EXCERPT: ‘Willy,’ she had said, nudging her shoulder into his where they sat on the stoop together, her voice small and papery, like it might blow away. ‘I don’t think my momma likes it here no more.’
‘Now, girl,’ he said, patting her knee, ‘what makes you say such things?’ But his heart had already tightened in his chest because he’d been thinking the same thing, the very same thing. May wasn’t happy, and it didn’t seem right since he had thought for sure she would be. He had been so proud to bring her home on their wedding day, and after that first night with her, feeling so good, he couldn’t imagine she would feel any different from him.
That was just the thing that confounded him – that he could feel one way and she could feel another. Of late, when he touched her, she just lay still, not saying ‘no’ to him, but like she’d taken out her heart and set it aside. And just last night, when he’d lifted his head from the sweet-salty crook of her neck, she lay wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling, and he couldn’t go on.
It was a terrible thing, to feel connected to a woman and then find out you weren’t really touching her at all. Something like that made a man start asking questions that he didn’t want to know the answers to.
But even then, at that moment, with Lacey tucked against his shoulder and his hand patting her knee, he couldn’t possibly have imagined that May would disappear the way she did, that she could just quit the life they had like it meant nothing, leaving him and little Lacey without even so much as a ‘so long and see ya later’. Gone. Like a breath that has been inhaled and exhaled and done with.
ABOUT ‘A HAND TO HOLD IN DEEP WATER’: Willy Cherrymill and his stepdaughter Lacey are deeply bruised by a past brimming with unanswered questions. It’s been thirty years since May DuBerry, Willy’s young wife and Lacey’s mother, abandoned them both leaving Willy to raise Lacey alone.
Lacey Cherrymill is smart, stubborn and focused. She’s also a single mother to a young daughter recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. The last thing she needs to think about right now is the betrayal that rocked her childhood. Reluctantly, she has returned to her rural beginnings, a former dairy farm in the Maryland countryside, and to Willy, a man steeped in his own disappointments and all the guilt that goes with them.
Together they will pool their wobbly emotional resources to take care of Tasha, all the while trying to skirt the issue of May’s mysterious disappearance. But try as she might, Lacey can’t leave it alone. Just where is May DuBerry Cherrymill and why did she leave them, and how is it that they have never talked about the wreckage she left behind?
MY THOUGHTS: The writing in A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is beautiful, lyrical. It flows like molasses from a spoon. It is a novel that drew me in so that I was breathing the same air that the characters breathed, experiencing their triumphs, their pain, feeling their emotions, living their lives
along with them.
A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is an exploration of love – the love of a mother for her daughter, her need to protect her daughter at any cost, even that of her own happiness.
At first I thought this story belonged to Lacey and her daughter Tasha, as Tasha is diagnosed with cancer and their battle with this demon is the predominating thread, with the mystery of May surfacing only occasionally. But gradually the tables turn as Lacey faces up to her need to know just what happened to her mother, her need to know her mother and where she came from. And so she packs up Lacey and Willy and Carlotta, and they embark on a mission to find out just who May duBarry was.
The story is split between the ‘present’, being the mid-2000s, and the ‘past’ of the early 1970s. The story is interspersed with May’s diary entries. I found the telling of Tasha’s battle with cancer difficult to read. It is a brutally honest, no holds barred account. But it was worth getting through, because it is May’s story that is the crux of the book.
This is very much a character driven novel. If you are looking for action and excitement, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a beautiful, tender and heart-piercing story of family, love, sacrifice, secrets and shame, then you couldn’t do better than pick up A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher.
I both read and listened to A Hand to Hold in Deep Water. Elizabeth Evans is a wonderful narrator, and enriched my experience with this book.
I: @shawnnocher @ blackstonepublishing
T: @shawn_nocher @BlackstonePub1
#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #love #mystery #sliceoflife #audiobook
THE AUTHOR: Shawn Nochers compelling short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Eunoia Review, and MoonPark Review, and she has been longlisted or won honorable mentions from both SmokeLong Quarterly and Glimmer Train.
She earned her master of arts in writing at Johns Hopkins University, has given wings to two children, and lives with her husband and an assortment of sassy rescue animals in Baltimore, Maryland, where she writes in a room of her own. This is her first novel. (Amazon)
DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and Blackstone Audio via Netgalley for providing both a digital and an audio ARC of A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.
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