I hardly know what to say about this lovely, slim book. Except this: although it's short (209 pages), it's not a quick read. Don't look at it as something to toss off over the weekend. I read it on deadline for book club and wish I'd had more time to slow down and savor it.
James More, a descendant of Thomas More, is an intelligence officer posing as a water expert in Africa in order to gain access to al-Qaeda. He's been taken hostage and treated brutally.
At the same time, Danielle (Danny) Flinders, a biomathematician whose special interest is the life that develops and survives in the deepest depths of the ocean, is preparing to dive in a submersible to the ocean floor.
What do they have in common? An affair they had together in a small, lovely French hotel in a remote location. It's blossomed into something more than a one-night stand, and as each of them, thousands of miles apart, contemplate their current status, they also reflect on each other and the moments they shared.
I'm making this sound hopelessly romantic and gooey, and it's anything but. This is a book that explores its title as a theme in many ways: romantic, human condition, religion and fanaticism. Their careers are not romanticized, as any of the torture scenes with James makes clear, or this passage about Danny's fascination with deep ocean life:
"An aquanaut is someone who explores the ocean in the same way an astronaut explores space...Because in many ways the ocean is more hostile than space. Space flight is a journey outward. You can see where you are going, which is why the crews in spaceships generally sit in swivel chairs facing a giant window or screen. Space is about weightlessness and speeds never before achieved by machines and that can scarcely be felt...Ocean flight is, by contrast, a journey inward. toward blindness...There will never be a Neil Armstrong moment in the ocean. There is nothing to light the way, no prospect, no horizon; even encased in a metal suit the human body is too liquescent to contemplate stepping out onto the deep sea floor."
A lovely book, meant to be lingered over.