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.
Tom McNeal was born in Santa Ana, California, where his father and grandfather raised oranges. He spent part of every summer at the Nebraska farm where his mother was born and raised, and after earning a BA in English at UC Berkeley and an MFA in Creative Writing at UC Irvine, he taught school in the town that was the inspiration for his first novel, Goodnight, Nebraska. Tom has been a Wallace Stegner Fellow and a Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, and his short stories have been widely anthologized.
Title: To Be Sung Underwater
Paperback: 436 pages
Publisher: Little, Brown, & Company, 2011
Purchase at IndieBound, Amazon, The Book Depository
Source: Hachette Book Group
Tom McNeal's To Be Sung Underwater isn't just a love story. It is a love story in the past, and a journey of angst and (re-?) discovery in the present. There's a lot of background here, and this is where I'll admit that I did not like Judith when I first meet her. In fact I definitely disliked her until we get past her first summer in Nebraska, visiting her father.
Then I felt a bit sorry for her. Her mother doesn't fit in. Her father's umpteen states away. She doesn't have friends. All this while a teenager, which is hard enough as it is. Even the present-day Judith is a bit of a wreck--her daughter's leaving her behind (as most teenagers do), her husband may be having an affair (or is it just in her head?), her assistant is showing her up... When did life get so off track?
There are no cut-and-dried answers for Judith here, just as there aren't in real life. When things get to be more than she can handle, Judith retreats. And creates a sanctuary of sorts, where she relives her first (and only?) love: Willy Blunt and that magical last summer in Nebraska. If she searches for him, will she like what she finds? Will he?
And when all is said and done, will Judith get her act together?
drey's rating: Excellent! This is definitely a book-club read I'd recommend (if I were in a book club!), for the discussion alone.
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Thanks to Hachette Book Group, I have two copies of To Be Sung Underwater for you, if you live in the US or Canada (no PO Boxes, please)! Only one winner per household, so if you win the same title somewhere else, you'll only get one copy. To enter, fill out this form before 6pm CST June 30th. Good luck!