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Salt Water by Charles Simmons
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Salt Water

by Charles Simmons

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In a seaside house, fifteen-year-old Michael lives with his parents who seem to be struggling in their marriage. Life doesn’t get easier, at least for Michael’s mother, when two beautiful women, a mom and her photographer daughter move nearby into the family’s rental cottage. Michael, of course, imagines himself falling in love with the beautiful daughter who is five years his senior. His goal during the summer is to ignore Melissa, the girl his mom always seems to be pushing at him and make Zina, the photographer, his girlfriend.

What captured me from the beginning was the novel’s seaside setting. Myself spending a week at the ocean yearly, I was pulled in quickly by the description of waves, a sailboat boat, and, yes, even a stingray. What annoyed me a bit was that the setting was purely fictional. I wanted to map it somewhere specific so I could feel it even more.

Another thing that bothered me was that my copy of the book had a picture of a blonde woman on its cover. When I started reading the novel, which was written in first person, I thought the narrator was the blonde woman. I came to find out that neither was the narrator the woman but also the photographer was a brunette. So what did the cover art have to do with the story?

Nevertheless, the prose was pleasing, and I found that it did captivate me enough to pull me along to its conclusion rather quickly. That speaks well for the story. I was not familiar with this author prior to reading this book, but I can see picking up another of his novels in the future. This is a good read for anyone interested in seeing how a teenage boy views himself in relation to his family, his best friend, and to the young women in his life. ( )
1 vote SqueakyChu | Dec 29, 2010 |
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Epigraph
"Well, that's agreed then", he said,
settling himself into an armchair and
lighting a cigar. "Each of us is to tell the story of his first love. It's your turn first, Sergey Nikolaich."
Ivan Turgenev, "First Love", 1860
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To Peggy and Pauline,
my twins
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In the summer of 1963 I fell in love and my father drowned.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0671035673, Paperback)

Charles Simmons seeds his narrative with clues from the very beginning. First, there is the epigraph from Ivan Turgenev's classic First Love, a tale of obsession, betrayal, and death, followed by the sobering first sentence, "In the summer of 1963 I fell in love and my father drowned." By the time Zina, the 20-year-old object of the young narrator's affection, appears, all the foreshadowing is tidily in place--Michael and his father have already had one brush with mortality in the water as they swim out to a sandbar and are nearly carried away by the tide. When Zina and Michael's father first meet, another warning bell goes off. "I could see right away he liked her. When he didn't like someone he smiled and said nothing. It was clear that she liked him too. Father was very handsome." Readers familiar with Turgenev's story will know what happens next; those who aren't will have to wait awhile to have their suspicions confirmed. In the meantime, Simmons paints a subtle, heartbreaking portrait of one last summer of innocence and of a paradise about to be lost.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:27:22 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

On a family holiday by the sea, a 16-year-old boy falls in love with a 20-year-old woman next door. The father, a womanizer, is also attracted to her, jealousy is born and one of them will drown. By the author of The Belles Lettres Papers.

» see all 2 descriptions

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