At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen: Book Review

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Obtained: Penguin Random House, ARC
Pages: 348
Publish date: March 31, 2015
Rating: ★★★★★

I hadn’t read a Sara Gruen book since high school, but knowing how quickly I fell in love with Water for Elephants, I began At the Water’s Edge with full optimism. I’m going to be blatantly honest: both of these books have something in common, and that is the fact that when I read the summaries, I didn’t think I’d like them. Not my usual thing, I don’t like historical fiction. Well, Gruen has made me realize that I should never count anything out.

At the Water’s Edge is about a woman, Maddie, and her husband and his best friend traveling to Scotland during World War II to search for the Loch ness monster. Maddie’s husband, Ellis, experienced a lot of shame in his family when his father was accused of falsifying pictures of the monster, so he brings Maddie and Hank along on his mission to prove that his father was right.

But this isn’t Ellis’s story; it’s Maddie’s story. While Hank and Ellis are off searching for the monster, Maddie stays back at the inn with the folks that run the place, and she begins to learn through her own journey who she is, and what monsters lie beneath the surface in her own life.

The writing and description in this novel were pure magic. Every time I picked up the book, I felt like I was in Scotland, myself. And it kept me coming back for more; if ever I had a free minute away from work or school, I wanted to travel back to Scotland and hang out with Maddie. It’s rare that I find that kind of relationship with characters in a book. Gruen’s characterization and their dialogue were both very realistic, and interesting to read about. I was seriously rooting for Maddie the whole time I was reading, as though she was one of my friends.

Without hesitation, At the Water’s Edge earns 5 stars from me. I’m so glad I was so open-minded with a new genre, because this is probably one of my favourite books in the past year.

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4 Comments

  1. I’m glad you liked it so much. I felt pulled right into the story, the same as you, but when I tried writing about it I had a hard time describing the book. I came off as feeling hesitant about it, and I think it’s because of the romantic storyline in the book and the way the book ended. What did you think of the end? Did you find it predictable? Sappy? Just right? I felt like it was almost making fun of books with predictable romantic endings. I was okay with it, but I had a hard time figuring out if others readers would be. Is it just me?

    • I thought the romance was predictable, but at the same time, I think it was part of Maddie finding herself, so I wasn’t so annoyed by it. I felt like I was reading it as her friend saying “Oh my god, just do it – you need this!”

      I never really thought of it as making fun of predictable endings, but rather kind of showing readers the mess behind the predictable ending. Because although it was easy for us to see coming, it wasn’t for Maddie, which made her character really interesting to me. She is completely ignorant to the potential she carries as a person, and I wanted to just jump into the book and tell her she could be so much more, but she had to figure it out for herself 🙂

      • On the one hand I wasn’t annoyed by the romance, but on the other I wondered what it would have been like if Maddie had been able to find her potential without the involvement of a man. That’s not to say I didn’t like it, because I did (who wouldn’t have liked Angus?). But, it did cause me to feel undecided about how I felt about the ending. You’re right, though, that Maddie didn’t see it coming, even if we did.
        Not all of it was predictable, though. I loved the characters of Ellis and Hank (is it Hank?). I wasn’t always sure what would become of them. They were definitely fun to read about!

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