerned about her own needs is what so many think of Annie. Having two children, trying to deal with their moods, needs and wants puts a strain on her and the way she feels her life should go. But, a startling truth from the past that was revealed to would change the complexion of her life, bring her more pain, sorrow and grief and make Anne and the reader wonder if she will ever find true love and even more true freedom. As Annie relates something about her past to Peter, an incident with her close friend’s daughter gives them all pause for reflection. Helena her oldest fiery, fierce and definitely all she would love to be and is not, Emily kind, timid and reserved. Images are what people see when they look at you and wonder about you for the first time. Annie’s image has changed over the years but in reality she has not. Her appearance varied, her desire to stay thin important and her priorities singular many would say. Who do you blame for you own mistakes? How do you become an independent thinker and form a stronger opinion of yourself?
An ending that will make you wonder just what the world has in store for Annie and if she will ever find her way in the present when she cannot seem to reconcile her past. Hiding in the blue boat brought her some perspective and maybe she needs one to keep her on an even keel when things get rough and have somewhere to hide. Where does she wind up? Author Katrina Day gives readers many issues to think about as Annie reminds readers that women need to fight for rights, not allow men to abuse them or put them down, speak up when necessary and not let the system rake them over the coals. Self-esteem, self-worth and inner peace and understanding are just some of the things Annie needed to understand and learn before she can find her way to freedom. What is next for her? That’s up to the author if she has more to tell about this interesting young woman. Blue Boat on the Beach: describes how immigrants were treated not only in America but other countries and how finding freedom, getting jobs and the proper documents was not that simple. The ties that bind some women will never come undone: Where does Annie wind up? What about those that brought her to the brink: Imelda, Arnoldo, Peter, Roberto, his mother, Myra and others: How far will she go to break the bonds? When will Annie find the courage to fight for herself? One blue sailboat can sail you to freedom too!
Fran Lewis: reviewer