Rockaway Beach, 2001. Sarah, a painter from southern California, retreats to this eccentric, eclectic beach town in the far reaches of Queens with the hopes of rediscovering her passion for painting. Sarah has the opportunity for a real gallery showing if only she can create some new and interesting work. There, near the beach, she hopes to escape a life caught in the stasis of caregiving for her elderly parents and working at an art supply store to unleash the artist within. One summer, a room filled with empty canvasses, nothing but possibility.
There she meets Marty, an older musician from a once-popular band whose harmonies still infuse the summertime music festivals. His strict adherence to his music and to his Jewish faith will provoke unexpected feelings in Sarah and influence both her time there and her painting.
Rockaway is a time capsule love letter to a quirky, singular town, in a time before an entire community was brought to its knees in the events about to occur in September 2001, and to an entire town that faced tragedy again when it was summarily devastated eleven years later by Hurricane Sandy. It is the startling new fiction by a writer praised by Carolyn See as “an important new voice in fiction.”
Rockaway is an illuminating inquiry into the nature of love, the meaning of art, the power of faith and family, and how grace is discovered in the most unexpected places — a stunning, modern echo of Virginia Woolf’s To The Lighthouse with a uniquely brilliant voice.
Rockaway is a novel that embraces everything: love, art, friendship, faith, and the mystery of why we create the lives we do, with prose that is breathtaking, clear, and elegant. Sarah and Marty and Emily are depicted with honesty that is utterly riveting. This is a beautiful gem of a book.
Written in language that is utterly liquid, Rockaway inhabits the poetry of a woman fiercely searching for identity. Here, we find an illuminating meditation on the art of being, with the true revelation suggesting that perhaps we were never lost at all. A triumphant reclamation of the soul.
Here is a young woman at the end of her leash, the end of her youth, the edge of her art, not doing a melancholy artist-on-the-beach thing, but confronting the many true colors of her life in this beautiful and dangerous season. Tara Ison’s Rockaway is a stirring, fresh look at a tough passage.
Tara Ison is one of the premiere stylists of her generation, and on every page of Rockaway she writes sentences that are elegant and rich. Casually sensual in ways that will curl your toes, Ison refuses to look away from the ramifications of that same dark eroticism unleashed. It’s no exaggeration to say Rockaway is pretty much perfect — a meditation on art, aloneness, ambition, love, religion, and the unknowable and unquenchable thirst that is human desire. Just start reading. You won’t stop.
In Rockaway’s narrative passages Ms. Ison’s prose style is lovely and in places lyrical . . . [Sarah] is an engagingly complex character readers will hope to see more of...
How tragic that this book — set in a Queens, New York, beach town that in real life was devastated by Sandy — has a new relevance. Sarah is a California painter who’s come east for a retreat she hopes will revive her artistic passion. It’s a sheer joy to stay in the company of Ison’s voice. There’s an unlikely relationship at the center, the kind of encounter that could happen only in the summertime suspension of ‘ordinary’ life.
In Ison’s poetic depiction, Rockaway is equal parts tourist trap and salt-sprayed idyll, where beachgoers frolic in the shadow of some potent dramatic irony: the reader’s awareness of the devastation soon to arrive across the river makes for an unsettling countdown . . . Ison possesses a surfeit of wit and an especial knack for upending love story conventions . . .as the narrative swirls to a stylish and startling end.