The Memory of Water by Karen White
Published by Penguin
Publication Date: March 4th 2008
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On the night their mother drowns, sisters Marnie and Diana Maitland discover there is more than one kind of death. There is the death of innocence, of love, and of hope. Each sister harbors a secret about that night-secrets that will erode their lives as they grow into adulthood.
After ten years of silence between the sisters, Marnie is called back to the South Carolina Lowcountry by Diana's ex-husband, Quinn. His young son has returned from a sailing trip with his emotionally unstable mother, and he is refusing to speak. In order to help the traumatized boy, Marnie must reopen old wounds and bring the darkest memories of their past to the surface. And she must confront Diana, before they all go under.
Sometimes I’m in the mood for something darker and emotionally engaging. The Memory of Water was exactly that. In it, White explores the bond between sisters, the various shades of mental illness and how secrets from the past come back to haunt you, no matter how far buried they seem to be.
The bond between sister’s was broken on a stormy night at sea 16-years-ago, and both feel the loss keenly. Diana resents Marnie for coming home as the prodigal daughter and gaining favor with both her ex-husband and her traumatized son. Marnie still struggles with feelings of inadequacy in the face of her perfect sister, and the feelings she still evokes, even after 16 years of separation. Quinn, Diane’s ex, wants to believe Diane is getting better after a manic episode caused her to take their son out sailing during a terrible storm. Gil, her son, has stopped speaking, knowing it’s a sin to lie, but unable to speak the truth of what happened that night on the water.
These four wounded souls come together in a powerful tale about love, loss and the power of secrets and lies to hold us forever in the past.
I truly enjoyed this story, though the unconventional telling of it sometimes caused some confusion. It’s written in the first person, but from four different POV’s. Unfortunately, Gil’s “voice” was the only distinct one, so while I was reading from Diane, Marnie or Quinn’s POV’s, I was often confused about who was doing and thinking what.
Each character was flawed and compelling in his/her own way and the story was thought provoking and engaging. The pacing lagged somewhat in the beginning, but it wasn’t long before I was emotionally invested in each of these characters. It didn’t take me long to figure out what their deep, dark secrets were, but it’s rare that I don’t figure it out and the mystery itself was less important than the personal struggles each character faced.
Overall an engaging novel with emotional depth, flawed, compelling characters and a wonderful setting among the Lowcountry of South Carolina and the dark, turbulent sea. I highly recommend it.
4.5 out of 5