Don’t you wish you were here?

Excerpt from The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Photo by Sean Oulashin on Unsplash

This is an excerpt from the book The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune.

The train car emptied as it went into the country. People getting on and off stared with open curiosity at the somewhat schlumpy man sitting in seat 6A, a large plastic crate on the empty seat next to him. Inside, a large cat glared balefully out at anyone who bent over to coo at it. One child nearly lost a finger when he tried to stick it in between the slats of the crate.

The man, one Linus Baker of 86 Hermes Way, barely noticed.

He hadn’t slept well the night before, tossing and turning in his bed before finally giving up and deciding his time was better spent pacing back and forth in the sitting room. His luggage, an old, scuffed bag with a broken wheel, sat near the door, mocking him. He’d packed it before attempting to sleep, sure he wouldn’t have time in the morning.

As it turned out, he had all the time in the world, seeing as how sleep remained elusive.

By the time he boarded the train at half past six, he was in a daze, the bags under his eyes pronounced, his mouth curled down. He stared straight ahead, one hand resting atop the crate where Calliope fumed. She’d never done well with travel, but he didn’t have a choice in the matter. He’d considered asking Mrs. Klapper to take care of her in his absence, but the squirrel debacle had most likely soured any chance of Calliope making it through the month unharmed.

He hoped none of the children were allergic.

Rain sluiced down the windows as the train chugged along through empty fields and forests with great, old trees. He’d been on the train for almost eight hours when he realized it was quiet.

Too quiet.

He looked up from the RULES AND REGULATIONS he’d brought from home.

He was the only one left in the train car.

He hadn’t noticed when the last person had left.

“Huh,” he said to himself. “Wouldn’t that just beat all if I missed my stop? I wonder how far the train goes. Maybe it goes on and on, never reaching the end.”

Calliope had no opinion of it one way or another.

He was about to start worrying that he had in fact missed his stop (Linus was nothing if not a consummate worrier), when an attendant in a snappy uniform slid open a door at the end of the car. He was humming to himself quietly, but it was cut off when he noticed Linus. “Hello,” he said amiably. “I didn’t expect anyone else to be here! Must be going a long way on this fine Saturday.”

“I have my ticket,” Linus said. “If you need to see it.”

“If you please. Where are you headed?”

For a moment, Linus couldn’t think. He reached into his coat for his ticket, the large tome in his lap almost falling to the floor. The ticket was slightly crumpled, and he attempted to smooth it out before handing it over. The attendant smiled at him before looking down at the ticket. He whistled lowly. “Marsyas. End of the line.” He punched it with his clicker. “Well, good news, then. Two more stops and you’re there. In fact, if you—Ah, yes, look.” He gestured toward the window.

Linus turned his head, and his breath caught in his throat.

It was as if the rain clouds had reached as far as they could. The gray darkness gave way to a bright and wonderful blue like Linus had never seen before. The rain stopped as they passed out of the storm and into the sun. He closed his eyes briefly, feeling the warmth through the glass against his face. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt sunlight. He opened his eyes again, and that’s when he saw it, in the distance.

There was green. Bright and beautiful greens of waving grass, and what appeared to be flowers in pinks and purples and golds. They disappeared into white sand. And beyond the white was cerulean.

He barely noticed when the RULES AND REGULATIONS fell to the floor of the train with a loud thump.

Don’t you wish you were here?

“Is that the ocean?” Linus whispered.

“It is,” the attendant said. “Quite the sight, isn’t it? Though you act like you’ve never—Say, have you never seen the ocean before?”

Linus shook his head minutely. “Only in pictures. It’s so much bigger than I thought it’d be.”

The attendant laughed. “And that’s only a small portion of it. I reckon you’ll see a bit more when you depart the train. There’s an island near the village. Takes a ferry to get to it, if you’re so inclined. Most aren’t.”

“I am,” Linus said, still staring at the glimpses of the sea.

“And who do we have here?” the attendant asked, bending over Linus toward the crate.

Calliope hissed.

The attendant stood quickly. “I think I’ll leave her be.”

“Probably for the best.”

“Two more stops, sir,” the attendant said, heading for the door at the opposite end of the train car. “Enjoy your visit!”

Linus barely heard him leave.

“It’s really there,” he said quietly. “It’s really, really there. I never thought—” He sighed. “Maybe this won’t be so bad after all.”

Have you read this book? I’d love to hear your thoughts in a comment below!

The House in the Cerulean Sea – Summary

Here is the book summary from Goodreads:

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Copyright © 2020 by TJ Klune

You can find more details here on Goodreads and on StoryGraph.