“The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water” by Erin Bartels 4 stars
About the Book:
When 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 that’s keeping her from writing her next novel as long as its claims go unanswered. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend’s brother–and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book–in order to prove to herself that she told the truth as all good novelists should.
What she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. Facing Tyler isn’t easy, but facing the truth of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.
Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels searches the heart with this lyrical exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgiveable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.
This book was such a poetic expression. The writing style was truly beautiful, and captivated me from the get-go. It flowed flawlessly, and some parts were down right lyrical. I soaked that in like a sponge – I love when the very style is beautiful by its own right.
If you’ve read other reviews for this book, you’ll already be aware that there are some content warnings needed that were not supplied or implied by the synopsis. The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water deals very heavily with sexual molestation and assult, and the facing and recovering of that trauma. I don’t feel that the telling of it was R-rated graphic, but it was not shied away from, and so for those sensitive to such content (and understandably so, everyone has a right to decide what they can and can’t read), I would definitely advise caution in picking this novel up. There were parts that were difficult to read, and an overall saddening vibe to the story. While written from a Christian worldview, I wouldn’t classify this novel as Christian Fiction, in my own opinion. There was perhaps one mention of God, and faith did not play any particular role in the characters’ lives. And this is a small sideline thought, but I was personally a bit saddened by the heavy use of alcohol spread throughout this novel so frequently and so casually. I’m not saying drinking is inherently a sin, I’ve just noticed how across the years of Christian Fiction, the inclusion of casually drinking (or even not so casually drinking) has been included more and more lately.
I think had I picked this up, knowing it was general market instead of CF, my expectations on that front would have been a little different.
However, that being said, I did still enjoy this novel and found it hard to put down. As I said, it was beautifully written, and the main character was so life like. The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water is beautifully raw. And I very much appreciated reading the authors note at the end.
I find it difficult writing reviews sometimes, because on one hand, I want to give an accurate review for other readers. But on the other hand, I know how therapeutic writing is, and so no matter how hard the content might be, I want to applaud the author for writing it too. There were two quotes that I saved because they resonated with me so much, and also help in why I want to applaud every author for writing what they feel led to write:
“But you know what it’s like when someone attacks your writing. Criticize me about anything else – what I look like, what I drive, what my ancestors did to your ancestors- who cares? But my writing, your writing…that’s the real you, isn’t it? That’s what is inside of you. To have it thrown back in your face is just the worst feeling in the world.”
“All fiction is based in reality. That’s why we read it. That’s why we write it. To process reality. To deal with all the crap that happens to us.”
So, yes, I think I shall end my review with those quotes, as beautiful and true as they are.
*I received a copy of this review from the publishers. All thoughts expressed in my review are my own.