Three years ago, Jack Daley took his autistic sister and fled their home in Georgia. One of their father’s political cronies tried to assault Margaret, and she lashed out. Daddy, who thinks she’s a danger, wants to lock her away and Jack isn’t exactly sure what happened to her attacker. They went on the lam that very night, settling in Bluewater Bay nearly two years later. Now, Jack runs Your Daley Bread, a convenience-type grocery, and he and Margaret share the upstairs apartment of the converted house. They keep assumed names so their father can’t track them down.
Mark Keao is a high-functioning autistic man whose fascination with detail is ideal for costume design, and his job as chief costumer on Wolf’s Landing. He keeps a regimented life of work, chorus, exercise, and not much more, because it’s hard for him to meet men willing to put up with his quirks. He’s attracted to Jack when he pops into his shop to request Jack hang a flyer for his impending choral show. And he is thrilled to meet both Jack and Margaret at the performance. While Jack and Mark figure out how to connect, even superficially, Margaret tries her hand at matchmaking, inviting Mark for dinner and sending him texts about their life, even sharing about Jack’s beloved saxophone, pawned in Boise when they needed money to live on.
Bluewater Blues is really a sweet story. Jack is a fierce protector to Margaret, and she’s just as fierce about him. She’s an integral piece here, because she’s unable to live alone, and still she doesn’t want Jack to sacrifice his life for hers. Jack’s astounded at how well Margaret accepts Mark, but that’s only one hurdle for them. Turns out Mark’s got a pretty serious aversion to people touching him, which naturally puts a damper on their intimacy. (Only temporarily, though! They get it on, but good!) Plus, Mark’s easily over-stimulated, and that shuts down his communication. Having dealt with Margaret’s needs his whole life, Jack’s well-suited to learning Mark’s cues, once Mark opens up.
Naturally, the past is never too far behind, and it causes Jack to keep Mark at a distance, even when he doesn’t want to. For a bit. Mark’s a sharp guy, and he soon figures out most of Jack’s secrets, even helping with Margaret’s care. I loved how she was a big part of their story, honestly, because she has a great personality. She’s devious, in the most loving way, pushing Jack toward happiness with all her might. Gah! He really has underestimated her, as Mark rightfully points out. Their relationship is well discussed, and well planned, as it needs to be. Mark can’t handle spontaneity, and Jack’s got Margaret to consider, so they make plans and then move forward at a tender pace. The end is really so sweet, with just the right amount of tension, regarding their newest plans to move in together. They honestly build themselves as a family, not a couple. And I adored that. It made me sure they would make it work in the long haul, regardless of the difficulties of managing life with autism. With regard to the autism, I felt it was handled respectfully and compassionately, with a focus on seeing the strengths of both Margaret and Mark, at all times. While they had tense moments, they also worked through those glitches using their well-honed coping skills. I never felt sorry for them, or felt they were characterized with anything besides respect.