Books are often described as “windows and mirrors”. The last book I read is a prime example of this metaphor. The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater by Erin Bartels is her newest release. The novel deals with sexual abuse. At one point when I realized where the narrative was headed, I was definitely uncomfortable reading the text. But I continued on, and the author handled a very difficult subject with care. This book is a window that builds empathy for victims of this type of abuse. I was supplied with a copy to review from Revell the publisher. I had read two previous books by Erin Bartels. I have always found her books to be well written. I love her vivid settings and cast of strong characters. This book is based primarily at a lake in Upper Michigan. The novel’s plot grows out of complications that develop when two of the protagonists were teenagers. Now as young adults, Kendra and Tyler find themselves back at the lake once again and face-to-face confrontations occur. The Rainer’s adopted Tyler, who joined their family at age 15. Tyler was four years older than Kendra. His early years were marked by emotional trauma and abuse. When Beth and Robert Rainer adopted Tyler, they already had their adopted daughter, Cami at their house. Cami and Tyler were not biological siblings. The backstory of each character is gradually revealed. This knowledge opens the reader’s eye to how and why the heart wrenching events transpired.
Another thread of this story examines how great friendships can fall apart, wither, and die from neglect. The main character Kendra experiences this as she thinks about Cami, her best friend from the lake. At the lake, Kendra and Cami spent long summer days having great fun swimming, boating to nearby islands, and dreaming about the future. Most readers can relate to losing friendships due to the fact that life happens and former best friends just grow apart. This is another dimension of the story that prompts readers to develop empathy.
The cast of characters in Kendra’s current life is a widely divergent group. Some are clearly encouragers and offer solid emotional support. Others add up to thorns in her side, frustrating her sense of peace and balance. In conclusion, I decided I was glad I read the book. I was impressed at the intricate network of relationships and how the author was able to let us see into the dynamics of each.
I’m going to share this book with a reading buddy. I think they will realize its value and sophistication. It’s a well crafted book.