Friday, May 2, 2014


TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER is exactly the kind of book I absolutely relish: heavy on character development, rich with beautiful writing, a narrative voice brimming with observations (mostly, in this book, about relationships) that are so incredibly true to life.

Cover by Lindsey Andrews, who also designed the cover for The Junction of Sunshine and Lucky

I adored the story of the summer that Judith and Willy share.  And I was on edge, anxious to find out what would happen when a now-married Judith reaches out to Willy, twenty-seven years after their romance—so much so, I was back to my girlhood habit of reading under the covers with a flashlight.  But I’ll admit, the ending wasn’t at all what I’d anticipated.  In fact, if I were writing the ending myself, I would have plotted something far different.  

What I mean: The book opens as an unidentified character looks through a scope at a woman, and as it progresses, repeatedly depicts episodes with Willy and guns: target practice, a violent episode when Willy and Judith are shot at and Willy viciously protects Judith.  In all honesty, I thought the text was telling me to anticipate Willy shooting Judith at the end, after becoming enraged at her for popping up out of nowhere, stirring up old feelings when she should have left well enough alone.  (McNeal assigns heavy weight to objects throughout—including a bedroom set.  If something as innocuous as a bedroom set can hold such significant meaning, I felt the presence of guns, which are already off-putting objects, should hold weight, too…far greater weight than mere furniture.)

I was so sure that the ending I imagined would come to be, I actually felt a bit cheated when it didn’t…Until I flipped back through the story, and realized that there were plenty of cues leading up to the ending the author chose.  In the end, I accepted the ending—the book sits on my shelf of favorites, among other titles I love dearly.

Tom McNeal is such a good author.  I mean it: Tom McNeal is a good author.  So good that I wind up, as a reader, respecting the choices he makes—even if I would have made different choices as the author.

How about you: Do you ever find yourself disagreeing with the turn a book takes, but loving it just the same?

(*Time's running out: Don't forget to enter my giveaway for a signed ARC of FERAL.)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...