Shining Sea by Anne Korkeakivi in paperback

Shining Sea

A crowd of sparrows flies up, peppering the California sky overhead. His heart constricts, and Michael Gannon thinks: Today is the day I am going to die.

Opening in 1962 with the fatal heart attack of forty-three-year-old Michael Gannon, a WWII veteran and former POW in the Pacific, SHINING SEA plunges into the turbulent lives of his widow and kids over subsequent decades, crisscrossing from the beaches of southern California to the Woodstock rock festival in its heyday, London’s gritty nightlife in the eighties to Scotland’s remote Inner Hebrides islands, the dry heat of Arizona desert to the fertile farmland of Massachusetts.

Beautifully rendered and profoundly moving, SHINING SEA by Anne Korkeakivi is at heart a family story, about the ripple effects of war, the passing down of memory, the making of myth, and the power of the ideal of heroism to lead us astray but also to keep us afloat.


Early Praise

“SHINING SEA is a novel of clap-demanding authorial grace. Its drama is eloquent, its message resonant. The truly remarkable Anne Korkeakivi has written a laudable and relentless novel.” —Chigozie Obioma, Booker Prize-nominated author of The Fishermen

“An absolutely transcendent novel about great love and great loss, with a majestic sweep from WWII to Woodstock to modern times. So alive, the novel virtually breathes.” –Caroline Leavitt, bestselling author of Pictures of You and Cruel Beautiful World

“I could tell you how in SHINING SEA Anne Korkeakivi masterfully explores the impact grief, and war, have on a family. But I will just say this: I loved this book.” —Ann Hood, bestselling author of Comfort: A Journey Through Grief and The Book That Matters Most

“When I finished reading Anne Korkeakivi’s stirring second novel, SHINING SEA, I had to double-check the page count–how could such a huge, multi-generational saga be told so skillfully in less than 300 pages? The canvas is large, but so are the characters and, most importantly, Anne Korkeakivi’s talent. I really, really loved it. —David Abrams, US Army veteran and critically acclaimed author of Fobbit

“I tore through it. SHINING SEA is a beautifully drawn testament to everyday heroism and the power of the family to persevere in the face of tragedy and turbulent world events.” –Charlotte Rogan, bestselling author of The Lifeboat

“This elegantly crafted, brilliantly structured novel speaks volumes about the complexities of shared history. Possessing immense intelligence, SHINING SEA is a quiet, resonant wonder”. —Douglas Kennedy, bestselling author of The Pursuit of Happiness and The Blue Hour

“This absorbing generational story, which follows the Gannon family from WWII to the present, explores complex dynamics and captures the mood of different decades in America. Korkeakivi’s cogent insight into family relationships and the impact of personal loss, as well as how the times we live in effect who we are, shines through. —starred review, Publishers Weekly


Good Friday – April 20, 1962


A crowd of sparrows flies up, peppering the California sky overhead. His heart constricts, and Michael Gannon thinks: Today is the day I am going to die.

“Look at that cloud,” Luke says, lowering his paintbrush. “It’s going to rain.”

“It’s not going to rain,” he tells his middle son, struggling to catch his breath. “Don’t give up in the home stretch, Luke. Another hour, and the house will be done.”

His heart squeezes; his fingers and jaw stiffen. You’ll be all right, corpsman, the doctor at Letterman told him, signing his release sixteen years ago. There were more than seventy thousand of them moving through Letterman Army Hospital in Frisco that year. If you could make it through the Bataan march and three years in the hands of the Japs, you can make it now. You’ll be all right.

But heart failure can be a sneaky enemy, quietly waiting to strike the fatal blow. He had plenty of opportunities to see its tricks, barely out of medical school, trying to keep his fellow prisoners alive in the Pacific. People say it’s the brain that keeps you alive— Give up, and you are done for —but who is to say that the will doesn’t have its home in the heart? And if that heart just won’t function?

He climbs carefully down the ladder and leans his back against a panel that has dried. All he and the boys have left is a bit of trim around four windows and under an eave, and the paint should be good for another ten years. Last December, he finished paying off the mortgage.

At least, this.

But no. Death no longer flits overhead, waiting to brush his neck with its frigid fingers, to breathe its mortal fog into his mouth. He left death behind on an island in the Pacific and then on a cot in Letterman hospital. He is strong now. Tomorrow, with the painting done, the kids will dye the eggs for Easter. He’ll put the crib back up for the new baby. Barbara will bake a coconut cake to have ready for Easter dinner. Life will continue, as it should do.

The pain is becoming heavier, pressing down against his throat and clavicle. If this is the real thing, the sooner he can get help the better his chances.

Give in, though, and it’s as good as giving up.

“Dad,” Mike Jr. says, peering sideways at him from atop the stepladder, paintbrush poised in midair. “Are you okay? You look a little funny.”

He slides down against the side of the building into a crouch. No. He has lived through so much. Nothing can beat him. He won’t let it. He—