Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Book Review: To Be Sung Underwater

After the let down from reading The Beginners, I was really, really, REALLY hoping To Be Sung Underwater would be okay.  I'm happy and relieved to report that it was thankfully readable and actually quite good.

I think everyone at some point wonders what happened to their first love.  Unfortunately, now that there's Facebook it's all too easy, but what if we didn't have that crutch?  In this book, Judith Toomey has a good life---an attractive husband, a nice house in Los Angeles, a teenage daughter, and a job she loves.  When her husband makes the seemingly innocuous move to replace the bedroom set that she used as a teenager in Nebraska, Judith makes a series of decisions that lead her to reminisce about what might have been had she stayed with her high school boyfriend Willy.

In the first half of the book, a chapter of Judith's present day life alternates with a chapter that flashbacks to her senior year of high school.  Eventually, it's all high school for a period of time.  I didn't like present day Judith very much.   She often comes off as selfish and unsympathetic.  On the other hand, reading about high school Judith was fun.  The interactions between she and her college professor father and hippie mother were entertaining.  Willy's character made me smile.  I was left with a warm feeling while reading about that period in her life.  It really made me wonder about the time in her life that doesn't get told in the book.  What happened to her between high school and present day that shaped who she became?  If she had stayed with Willy would she have continued to be happy or would she have started to feel trapped by him in their small Nebraska town?

Without revealing any spoilers, the end was a shocker.  A BIG shocker.  I'm still not sure how I feel about it or what the author was trying to accomplish by ending it that way.  Was it realistic?  Maybe.  You're left as a reader feeling uncertain about where the story is going next.  I suppose that's life though.  When your reach a crossroads, what are you going to do?  That's for each of us to decide on our own.  Although the conclusion in the end was unclear, To Be Sung Underwater left me feeling hopeful that love can live forever.

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