Title: This Is the Water
Author: Yannick Murphy
Source: from publisher for TLC book tour
Review Summary: Although I found the second person narration a bit distancing, I thought the author used this perspective very creatively for a writing style that was both beautiful and unlike anything else I’ve ever read.
Swim team mom Annie worries about her marriage and enjoys that one of the fathers on the team flirts with her, even though she feels old and even though he’s married to her friend. She worries about her brother’s suicide and whether or not such things run in her family. She worries that her girls aren’t confident enough and whether or not she’s done enough for them. But when one of the girls on the swim team is murdered and Annie discovers a secret which could help catch the man who did it, all her other worries seem trivial by comparison.
I’ve never read a book written in the second person before. In fact, I had to consult Google to make sure I was right about what I was experiencing! For those of you who don’t know, second person is like third person except the protagonist is referred to as “you” (or another second person pronoun, but in this book, it was “you”). I was amazed at how the author referring to one character as “you” made me empathize with them more. I still felt a disconnect I associate with third person narratives, but to a lesser degree. I loved what the author did with the second person perspective. It allowed her to give us a more complete picture of the story, occasionally zooming out from the main character to share other characters’ perspectives or far away events. She sometimes moved to unrelated events, animals in the main character’s yard for instance, in a way that made the story more poignant. Don’t ask me why! That’s one of those tricks that only the best authors know and if I knew, I’d be writing a book right now instead of writing a review.
One trick the author used which I do recognize is to choose metaphors and similes which are completely new but which resonated with me perfectly. I also enjoyed her use of repetition, with a repeated “This is…” sentence structure used throughout the book. Despite the second person perspective, parts of the book seemed very stream-of-consciousness. This isn’t a device which always works for me, but in this case, I felt the author shared the right mix of important and mundane details to express who each character was. The plot felt a bit contrived, relying on too many coincidences and tying up a little too neatly. It also raised some interesting ethical questions though and that, plus the beauty of the author’s writing, will keep me thinking about this delightful, unique story for days to come.
For some other perspectives, check out the other stops on the tour, Amazon, or Goodreads.
Andi @ Estella's Revenge
Second person narratives can be tricky. Simon Van Booy has a novel that uses this device, and while it unseated me at first, ultimately I really liked it! Great review of this one, Katie!
I’ll ended up really liking it here too! Although it did take some getting used to because it’s an unusual narrative style, I think a big part of why I liked it was because it was so unique.
Christine @Buckling Bookshelves
As a former swimmer, I’m very intrigued by this one — I have zero experience with a second person narrative, but I’d be curious to see what it is like.
I was on swim team in middle school and my sister continued through high school, but I still wasn’t familiar with the level of competitiveness some of the parents and swimmers in the book seemed to feel. I did recognize the description of the atmosphere at a meet though and I thought the author did a good job describing it. I’m not honestly sure if my experience swimming made a difference to how much I liked this or not, but I’d definitely recommend it 🙂
I would read this just to check out how this author used the second person narration. I read The Weird Sisters, which has a similar narration, and hated it. It was a first person narration, but by all of the sisters at the same time, except the one they are talking about at that moment, of course. So weird. I wondered if it was he style of narration or just that author’s use of it.
Oh, that sounds very strange! I can see how that would be a lot like a second person narrative. Even though you didn’t like that, I’d be curious to try it and see if it worked for me 🙂
Monika @ Lovely Bookshelf
I think the use of second person is so daring! It has to be done just right, you know? So glad this worked. 🙂
I’m sure that’s true! In this case, it felt unique and really worked for me, but I could see it going badly wrong pretty easily.
That is interesting! I’m not sure if I’ve ever read a book from second person perspective…
This was my first experience with it, but I ended up really liking it. It was a fun change of pace 🙂
Shannon @ River City Reading
I’m totally interested in the second person perspective and the story itself. Glad to see this one worked out for you!
It was a very interesting experience! I thought it was done well and I also liked that it was something different from any other books I’ve read.
Great review of this book! This one’s going on my list. I want to experience the writing style, as well as sympathize with a mother of girls who worries about whether or not she’s done enough for them. Nice cover, too!
I also thought the cover was really beautiful! As someone who doesn’t have children, I’m not sure how well she captures the experience of being a mother, but you can certainly see how most of the main character’s actions are driven by her love of her daughters.
Second person narration is always a toughie! This sounds intriguing — I love the water and the calm that swimming brings ..
I think you’d probably relate to the main character then. She has some tough situations to deal with and she swims to relax. It seems like a lot of her decisions are made while swimming too.
Heather J @ TLC Book Tours
I have only read one book that used second person narration. It is certainly an interesting way to write AND to read!
Thanks for being a part of the tour.
It seems like it could be a very hard way to write! In a first person story, you could imagine you were the character. In a third person story, you can be the narrator. But in a second person story, I feel like the author is something in between.