Thursday 27 July 2023

The Polite Act of Drowning by Charleen Hurtubise BLOG TOUR #ThePoliteActofDrowning @CharliSolo @eriu_books @bonnierbooks_uk #BookReview


Michigan, 1985. The drowning of a teenage girl causes ripples in the small town of Kettle Lake, though for most the waters settle quickly. For sixteen-year-old Joanne Kennedy, however, the tragedy dredges up untold secrets and causes her mother to drift farther from reality and her family.

When troubled newcomer Lucinda arrives in town, she offers Joanne a chance of real friendship, and together the teenagers push against the boundaries of family, self-image, and their sexuality during the tension of a long, stifling summer. But the undercurrents of past harms continuously threaten to drag Joanne and those around her under...

The Polite Act of Drowning by Charleen Hurtubise was published by Eriu Books / Bonnier on 6 April 2023. My thanks to the publisher who sent my copy for review as part of this Blog Tour. 

Kettle Lake is a small town in Michigan. It's 1985 and Joanne Kennedy is sixteen years of age. She lives with her fragile and unpredictable mother, her father who deals with life by ignoring a lot of it and drinking away the rest of it and her older sister who she has a love/hate relationship with. 

Kettle Lake is a town populated by families who've lived there for generations, but it is also shrouded in secrets. In the summer months, the town is thronged with outsiders who come to sit on the lake shore, and to swim in the waters. 

The lake is central to the story line, it is always there, the scene of many tragedies over the years and especially this year. Joanne watches a group of beautiful young girls swimming in the lake, she notices that the lifeguard is more interested in chatting to the girls than protecting them. 

When Joanne discovers, along with the rest of the town that one girl has drowned, she is filled with a complexity of emotion. She feels such guilt, wondering if she was the last person to see her alive, and if she could have done something to stop it happening. 

Lucinda is around the same age as Joanne, but couldn't be more different. When she arrives in town to live with a foster mother, she befriends Joanne and shows her a way of life that is totally alien to her. However, Joanne is a trusting soul and Lucinda can be unreliable and unpredictable and her 'friendship' is questionable. Joanne also has to deal with her mother's sudden decline, and how that affects the rest of the family, and indeed, other people in the town.

This is a beautifully written, evocative, coming of age story. The author has created a sense of place that thrusts the reader right into the heart of the town of Kettle Lake. You can almost become one of the community, getting to know the residents, exploring the forests and the lake and uncovering the long hidden secrets that have created so many of the characters.

This author doesn't shy away from some very dark and often emotional issues, but deals with them with empathy and compassion. The characters bare their souls and the reader is right there with them, every step of the way. 

This is an assured novel that covers a wealth of emotions, from grief to hope and all in between. I look forward to reading more from this author. 

Charleen Hurtubise has lived in Dublin, Ireland for over 25 years, having moved from Michigan, USA. 

She is a teacher and artist as well as a writer, and her short fiction, essays and poetry have appeared in various publications. 

She holds an MFA Creative Writing from University College Dublin (UCD) where she has also facilitated creative writing modules.

Twitter @CharliSolo

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