- Virginia Johnson
In Jean-Claude Mourlevat’s The Pull of the Ocean, Yann Doutreleau, youngest of seven brothers and the only one not a twin, whispered to the rest that it was time to go. The wind and rain were beating down in the November night outside their farm house in French countryside, but it was still time to go. Their parents, he said, were going to harm them.
This came as no great surprise to the brothers. Mother and Father Doutreleau led an incredibly hard-scrabble life and were usually angry. There was never enough money for good clothing or enough food, but there was the back of hand for any backtalk. And there was another reason they immediately believed Yann: he was a genius. Ten years old and two and a half feet tall at most and mostly mute though he was, Yann was the cleverest person in his family—which made his father all the more angry at the lad when he could not understand him.
As they stole across the wet, cold fields, successfully flagging down a truck on a midnight run, their difficult journey was just beginning. In the 21st century, runaway children can expect all eyes to be upon them. They must find a way to stay out of sight and somehow find a passage to safety.
Told from many changing points of view—a concerned social worker begins the narrative—this quick read is a charming modern take on an old fairy tale that unfolds like true crime story.