Sea Babies by Tracey Scott-Townsend
See also Tracey's narrative poem, In This Hand, based on the novel Sea Babies
In September 2016, Lauren Wilson is travelling by ferry to the Outer Hebrides, about to begin a new job as a children’s social worker. She's also struggling to come to terms with the recent drowning of a Sheena, a teenage girl she had deeply cared for.
Engrossed in her book, when somebody sits opposite her at a table on the ferry, Lauren refuses to look up, annoyed at having her privacy disturbed. But a hand is pushing a mug of tea across the table, and a livid scar on the back of the hand releases a flood of memories.
Lauren studies the hand on the table in front of her, the line of the scar drawing a map of the past in her mind. She was the one who created the scar, not long before her relationship with the love of her life ended almost thirty years ago. Lauren hasn’t seen Neil since she walked out of their shared life, unable to forgive either herself or him for a decision he strongly pressured her to make.
She’s not ready to meet his eyes, not yet. From his scar to his wrist bone, following his arm upwards and across his shoulder to his collarbone, his chin and the lower part of his face; Lauren remembers incidents from their past and tries to work out what caused their life to go so horribly off-track.
When she finally meets his eyes and they speak to each other for the first time, Lauren believes she has set her life on a new course. But her gain will result in losses for others. Is this really what she wants to happen?
Some people believe in the existence of a parallel universe. Does Lauren have a retrospective choice about the outcome of her terrible recent accident, or is it the bearer of that much older scar who has the power to decide what happens to her life now?
The gripping story of Sea Babies is inspired by the vast and raw landscapes of the Outer Hebrides, by the fraught journeys of refugees from one home to the hope of another across the sea, and also by artist Marina Abromovic’s 2010 MoMA performance: The Artist is Present, in which she spent sixty seconds staring into the eyes of her former lover.
Set mainly in the Outer Hebrides and Edinburgh from the 1980s to the present, Sea Babies is a potent emotional, psychological drama with a poignant twist in the tale. Sea Babies explores the more difficult aspects of relationships, the idea of choices and responsibility, and the refugee in all of us.