Multi-layered, deep, thought-provoking,
The House of Deep Water is so good that it leaves you with a bookish hangover. Jeni McFarland's writing is heart-breakingly beautiful. It is full of rich memorable imagery and human emotion that makes you relate and care about these deeply flawed characters.
At the beginning I took notes to help me make sense of the family trees and interconnections. Each character grows and develops, but as I kept reading I realised all of them are important. is essential. It is a bit like going to a family reunion or a wedding at the beginning of your relationship. So many people want to talk to you, you struggle to read social clues, desperately trying to remember what you heard about them. With time it becomes easier and you long for that blissful ignorance that allowed you make your opinion without the burden of other people's set ideas. Every character in this book grows and develops and is essential.
Two families, Williamses and DeWitts, and three women who left their hometown of River's Bend, Michigan, and came back because they need a closure and a new start in life -that's all. Newly divorced Linda Williams, who wants to be loved and taken care of, but doesn't really have clear ideas how, her estranged, foul-mouthed, strong-willed mother Paula Williams, who needs a divorce from Linda's stepfather, and Beth (Eliza) DeWitt who is trying to provide a stable life for her kids after she lost her job. Linda gets pregnant and moves in with the father of her future baby, sixty-year-old Ernest DeWitt, Beth's father. Beth is struggling with depression and has unresolved issues with her father, so understandably she isn't happy about the situation. Throughout the book we read extracts from her 'diary' or rather 'memory flashbacks of Eliza DeWitt' starting from the age of 4. The more you read, the better you understand the significance of these two names for the character's identity. Everything in this book is important, there is no superfluous detail, be it Beth's engagement ring or Paula's truck that allows her escape when life closes on her and becomes unbearably real.
Family ties and the way they break and make us, what it means to fit in and belong somewhere, fear of life and love, motherhood, racism, overcoming childhood trauma are just a few themes that this brilliant book explores. One of the best books I have read this year, The House of Deep Water is incredibly well-written and although there is a lot of sadness in this book, there is also hope. Hope that we can turn our lives round, we can draw ourselves into history, we can be better parents to protect and give our children confidence to make their own free choices in life.
Thank you to Edelweiss and G.P.Putnam's Sons for the ARC provided in exchange for an honest opinion.