I wanted to love At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen, simply based on book Water for Elephants which I very much enjoyed. Unfortunately, this book was what I would describe as a “hot mess”. Keep reading but be warned – I’m going to post some fairly detailed spoilers.
The book opens promisingly enough: 1940 something, a woman suffers the loss of her newborn child, while also receiving news that her husband has been killed in action. Naturally she is heartbroken and wanders into a loch intentionally.
Flash-forward a year or two, it’s 1945, the war is almost over. We meet Maddie our protagonist, married to a wealthy socialite (not personally wealthy, his money comes from his parents) who is carsick while speeding through the hills on Scotland. ‘How did I end up here?’ Flashback! She’s celebrating New Years Eve with said husband and husband’s best friend. They decide to chase the myth of the Loch monster and definitively prove that it’s real.
Thing just get pointlessly complex. They cross the ocean despite it being full of German u-boats. Make it there without being killed. End up at an old inn and realize that they must endure “hardships” as Scotland, such as food rationing, black outs, hiding in bomb shelters, etc. Basically not nearly as bad as anything the rest of Europe has endured, but they are shocked by all of this due to America having been so removed from the war.
The inn owner/bartender is this salty man. Not much description is given of him. He wears an old sweater. Maddie’s husband starts to disintegrate as their attempts to film the monster prove more and more futile. His father had claimed to have found the monster, but his alleged photographic evidence was proven to be fake – so this is his son’s attempt to clear his name while making a name for himself.
Husband and friend start drinking more and more. Maddie’s eyes are opening to her husband’s misbehaviour. Suddenly she begins to experience feeling for the previously vague presence of the inn keeper. Could it be? Is he the missing soldier whose wife killed herself at the beginning of the story? (Homer Simpson’s voice: d’oh!)
Basically everything is this book is hella predictable and flat. The one attempt at a sex scene is tepid at best. The pacing is off – suddenly Maddie is deeply in love with the inn keeper and she breathes this to him two days after they decide they like each other.
As far as general plot ideas go, this novel really isn’t the worst, which is why I give it 2/5 stars. However, execution is lacking severely. Why the novel had to linger so much on secondary characters while barely winking at major love relationship is beyond me. Just pass it by.