At the Water’s Edge, Sara Gruen
Expected publication: March 31st 2015 by Spiegel & Grau
Hardcover, 368 pages
Source: e-ARC from Edelweiss
After embarrassing themselves at the social event of the year in high society Philadelphia on New Year’s Eve of 1942, Maddie and Ellis Hyde are cut off financially by Ellis’s father, a former army Colonel who is already embarrassed by his son’s inability to serve in WWII due to his being colorblind. To Maddie’s horror, Ellis decides that the only way to regain his father’s favor is to succeed in a venture his father attempted and very publicly failed at: he will hunt the famous Loch Ness monster and when he finds it he will restore his father’s name and return to his father’s good graces (and pocketbook). Joined by their friend Hank, a wealthy socialite, the three make their way to Scotland in the midst of war. Each day the two men go off to hunt the monster, while another monster, Hitler, is devastating Europe. And Maddie, now alone in a foreign country, must begin to figure out who she is and what she wants. The novel tells of Maddie’s social awakening: to the harsh realities of life, to the beauties of nature, to a connection with forces larger than herself, to female friendship, and finally, to love.
I admit to some trepidation to beginning At the Water’s Edge. I loved Water for Elephants (who didn’t?) but her sophomore effort was a book that I wish I hadn’t finished. That being said, when I saw this was a book involving the Loch Ness Monster I had to read it! I’m so glad I did because I really enjoyed At the Water’s Edge. Maddie and Ellis are not a likeable couple when we meet them. They’re spoiled rich kids living off Ellis’ father and waiting for Maddie’s father to die to “earn” their own fortune. They drink days and nights away and find all the trouble they can with Ellis’ best friend Hank- another rich ne’er do well.
Maddie has historically been up for any adventure Hank and Ellis suggest, so they assume she’ll also be willing to take an ocean voyage across the Atlantic in the midst of WWII to help them find the Loch Ness Monster. The trip across U-boat infested waters begins to bring a bit of awareness to Maddie about how lucky they really have been in life. They arrive in Scotland after a whirlwind beginning to the book and I had my first real look at what marriage is like between this couple. Ellis is an ass and I didn’t think much better of Maddie at first either. Ellis and Hank are both deferred from the Army for “medical reasons”. This causes them both great shame at home and is a major factor in starting their quest. Maddie finds the deferrals even more disturbing as they’ve actually moved to the UK; a land of rationing, black-out curtains and needing a gas mask with one at all times.
As days of attempting to get footage of Nessie swimming turn into drunken hours at the lakefront Maddie turns away from Ellis and Hank. She spends her time in the small inn that they’re staying at and even finds herself developing friendships with the hired help-something she’d have never done in Philadelphia. Maddie starts to question not only Ellis’ motivation in marriage but where she wants her life to go. As I said, this book does not begin with likeable characters-but I loved how Maddie changed herself once they arrived in Scotland. I was sure that I would still not like her in the end, but she really finds inner strength and proves herself. The romance was sweet and also not what I was expecting.
Let us not forget Nessie. There may or may not be a bad-ass appearance by the monster that steals the book.
Thank you Spiegel & Grau and Edelweiss for this advance copy in exchange for an honest opinion.