Diane Cardwell grew up in a household where achievement reigned supreme, nothing short of perfection acceptable. Ninety-seven on a math test was met with one question from her father--"Why isn't it a hundred?" Unsurprisingly, she pushed herself to extremes to excel, becoming a reporter at the New York Times, marrying an equally driven man and setting out to create the perfect life. That blew up when her father died and a mid-life divorce caught her by surprise, seemingly sidelining her chances of having a child.
In Rockaway, Cardwell shares how she was saved from her longings for perfection by unlearning her father's lesson and facing failure over and over again by contesting a "liquid bully," the ocean. Watching a group of surfers from a bar in Montauk, she was dumbstruck, feeling as though she'd "stumbled upon a secret tribe of magical creatures." As she began dipping into the sport, taking lessons and renting a beach cottage, Cardwell was perpetually faced with her all too familiar fears of being pushed out of her comfort zone and not belonging.
What she ultimately found was that mastering the sport was not only impossible, but the least important part of her journey. Instead, the further she pushed herself, the more she discovered a life of meaning she never knew she wanted yet desperately needed. Rockaway is a thoughtful memoir of loss, self-discovery and what can happen when you hang on, literally and figuratively, to a piece of wood adrift in the sea. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review