Sarah Sasson

Affirm Press
30 January 2024


Sarah Sasson

It's Sydney in the early 2000s, and Grub is spending the summer with her universally adored older brother, Elijah, and his magnetic but troubled best friend, Zed. Their days are filled with surfing, swimming and hanging out; life couldn't be better.

But years later, Elijah disappears and Grub's family unravels. At first, Grub blames Zed: he was the one who derailed Elijah from a bright future in the arts. But as Grub looks back at those dreamy summer days, the sanctuary of her certainty crumbles. Was Zed really responsible for her brother's disappearance? Was anyone?

Tidelines is a tender coming-of-age novel about growing up in the face of unimaginable loss. It examines the stories we subconsciously write for ourselves, and what remains later, when we have the courage to tear them apart.


Sarah Sasson’s debut novel, Tidelines, explores the relationship between a brother and sister. Elijah nicknames his sister after she is born premature and pale; he points to her and says ‘Grub’. Grub is in thrall to her brother, and aware that no one would pick them as siblings. Elijah has the tanned complexion of their mother’s European family, and a talent for the cello; Grub, in turn, has her father’s pale Irish complexion, is small and late to puberty, and shows no musical talent.

Their childhood, seemingly idyllic, is at first told in collections of memories and events, and is spent exploring the natural world. Sasson writes rich descriptions of the Australian bush, sea, native animals, and sea creatures. The reader knows from the outset that Elijah disappears, and the mystery of his disappearance sustains the tension of the novel.

Elijah and Grub meet Zed, while surfing, and their sibling bond changes. Zed demands more of Elijah’s time; they surf and hang out in Elijah’s room. Zed’s life is complex, and he is a risk taker. Grub sees Elijah being changed by Zed, yet she has a growing attraction to him.

While Elijah’s life is in a downward spiral, Grub finds a job she loves in medical research. She feels confident in the lab with her colleagues, and excited by the work. She is increasingly worried about Elijah though – he did not go to university despite his talents and is attempting to survive as a visual artist. When he disappears, the competent part of Grub flounders and she leaves the lab in pursuit of her brother.

Sasson has created complex and empathetic characters. Family expectations, intergenerational trauma, and marital difficulties are tied into the narrative cleverly. The novel can be sentimental, however, this plays into Grub’s adoration for her brother and distress as his life implodes.

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