At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

at-the-waters-edge“In her stunning new novel, Gruen returns to the kind of storytelling she excelled at in Water for Elephants: a historical timeframe in an unusual setting with a moving love story. Think Scottish Downton Abbey.

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.” – Goodreads

As a fan of Sara Gruen (before Water for Elephants, thank you very much), of course I was first in line when I learned of her newest novel, At the Water’s Edge (March, 2015). Praying that I would not be disappointed, I greedily began devouring her words – and things came to a grinding halt. It. Was. So. Sloooow. My heart broke. I gnashed my teeth. I very nearly wept, y’all. No way could I not like this book – it was Sara Gruen! How could she disappoint me?! Well, thankfully, she didn’t. Once I calmed down and continued reading further, things changed. More than changed – they bloomed. Bloomed into a gorgeous novel full of life, love, loss and the courage to grow.

When Maddie Hyde and her husband, Ellis, embarrass his socialite parents at the New Year’s Eve party of 1942, they are kicked out of their home and cut off financially. Ellis and his best friend, Hank, who are both unable to serve in the War due to medical reasons, decide to make their way across the U-Boat-filled Atlantic to Scotland to hunt the one and only Loch Ness monster – dragging behind them a protesting Maggie. Arriving to a cold welcome (Ellis’s father had preceded him in his own search years before and had not left a good impression on the locals), Ellis and Hank continue to alienate the inn staff and other locals with their drinking, carousing, and Ellis’s mistreatment of Maggie.

During her time at the inn while Ellis and Hank are off hunting Nellie, Maggie is busy going through a transformation: from meek, spineless and whiny, dependent on Ellis and Hank as her only friends,  to independent-thinking and strong-willed, growing close to staff at the inn as well as other locals. When a quiet yet desperate love begins to bloom between Maddie and the innkeeper, things get even more complicated as Ellis threatens to have her lobotomized for her noticeably defiant behavior of late (no joke, y’all!).

Did At the Water’s Edge live up to the fabulousness that is Ape House or Water for Elephants? No, not really. But it is itself an enchanting and romantic read with a guaranteed happy ending that will leave readers with a smile on their faces. Go and get you some, y’all.

At The Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen: On sale now!

4 stars

Source: Random House/Spiegel & Grau {via NetGalley}

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