Saphora Warren is a wife, mother and grandmother. She is an asset to her physician husband and has been a devoted wife for the years they’ve been married. But Saphora has had enough. At the end of a Southern Living lawn party (a party her husband wanted even though he didn’t show up for it), she is planning on leaving her beautiful house and philandering husband to regroup and decide what she wants from life. At least that was the plan until her husband arrives home before she can leave and announces he has cancer and is dying. Saphora must now decide whether she stays to help her husband or goes off on her on in The Pirate Queen by Patricia Hickman.
To say that Saphora is downtrodden is being kind. She seems to do whatever her husband Bender wants and puts up with years of neglect and verbal abuse in the form of snide and belittling remarks. The worst part is that her husband doesn’t even seem to know that he’s being neglectful or abusive. At least he didn’t until he received his death sentence.
Saphora is left to try and pick up the pieces of their life while dealing with a remorseful and introspective Bender. It’s rather strange that she could take the years of possible philandering but has problems dealing with her husband as he becomes aware of his faults. In addition to dealing with a husband dying of brain cancer, she must contend with her grandson for most of the summer. Her eldest son has to work, as does his ex-wife and the baby-sitter quit so Eddie goes to the beach house with his grandparents. While at the beach, Eddie, Saphora and Bender befriend a young boy with AIDS. Tobias was born with AIDS and adopted but is dearly loved by his adoptive mother. Regrettably, although this appears to be taking place in the present, there’s a lot of prejudice and misconception about AIDS and Tobias is persona non grata at most facilities and functions around town.
Saphora, her children and grandchildren, are all forced to watch Bender as he slowly fades away from their lives. Fortunately Saphora has become a woman with a backbone and isn’t willing to take crap from anyone any longer. There’s plenty of high drama and grief in The Pirate Queen. Most of the drama is centered on AIDS and the reaction Tobias receives from a variety of people, including Saphora’s son and daughter-in-law, as well as Bender’s penchant toward selfishness. One example of such selfishness is his desire to have their housekeeper drop everything and come to the beach even though her young son has the measles and obviously needs and wants his mother.
I wanted to like The Pirate Queen. Saphora ends up being a likeable and admirable character, but she starts off somewhat spacey and comes across as just flaky and a pushover. The friendship between Eddie and Tobias, as well as Tobias and Bender is heart-warming. Eddie accepts Tobias for what he is, another kid and a playmate. Bender and Tobias accept one another for what they are, two people battling potentially deadly illnesses. It was rather uplifting to see that Bender sought atonement for his actions and spiritual guidance toward the end of his life. I don’t know if that can make up for years of neglect, but Saphora seems willing to overlook it. In addition, Saphora’s children are all adults but come across as spoiled and selfish children at times.
There are redeeming qualities about this book, especially in Tobias’s story. Although this does have an uplifting ending, beware there are plenty of tear-jerker scenes toward the end. As I stated previously, I wanted to like The Pirate Queen but for me it was nothing more than an okay read, in part because of the spacey qualities of Saphora’s character for the first half of the book and also because the dialogue was a little hard to follow at times. The Pirate Queen isn’t a bad read, but it simply didn’t do it for me.
Disclaimer: I received this book free for review purposes from Waterbrook Multnomah/Blogging for Books. I was not paid, required or otherwise obligated to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”