Monday, August 13, 2018

Review: Let Me Be Like Water by S.K. Perry

I am most myself near the water. It makes me feel whole. So I am not surprised by Holly, the main character in S. K. Perry's lovely novel Let Me Be Like Water, moving to Brighton by the sea after a terrible and unexpected loss. Water is soothing, comforting. It holds you without pressure. It lets you slip beneath it for quiet solitude but it also buoys you up when you need it.

Holly's boyfriend of 5 years has died and she misses him desperately. She moves to Brighton to escape the memories she holds of him and the two of them together in London, thinking that she doesn't need or want to be around people. One day while she is sitting on a bench at the seaside, Frank, a retired magician in his seventies, tells her that she's dropped her keys. Frank is a gentle and encouraging man who has his own past loss, that of his long time partner, Ian. As Holly and Frank become friends, he introduces her to his book club and his other friends, all of whom have their own pain and who have also benefited from Frank's generous magic. Holly opens up to these new people in her life by the smallest degrees, saddened that they will never know the wonderful soul who was Sam. She alternately craves company and then retreats alone into the gaping hole she carries in her heart.  And these supportive and empathetic people allow her to grieve with the space she needs but still being there when she needs them.

The novel is told in short chapters, some telling of Holly's hollowed out grief and deep sadness, sharing pieces of her relationship with Sam, the wonderful bits as well as the small annoyances that make up a real and honest relationship, and some telling of her attempts to build a life without a vital piece of her heart. Holly's grief is absolutely palpable. She is broken but trying to hold onto hope. She is confused by the times she feels happiness even though she wants to stop being so flattened by loss. She craves connection even though she wants to curl up alone. She will always love Sam but she must keep living. Perry has done a masterful job capturing the capricious unpredictability of grief. Readers will feel great sympathy for Holly, crying with her, understanding, like her, that her bright, forever love ended prematurely. And everyone will want a Frank in their lives, with his gentle understanding, his quiet magic tricks, and his embracing personality. The dreamy first person narration lets the reader know when Holly is completely underwater and when she is keeping her head above the waves. This book is heartbreaking and haunting, a staggeringly beautiful look at loss and grief and moving forward that first year, no matter how slowly that is or how many missteps there might be along the way.

For more information about S.K. Perry and the book, check out her webpage and follow her on Twitter. Check out the book's Goodreads page, follow the rest of the blog tour, or look at the reviews for others' thoughts and opinions on the book.
Thanks to Lisa from TLC Book Tours and Melville House for sending me a copy of the book for review.

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