Tuesday, January 4, 2022

The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels {Book Review}

 **I received a complimentary copy for consideration. All thoughts are my own. 

The best fiction simply tells the truth.

But the truth is never simple.

When novelist Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather's old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend's brother--and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book. If she can prove that she told the truth about what happened during those long-ago summers, perhaps she can put the letter's claims to rest and meet the swiftly approaching deadline for her next book.

But what she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. While facing Tyler isn't easy, facing the consequences of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

Plumb the depths of the human heart with this emotional exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgivable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.

Erin Bartels is the award-winning author of All That We Carried, 2020 Christy finalist The Words between Us, and We Hope for Better Things, a 2020 Michigan Notable Book, 2020 WFWA Star Award-winner, and 2019 Christy finalist. A publishing professional for nearly twenty years, she lives in Lansing, Michigan, with her husband, Zachary, and their son. Find her online at www.erinbartels.com.

To be honest, I'm not entirely certain what I expected from The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water... but I am certain that I got much more than I anticipated without a doubt. 

From the start, I was a bit thrown off by the narration of the story. It was written in first person, but as if talking to Kendra's best friend Cami. It was certainly a unique way to tell the story. I must admit that I do not typically prefer stories told in first person, and it did take me a little bit to wrap my head around to how this story was being told, but once I got used to it, I found that it really did add a really unique and personal element to this already very personal story. 

When Kendra returns to her grandfather's cabin to deal with a letter from a 'disappointed reader' and confront issues of her past, she finds herself questioning her memories of a summer and a friendship that changed her life. Again, given the description I wasn't quite sure what to expect with this story and was a bit surprised to see it take on rather serious topics of sexual abuse and trafficking, and our responses to trauma. I definitely think this could be potentially triggering for some readers as while not overtly graphic in any way, it is rather open and honest. The story was beautifully written and complicated and oh so messy--- just as life so often is. Being from a Christian publisher, I definitely feel like the content was a bit more than I have come to expect from books from this publisher. There was no language or anything of that sort, but again the topic of the sexual abuse was spoken about in a very open and honest way that certainly won't appeal to all audiences. 

I cannot say that this was an enjoyable read, just based upon the topics it takes on... but it was a very personal and very beautifully written story. Reading the author's note at the end made me appreciate it all that much more. While it is not a story that everyone will be able to handle, those who are able are sure to be moved by this beautifully told story. 


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