Author: Heidi Cullinan
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Pages/Word Count: 268 Pages
At a Glance: Carry The Ocean is a novel that reminds us that each and every one of us deserves love. I highly recommend it to you.
Reviewed By: Sammy
Blurb: Normal is just a setting on the dryer.
High school graduate Jeremey Samson is looking forward to burying his head under the covers and sleeping until it’s time to leave for college. Then a tornado named Emmet Washington enters his life. The double major in math and computer science is handsome, forward, wicked smart, interested in dating Jeremey—and he’s autistic.
But Jeremey doesn’t judge him for that. He’s too busy judging himself, as are his parents, who don’t believe in things like clinical depression. When his untreated illness reaches a critical breaking point, Emmet is the white knight who rescues him and brings him along as a roommate to The Roosevelt, a quirky new assisted living facility nearby.
As Jeremey finds his feet at The Roosevelt, Emmet slowly begins to believe he can be loved for the man he is behind the autism. But before he can trust enough to fall head over heels, he must trust his own conviction that friendship is a healing force, and love can overcome any obstacle.
Product Warnings: Contains characters obsessed with trains and counting, positive representations of autism and mental illness, a very dark moment, and Elwood Blues.
Review: Where to begin…
If you are looking for standard fare m/m romance, Carry The Ocean will leave you disappointed. However, if you are looking for a remarkably tender and illuminating story that reveals how love can come into every life, not just those viewed as “normal”, then this story is going to resonate deeply. Having taught children on the autism spectrum, I found Heidi Cullinan’s story displayed such a sophisticated portrayal of one such individual, for she could not be more right than when she had Emmet give voice to the truism that when you have met one autistic child, you have met one autistic child. Each is different, coping in their own unique way, and presenting with their own beautiful quirks and gifts.
The story of how Emmet, a high functioning autistic college student, pursues and meets his neighbor across the train tracks is a gorgeous story of love and the fight for independence. Emmett has so many strategies he has developed and learned over the years, from different shirts to convey different moods, to the foam hammer that allows him to vent his anger. His parents are smart, well educated, and loving.
Jeremey, on the other hand is nearly crippled by his anxieties, fears, and clinical depression. However, unlike Emmet’s parents, Jeremey’s are brutal, constantly harping on him to just buck up and be “normal”. That is the crux of what author Heidi Cullinan writes about in Carry The Ocean. Not only does she delineate the pain and horrible sense of unworthiness these two young men carry with them each day but she also speaks about the fact that there is no “normal”. She continually comes back to the idea that each one of us is normal despite our differences, our individual strengths or weaknesses, our emotional and intellectual struggles—that “normal” looks different for each person.
However, lest you are concerned that this is some Pollyanna novel focused on showing the world that “special needs” kids are just like you and me, think again. She celebrates their individuality by sparing no little time on giving us a window into their lives. We walk through Jeremey’s crippling anxieties, we are swept up in Emmet’s frustration over not being able to express himself when it is needed most. We are privy to the fears of two young men who want and need each other and who are discovering sex and lust and love for the first time. This novel is stunning in its scope and realism. We do not fall in love with Emmet and Jeremy because they are pitiable, we fall in love with them because they are fighters in an ocean that alternately threatens to drown them or keep them afloat.
Carry The Ocean is a love story from an author to the young men and women who fight each day to hold onto themselves, find their place in a world that doesn’t value those who don’t fit their norm. This novel is a lush and beautiful story of love and strength, small victories and huge advancements. In a nutshell, Carry The Ocean is a novel that reminds us that each and every one of us deserves love. I highly recommend it to you.
You can buy Carry the Ocean here: