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At the Water's Edge by Sara Gruen

At the Water's Edge

by Sara Gruen
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Format: Kindle/ ARC

Published: March 31st  2014 by Spiegel & Grau

Genre: Historical Fiction, Literary

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"At the Water's Edge is a gripping and poignant love story about a privileged young woman's personal awakening as she experiences the devastations of World War II in a Scottish Highlands village.

Madeline Hyde, a young socialite from Philadelphia, reluctantly follows her husband and their best friend to the tiny village of Drumnadrochit in search of a mythical monster—at the same time that a very real monster, Hitler, wages war against the Allied Forces. What Maddie discovers—about the larger world and about herself—through the unlikely friendships she develops with the villagers, opens her eyes not only to the dark forces that exist around her but to the beauty and surprising possibilities." -Netgalley


“…she remembered that the loch never gave up its dead, so she spread her arms wide and embraced it.” (loc. 170)

Within the throws of the second world war, Maddie Hyde is thrust upon an adventure of a lifetime, being dragged behind her husband Ellis, and his best friend Hank. Like a fish out of water, Maddie is pulled from the breezy high-life society set by her in-laws, when they throw her and her husband out. To gain their social standing back, Ellis believes they must rush to Scotland and prove evidence of the existence of the famed Loch Ness Monster.

“Finding the monster in Loch Ness was all he cared about. He remained as ignorant as ever about the monster facing the rest of the world.” (loc. 3030)

This story is set to the beat of WWII, with the war setting the tone and guiding the plot. While Maddie’s eyes are opened to the tragedies and horrors of the war, Ellis and Hank remain unsympathetic and caught up in their own thoughts of booze, adventure, and monster-hunting. With the way Ellis’ family treats him and Maddie, and how he couldn’t join the war because of his color-blindness, the reader is made to feel sorry for him in the beginning. We learn more about Maddie as we are guided not only through her disastrous family and past, but through her present distress and uncertain future, and cannot help but feel our original sympathy was misguided. Maddie’s character is changed as she sees the rising rage that develops into emotional and substance abuse of her husband.

“I stared at him for a long time. If he wanted to end his search for the beast, he need look no further than a mirror.” (loc. 2809)

With a style worthy of O. Henry, Ellis’ hunger for finding the monster consumes him and he, in essence, becomes the thing he’s looking for. I admire Maddie for her strength in not only dealing with this change, but in adjusting to her new Scottish surroundings, as she makes friends and is determined to be of help to them. I found the reoccurring foreboding symbols of crows, and the theme of Red intriguing in this tale. The color red is used to prove an important point within the plot, as well as red being associated with anger. It’s very eye-opening when Maddie says she “wanted to be gray,” because it means she didn’t want Ellis to see/notice her, she wanted to be clear of his anger.

“Red, red, everywhere. I wanted to be gray.” (loc. 2829)

I absolutely love the writing and how imagery is used to place the reader in the scene. I can easily see what Maddie, and feel what she is going through. The writing overall creates a great mental image of everything from the inn the crew stays at, to the war and it’s reverberant effects. The plot fills the reader with suspense in a way where they won’t want to put it down; they'll just have to know what happens next!

In essence, At the Water’s Edge is simply beautiful. From the whirlwind of adventure, to the despair of love, and the tragedy of war, this story is full of emotions. If you liked Water for Elephants, you’ll absolutely fall in love with At the Water’s Edge as I immediately wanted to read it again when I had finished. A wonderful historical fiction, a forlorn yet hopeful love story and a dash of Scottish myths makes At the Water’s Edge a sincere must-read.

“Life. There it was. In all it’s beautiful, tragic fragility, there was still life, and those of us who’d been lucky enough to survive opened our arms wide and embraced it.” (loc. 4953)


Galley provided by Netgalley via Spiegel & Grau of Random House

*Quotes are from uncorrected advanced galleys and may change before going to press. Please refer to the final printed book for official quotes.

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