To Be Sung Underwater: A Novel by Tom McNeal
- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (June 2, 2011)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0316127396
- ISBN-13: 978-0316127394
My Rating: 5.0 of 5.0
Product DescriptionReview: This is a unique and remarkable read!
Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio." Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford. When Judith left home, she didn't look back.
Twenty years later, Judith's marriage is hazy with secrets. In her hand is what may be the phone number for the man who believed she meant it when she said she loved him. If she called, what would he say?
TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER is the epic love story of a woman trying to remember, and the man who could not even begin to forget.
Judith Whitman at age 44 is dissatisfied with her stressful job as a film editor, her rather staid (and maybe unfaithful) husband, Malcolm, and her distant teenage daughter, Milla (short for Camille). Milla and Malcolm have agreed to replace Milla’s bedroom furniture which is an old maple set that Judith inherited from her father. That discarded bed-set leads the story back to Judith as a teenager.
Judith is 15 when she travels from Vermont to visit with her estranged father in a small town in northwest Nebraska. Judith is ensconced in a room with her grandmother’s special maple bed-set. Judith briefly meets the rough young man, Willy, who quickly declares her as “dangerous.”
Judith returns to live with her father when she is 17 and spends the summer falling in love with Willy Blunt. Willy is a simple man: a carpenter who was raised by a farmer but refused to accept that occupation. Country-bred Willy, at age 24, has a simple life philosophy of “living and enjoying” life and he has a remarkable vocabulary for an unsophisticated man.
The summer of first love for Judy is fresh and exciting, thanks to Willy’s simple charms. There are moments of surprising danger but for the most part it is sweet and intense, as one might expect a teenage summer romance. At the last bit of summer Judy suddenly receives acceptance to Stanford University and she heads off to college and a new life path. Although she loves Willy and says they will stay in touch and will return to him, not so surprisingly, she grows beyond his simple ways and never really looks back ...until now.
Part One rocks back and forth from the present unsettled Judith to her unsettled teenage angst leading up to her bright summer of first love. Part Two evokes the tenderness and joy of first love as the author tells the summer romance. Part Three then brings us to the present as Judith in her “termite-eaten life” contacts Willy and goes to Nebraska for a poignant visit with him.
This story pulled me into emotions from the prologue and first page. There was a small portion in the middle that was slower reading but for much of the story I found myself sailing right through the chapter breaks not even recognizing I had reached one. There were also parts where I realized I was holding my breath against the pain that I knew one or the other characters was experiencing. Have you ever wondered what might have been with your first love? This is a story that takes a brief looks at "what ifs" for Judith.
This is not my normal book read but I am so glad I selected it. It may not be a HEA ending but the writing is beautiful and if you like evocative, rich literature, DO NOT MISS this story!
Three word description: lush, unexpected, breathtaking!
There are many quotes I would love to share yet do not want to give a few which might be close to spoilers.
Here are just a couple quick ones:
- 17 year old Judith says upon seeing an impoverished mother and teenage sons: "What if, in the end, we are all just flightless birds?" P 119.
- Judith’s father while telling her how he was raised without a father: "...a man wasn’t much of a father if all he was willing to give to the enterprise was a small donation of personal lust." P135.
Thank you to Anna at Little, Brown and Company, division of Hachette, for this book to read and review and for providing TWO copies for giveaway.
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