Cover Image: Closer by Sea

Closer by Sea

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Member Reviews

A backstory of writing Q&A with the author is featured in Zed Books, the books section of Zoomer magazine.
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Perry Chafe perfectly captures the voice of 12 year old Pierce as he navigates life since his father’s death, the hardships that face the local fishery on their island off the coast of Newfoundland, and the disappearance of a young teen named Anna in their community.

You will truly feel you are a part of Pierce’s circle of friends and be reminded of what was going through your mind at 12, all while being transported to what life was like for a fishing community in the 90’s. Friendships both likely and unlikely drive this story, along with loss of childhood, but the gain of resilience. The descriptive but simple nature of Chafe’s writing will keep you hooked until the end.
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I was immediately pulled into this literary tale about Pierce, who is forced to come of age without his recently lost at sea and presumed dead father. Problems like hard core bullies are nothing compared to the deja vous heartbreak Pierce experiences when a local teenager goes missing. There was a story of Pierce and his gang making friends with an old fisherman who was quirky but suspicious because he had something in his basement. I felt like I was in a Goonies movie - in a good way, - as the tension of the quest into the basement unfolded.. Then I saw many other readers had this same feeling. First novel, but not first 'storytelling' rodeo. Perry Chafe's experience in cinema is evident in the visual writing style and perfect pacing. He succinctly designed the dialogue to perfectly feed into the well rounded character building. I thoroughly enjoyed this reading experience. 
Thank you Netgalley and Simon & Schuster for this arc.
Closer by Sea by Perry Chafe will be published 
Today, May 23, 2023.
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This is a great debut novel by Perry Chafe. As a Canadian, I’m always in for a Canadian-based book by a Canadian author and this didn’t disappoint. This is a coming-of-age book about a young boy who has lost his father and has to overcome everything that has come along with that. As well as facing new challenges of growing up and the mysterious disappearance of a young teen, he has crossed paths with a few times.

I think the thing I loved the most about this book was Perry Chafes' writing. From the characters to the setting descriptions and the storyline, it was all so well written.

The story was one that kept me wondering what happened. It had little hints of thriller like suspense throughout and the mystery of what happened to the young girl right till the very end.

This was also a pretty emotional book, specifically towards the end, in my opinion. I cried through the last couple of chapters.

I definitely recommend this to all Canadians, especially if you love the east coast, fishing and coming-of-age novels.
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Title: Closer By Sea

Author: Perry Chafe

Publication Date: May 23, 2023

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery, Canada (Newfoundland)

Pages: 272

Content Warnings: violence, death of a parent, missing teenage girl, bullying, emotional abuse, animal cruelty, cancer

PG Some material may not be suitable for children.

› "People really can vanish without a trace. I was only nine years old when I learned my father, Luke Jacobs, would never be coming home again. It was the summer of 1988. My uncle found his thirty-foot trap skiff drifting a couple of miles out from Perigo Island - our island - just off the northeast coast of Newfoundland. He was not on board."

› Pierce has developed a strong dislike of the ocean since his father's disappearance. This is complicated when his entire livelihood is attached to the Atlantic Ocean. It's been three years since his father's empty boat was found in the ocean. His mother is Diane Jacobs. She's a hardworking person who works at the fish plant and the video store on the mainland. He and his mother have found a way forward, around the grief and don't talk about it very much.

› Pierce heads down to the wharf every day with his two closest friends, Thomas and Bennie, to see if the fisherpeople will let them cut the cod tongues out of their daily catch. They sell those for a little pocket money. He's saving up to fix up his dad's boat which has been laying in his backyard since his father disappeared. They plan on finishing high school and then fishing for a living.

› One day, while on the wharf cutting out some cod tongues, Solomon Vickers drove by in his boat. A gust of wind lifted up the corner of the tarp covering something. Pierce saw small bones under the tarp. Who is this Solomon? What was he doing with the bones? What kind of bones are they?

› Ross and his two friends, "the Arseholes", bully Pierce, Bennie, and Thomas repeatedly. They are verbally and physically abusive. Bennie's cousin Emily comes to visit. She grew up in Manhattan so this small fishing town is a whole new world.

› When Pierce finds out Anna Tessier has gone missing he knows she didn't run away like last time. While trying to avoid Ross and the Arseholes and be wary of the fairies, Pierce, Emily, Thomas, and Bennie embark on an investigation to find out more about Solomon and find Anna.

› I rate reviews similar to the CAWPILE method
0-3 Really bad
4-6 Mediocre
7-9 Really good
10 Outstanding

› Characters: 10
Thomas made me laugh a few times. "I only got one speed: flat-out." These characters are well-developed with goals, strengths, flaws, external and internal conflict, backstory, characteristics and interesting side characters.

› Atmosphere: 10
From the cod tongues, to the crinkle-cut fries with meatballs and gravy, to the bologna sandwiches, to the Newfoundland sayings, fairies, the weather, to the mentions of Memorial University (which I graduated from in 2004), and the cod liver oil Closer By Sea is incredibly nostalgic for anyone who grew up in Newfoundland and Labrador.

› Writing Style: 10
Absolutely love Chafe's writing style. High-quality writing with authentic dialogue.

› Plot: 10
I loved everything. The beginning, the middle, the end. This was a page-turner that I didn't want to put down.

› Intrigue: 10

› Logic: 10
I never felt confused and didn't notice any plot holes.

› Enjoyment: 10
Closer By Sea made me laugh and cry.

Average 10

My Rating ★★★★★

› Final Thoughts
• The sea took Pierce's father. It scares him, but it also gives Pierce and his friends purpose. It gives them hope and brings them together. Emotional and poignant, Closer By Sea is a coming-of-age "Stand By Me" set in Newfoundland that tore my heart out, ripped it up, glued it back together with nostalgic memories of Newfoundland and Labrador, then plunked it back into my chest expecting me to somehow continue life as normal. This tale is about grief, guilt, friendship, and the collapse of the cod fishery and its impact on the lives of Newfoundlanders. I won't be forgetting this story for a long while and I can't wait to buy a copy for my shelves. This is a MUST-READ debut novel for all readers 12 years old and up. I have a feeling that Closer By Sea will be my favourite read of 2023.

Thank you to Netgalley and the publisher for sending this book for review. All opinions are my own.
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I love Newfoundland fiction and this book did not disappoint. Chafe does a good job at capturing life in a small NL village in the early 1990s as the cod fishery is collapsing. I found the timeline a bit out of whack - Pierce, Bennie and Thomas seemed to be on summer vacation for longer than two months, but that did not detract from my enjoyment. The book has a cinematic feel which likely comes from Chafe's background. I couldn't wait to sit down with this book everyday and I look forward to another from him.
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Closer by Sea has a sweetness about it that is refreshing to find, but I think it is misclassified as Adult Fiction.  The pacing and phrasing to me seems a better fit with YA fiction - stylistic things, like the build up three times to the naming of Solomon Vickers, is a familiar trope of younger story lines, and the plot lines are very much seen from a young adult's POV - this is not a criticism, though, just a misplacement of genre in my estimation.  

This novel has vibrant and detailed descriptions of life on the island, and much to share in knowledge of sea life.  The suspense is good, and the characters believable.  An interesting Coming of Age story, with a maritime flavour!

Thanks to Simon & Schuster Canada and to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a wonderful story, very poignant and realistic. I think it will especially appeal to Canadians who are familiar with the east coast of Canada but will also appeal to anyone who enjoys a coming-of-age story. I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it to middle grade and young adult readers as well. The characters are believable and the island is so well drawn that I could picture it even though I've never been to the area. The book is less than 300 pages and an easy read. It reminded me a bit of some of Catherine Ryan Hyde's books. There's a bit of a mystery, some area folklore and some teenage angst. There are some wonderful local colloquialisms that I've never heard before and I have to confess to getting a little verklempt whilst reading the epilogue.

The author is Canadian and has written for a number of tv productions, most notably (to me) Son of a Critch which we just love. This is his debut novel and I'd definitely read another book by Perry Chafe.

My thanks to Simon & Schuster via Netgalley for the opportunity to read an ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed are my own.
Publication Date: May 23, 2023
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I wish I remember how I came across this book but as soon as it came across my radar I went looking to see if I could also get my hands on it. I knew it was a book about Newfoundland, the author has some interesting entertainment credentials, and I saw it was a bit of a mystery. I was hoping for an engaging read with a good sense of place and endearing characters and relationships. That's pretty much what I got.

This book, set in 1991, is about Pierce, a 12-year-old boy, and his friends living on a small Newfoundland island that sustains itself with its fishing industry. When a friend of his, a girl who is a few years older than Pierce, goes missing, Pierce feels the need to find her, worrying that no one is doing enough.

These characters are so earnest and charming. Chafe does a good job of capturing a state of maturing that evokes nostalgia for the adult reader. Nearly every character goes through development, but this is also mirrored in the wider community, making the place a type of character as well. This is really a coming-of-age story in a time when the environment is changing and so too is a way of life.

One thing that Canadian Literature tends to do very well is that it creates a strong sense of place. If this is all that a book provides (which was my opinion of CanLit for a long time,) then it isn’t worth the read. Luckily, the description of the setting and the community found within this Newfoundland island enhances this story and sets you firmly in this place while also allowing the reader to connect the truths in this setting to the truths in their own histories and communities. Chafe uses both science and art as well as evocative description to create the sense of this place. It feels alive and beautiful and raw and powerful and dangerous while also evoking a sense of familiarity and nostalgia.

Perry Chafe really does a good job uncovering his themes through the writing. The setting is evocative and the characters are charming, but what Perry Chafe’s writing really does well is situate the reader somewhere between childhood and adulthood without making anything in this book childish. This book deals with darkness, and yet interspersed are mythical adventure metaphors and a belief in fairies. It captures a very clear state of being 12 — between childhood and adulthood — but not either — while mirroring that time of flux and unknown to a mystery, an industry, and a community.

The themes in this book are quite powerful and deep. A lot of it surrounds community, loss, and growth. There is a definite theme of life and death, but this is tied to a wider theme of change and growth and connection that is seen in this small community. Through this theme, with characters who are at a pivotal and transitional stage in their own growth, and through examining the death of Pierce’s father, investigating a missing girl whose story seems to be stalled, and glimpsing an ecology that is changing, Chafe can help the reader see both the loss and the opportunities experienced by communities affected by changing industry and climate change. Through this theme, there is a call for both healing and increased connection in order to restore while adapting.

I am glad that Perry Chafe had a girl character to round out Pierce’s friend group. Without her, I think I would have had a real problem with the characterization of Anna, the missing girl. If most of the character development happens with boys and the plot surrounds one girl character who can’t have much control over her own development, it can be problematic, using her as a sort of “body” to push forward a plot. Luckily, Chafe does take care of Anna, being gentle in how she is portrayed and protecting her to an extent even as she plays this role. I think this is necessary because thematically, she represents something that is loved and worth protecting but is in danger. Thankfully, Emily does allow us to see a girl character who is powerful in her own right, multi-faceted, and in control of her own narrative.

Here’s what I find fascinating about this book: I couldn’t peg its intended audience. I’m not sure if that is a pro for it or a con. It felt both middle-grade and adult. It is rare for an adult book to feature 12-year-olds. Yet the cover definitely calls to an adult reader and it seems to be pegged in its publication materials as being an adult book. As I have previously mentioned, the characterization is not annoyingly childish (with the exception of some instances where communication could have helped). I think the setting in the early 90s definitely creates an important sense of nostalgia that is intentionally meant for an adult reader and yet there is nothing that would keep me from recommending this book to a junior high or high school kid. In fact, I think this would be a perfect book to read in schools, and it would allow for really interesting social studies, science, and art cross-curricular integrations. I will recommend this book both to adults and to my 13-year-old son.
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I really enjoyed this coming-of-age story. I grew up in Newfoundland and I could picture myself in many of the scenes in this book. The author brings this story to life with his descriptions what it was like in NL during the decline of the cod fishery and how it impacted everyone who depended on the fishery to survive. I look forward to any future books by this author. 
Thank you to NetGalley, Simon and Schuster Canada, and Perry Chafe for this ARC.
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I saw "Closer by Sea" described as "Stand By Me" set in Newfoundland. That description rang true for me! Set on Perigo Island, Closer by Sea is a coming of age story that is part first love, part mystery, and part heartache. Our protagonist is twelve-year-old Pierce, who is still grieving the death of his father - a cod fisherman who was believed to be swept off his boat. His body was never recovered. Pierce has two best friends, Thomas and Bennie, and that fateful summer they are joined by Bennie's cousin, Emily, who makes Pierce begin to think about girls in a new way. The mystery comes into play when a young girl, Anna, disappears. Pierce has talked to Anna several times, and despite only meeting up three times, he feels a connection to her, and does not believe that she "ran away" like many of the townspeople believe. Pierce and his friends start to look into her disappearance, and are instantly suspicious of a "Newcomer" named Solomon Vicker's - an older man who lives in a remote house, and does not fish or socialize with most of the villagers. The village is struggling - the once plentiful cod that the entire economy of the town is built on, have been overfished and a huge is coming. Despite bullies, a stranger, and a dire warning from nature, nothing is really as it seems. A good read.
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Growing up on an island has definite advantages and disadvantages. Usually, the older boys and girls will make life difficult for the younger offspring. Pierce is one of those youngsters who is caught in the middle. 

Islands near Newfoundland were great places to grow up in the latter half of the 20th century, but cod have been harvested to near extinction and Pierce’s father fails to come home after a day fishing. He and his mother are stranded with few options. The children are cutting the tongues out of Codfish and selling them to earn spending money. 

Anna is a budding young artist renowned for her excellent sketches and other artwork. She winds up missing and the entire island starts a search for her. She cannot be found. Pierce, his mother, and the middle-aged group set out to search for her. An elderly, reclusive man on the island is suspected of foul play. His habits spark suspicion among the young friends. 

This tale is well-written and endearing. There are no dull moments and the reader is rewarded with an engaging and rewarding tome. 4.5 stars – CE Williams
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Beautifully atmospheric. 

Overall, this was a well written mystery based in a Canadian East Coast small town. I enjoyed that this was a coming of age story with well developed, rich characters that had me totally invested in the narrative. I also appreciated the details about marine biology that were included.
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Unfortunately I just couldn’t finish this book.  I got bored and ended up quiting.

I know some will like it but it just wasn’t for me
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Closer by Sea is a beautiful meditation on loss, love and childhood friendships. Set on Perigo Island, a small island off the coast of Newfoundland, it tells the story of Pierce and his friends, Thomas, Bennie and Emily as they try to find out where Anna, the missing girl, disappeared to. Pierce’s grief due to the loss of his father is at the center of this search. Over the course of the summer, the kids are confronted with their beliefs around strangers on the island as well as the changing lifestyle due to the declining codfish population. Educational, thought-provoking, poignant, Closer by Sea will take you back to the carefree childhood summers.

The fishing industry has been the main form of livelihood on the island for a long time and people have contributed to it not just as fishermen but also boat builders. I loved the knowledge put into the book about operating and fixing boats, the different kinds of boats and the ways of getting food from the ocean when out fishing. The collapse of the codfish industry, however, is seeing an exodus of people leaving the island. With less fish and more fishermen, there is competition within the community of who will catch the most fish. While the catch has been reducing over time due to overfishing, there are other unpredictable aspects of earning livelihood on the ocean. Pierce’s dad’s accident speaks to how sometimes people never come back.

The severed connection with his father has been heavy on Pierce all these years and he is acutely aware that losing his father meant losing generations of knowledge about the island’s way of life. There is so much he was yet to learn from his dad but that got taken away from him. His uncle who used to be a fisherman has moved away to another part of Canada because the fish catch is declining. There is no one else who could teach him. His father’s boat in the backyard is important to Pierce. It is the last remaining piece that connects him to his father and his way of life as a fisherman. He wants to repair it but he is aware that he must first get over his fear of the ocean.

This book has a lot to offer. I adored the childhood friendships and banter. A longer review will be available on my blog closer to publication date. There, I will share in details about these friendships, other characters like Pierce's mom, Solomon, Emily and Anna. Stay tuned for that!

Many thanks to the publisher for sharing an advanced review copy with me through NetGalley for an honest review.
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This book is a STUNNER! This was an easy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ book for me. The nostalgia I get from this book and the absolute craft @perrychafe of description of Newfoundland is astoundingly beautiful. I believe it was Nita Provonost (one of my publishing heroines) that said this book was a comp to Stand By Me which is no easy feat but Perry has done it. This book. Wow. You need it. Perry write another book please!
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I adored this endearing story about 12 year old Pierce and his friends as they search for a young girl who has gone missing over the summer in a small island community off the coast of Newfoundland, where his own father disappeared 3 years before. This story drew me in and I could imagine the scenes because of the author’s descriptions of the area. I would love to see the icebergs flip over and the humpback whales surfacing in this little coastal town.
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Loved Closer by Sea.  I can see this as a movie, already have a picture in mind of the characters and setting. Chafe did an exceptional job of hooking us from beginning to end.
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Thank you to NetGalley for the e-arc.

I got quite strong Stand By Me (the movie) vibes from this. It is a relatively short book. The main story takes place over the course of a summer on a small Newfoundland island as the cod fishery is failing. Told from the perspective of Pierce we see a slice of life from a 12-year old who is dealing witht he death of his father three years earlier through the lens of a missing local girl a bit older than he is. Pierce and his friends push limits with each other and their families.

This isn't a typical read for me. It is a lovely, lyrical read. Recommended.
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I have every confidence this book will win awards and be seen on TV! 

The story opens in 1988 with nine-year-old Pierce Jacobs grieving the loss of his father, Luke, a cod fisherman off the coast of Newfoundland. Readers see the profound effect this has on his young life. 

Author Perry Chafe then manages to not only describe the essence of the Maritimes perfectly but also captures what it means to be a young boy on the cusp of adulthood. This coming-of-age story highlights childhood friendships and the Canadian government’s 1992 decision to place a moratorium on the cod fishing industry. Chafe paints a picture for readers of the state of crisis that Newfoundland had been in for years due to overfishing and then enlarges the field of vision to allow us to see the devastating impact it has socially and environmentally as the processing plants close and boats are pulled from the water. 

In addition to grieving his dad, seeing the community change due to lack of income, and experiencing young love, Pierce deals with the ups and downs of friendships with other fishermen’s sons. When another of their community goes missing, Pierce’s grief resurfaces and the struggling community starts to point fingers. Chafe explores the conflicting emotions associated with the death/disappearance of a loved one, teenage angst, bullying, young love and the challenges that arise when grief driven, we view things through the wrong lens. Chafe highlights the traditions of passing knowledge down from one generation to the next as his story comes full circle. 

Now I know what cod tongues are! 

I was gifted this copy by Simon & Schuster Canada and NetGalley and was under no obligation to provide a review.
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