Before I even start this review, I have three rules for anyone who’s going to read At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen:
Rule 1: When reading, don’t compare it to Water for Elephants (even though you will want to so badly… and I did in this post, whoops). Sarah Gruen is an amazing writer and Water for Elephants was a masterpiece, but it’s a completely unrelated book with a different setting, time period, and characters. Don’t let it sway your opinion of this book.
Rule 2: Initially you’re going to hate all of the characters, but give it time. Maddie will grow on you and you may even feel the slightest bit of sympathy for Hank.
Rule 3: Believe in the supernatural. Believe in signs, spirits, and the Loch Ness Monster.
Those are the rules! Now let’s get to the review.
Here’s a short and sweet summary:
During WWII, Maddie (wife/ narrator), Ellis (husband), and Hank (best friend to Ellis) embarrass themselves after a bit too much fun at a NYE party. Ellis’ parents retaliate by cutting them off financially (ouch). Ellis feels the only way to get back in their good graces (and checkbook) is to restore his father’s name after his failed attempt at finding the Loch Ness monster decades before.
The three take a journey across the ocean to Scotland, what began as a fun adventure quickly turned into much more than they bargained for. On top of dealing with seasickness, air raids and no maid service, Maddie faces a rude awakening when it comes to her husband, her friendships, and her past.
I love a book with a strong female lead, and that sadly wasn’t Maddie initially. I didn’t lose faith though (it takes a lot for me to ever give up on a book) and as her life began to fall apart at the seams, the true Maddie began to surface as she faces the demons of her past…. and the ones standing right in front of her. That’s when you saw her strength and personality shine through.
The dreary Scotland setting, WWII references, local characters (I really do mean characters… I loved Meg and Anna with all their quirkiness), and folklore brought this book to life!
But with every book there are always things that you just can’t get onboard with. There were two big things that bothered me (warning, both are spoilers!):
1. SPOILER: All of a sudden Angus an Maddie were madly in love with each other after one embrace. A short embrace started it all… seems pretty unrealistic to me IMHO.
2. SPOILER: So, I’m pretty sure Ellis was gay. All signs pointed to the fact that he secretly loved Hank. He had a picture of him in his bedroom drawer, he never seemed to enjoy being romantic with Maddie (many unsatisfied references made my her haha), and he only married her because he won a coin toss (On a side note though, Hank did sound like quite the charmer though).
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars! This is a perfect holiday read!
Have you read At the Water’s Edge? What’s on your reading list for the holidays?
I’m packing my bags to leave for Christmas in 2 days and have 4 books safely tucked away :) Clearly I have reading on my Christmas vacation agenda!