THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig
Nix lives aboard the Temptation, a pirate ship that can sail to any place–real or fictional– as long as they have a map. It’s a good life– except her father’s achieving his dearly held dream may erase her from existence.
Nix’s desire at first is simple: self-preservation. If Captain Slate, her father, is able to get the map that will take their ship back to 1868 Hawaii then he’ll be able save her mother from dying in childbirth. He can live with his wife and young daughter, and the Nix who exists with him on his ship will…vanish. The novel has twinkling details of faraway places, an illuminated peek into the traditions of monarchy-ruled Hawaii, and supporting characters that make the ship feel like home. The trouble starts with Slate. As a parent, Slate ranges from chummy to downright reprehensible: he refuses to teach Nix the art of Navigation, but at the same time corrals her into securing vast amounts of gold or money for him to purchase the latest map of 1868 Hawaii on the auction block. As much as she is the titular girl who can go anywhere, Nix is trapped, both on the ship and in a relationship that is stifling and occasionally abusive. She loves Slate and he loves her, but she hates how he dictates every aspect of her life, forgets her birthday, and says he’ll never hurt her even though they both know he’ll always choose her mother first. Granted, Slate’s opium addiction may color his relationship with his daughter, but their scenes were unsettling enough as the central relationship in the book that it was difficult not to skip them. The stakes are also somewhat low: we know Slate won’t erase Nix after about a third in but Nix continues to fixate.
The crew and Kashmir are well worth all the scenes in between their antics, and the settings and details so well done that you know Heilig has done good research. I’d very heartily recommend this if the parent-child relationship did not put me so ill at ease.