Monday, August 5, 2013

Book Review: Left Drowning by Jessica Park

What does it take to rise from life’s depths, swim against the current, and breathe?

Weighted down by the loss of her parents, Blythe McGuire struggles to keep her head above water as she trudges through her last year at Matthews College. Then a chance meeting sends Blythe crashing into something she doesn’t expect—an undeniable attraction to a dark-haired senior named Chris Shepherd, whose past may be even more complicated than her own. As their relationship deepens, Chris pulls Blythe out of the stupor she’s been in since the night a fire took half her family. She begins to heal, and even, haltingly, to love this guy who helps her find new paths to pleasure and self-discovery. But as Blythe moves into calmer waters, she realizes Chris is the one still strangled by his family’s traumatic history. As dark currents threaten to pull him under, Blythe may be the only person who can keep him from drowning.

This book is intended for mature audiences due to strong language and sexual content.


I have wanted to read Left Drowning since enjoying Jessica Park’s Flat-Out Love (highly recommend) and then learning she was working on a more edgy, mature work that involved religious irreverence along with sex and a broken, depressed college girl. I know that sounds weird, but I have my reasons. She’s a writer after my own heart.

Left Drowning is a well-crafted tale about two damaged souls. Chris Shepherd and Blythe McGuire meet during college in Wisconsin, yet neither of them grew up there. Blythe is barely existing when she sees Chris skipping stones at the lake and they come to form a friendship, Chis helping her out of her stupor by being the steady (sometimes), compassionate rock that she needs.

Chris has three siblings also at the college. They are a tight-knit family, almost too close, and it’s not long into the story before the reader gets a sense of why this might be, but the details don’t come out until close to the end, which is well worth the wait and build-up. That’s where I actually had to dry my eyes. Chris, his brothers, and sister form bonds with Blythe, enduring typical college angst as well as fun times. I particularly enjoyed Blythe’s blunt and honest inner self-talk, things many of us think, but rarely articulate. Jessica Park was a master at nailing these things. At one point, Blythe reprimands herself:
“Toughen up. There are people who have it much worse than you do. Stop being so selfish and...and...narcissistic. Fuck, the world doesn’t revolve around you and your grandiose sense of pain.”
Blythe also has an estranged brother, at the first, the estrangement caused by circumstances involving the loss of their parents. As Blythe is on her own healing path, she’s there for him as he deals with his pain, stuffing her own to be outwardly strong. She thinks:
“...I could really use a little fucking comforting myself. Life is not fair, but it is what we have to deal with.”
If you’ve read any of the buzz about this book, people are having a freak-out over the 69%-70% mark, so when I got there, I was really expecting the worst. Actually, I thought that Blythe and Chris’s brother, Sabin, might hook up, but that didn’t happen. What did happen was not nearly as jarring to me as some bits at around 71% and 72% where Chris’s sister, Estelle, gives Blythe a graduation gift and then Chris seeks Blythe’s comfort after hearing some news of his father.

There has also been chatter about a slow build-up and unrealistic situations. Here’s what I have to say about that. The beginning did have some slower moments to savor, but they all fed into the culmination of the book and were worth reading. I, also, found a few situations in the book crossing the reality line, but it is a work of fiction, where anything can happen, and I rolled with those few things, enjoying the story and I’m glad I did. Fate also had a role to play, and while some may dismiss the notion, I’m a firm believer: Fate happens. I’ve had Fate intervene in significant ways in my own life, way more often than normal. It can be real.

There’s a lot of sex and masturbation in this book. There’s religious irreverence, drunkenness, poor coping skills, a gay couple, and abuse in this book. There’s also a lot of friendship, love, healing, and a great story about good coming from bad (one of my favorite themes to read and write about).

I highly recommend this book. Five stars.



Well, ya know, I don't know if it's okay to go copying and pasting author bios and such since, well, we aren't officially pals, yet. And I'm kind of new at this. So here's a few links to find out more about Jessica Park and her other novels.

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