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The House of Deep Water, by Jeni McFarland

The House of Deep Water

The House of Deep Water is Jeni McFarland’s first novel but it doesn’t read that way. The writing is captivating from the first page of this story about River Bend, a small place in Michigan where the lives of the characters are so entwined, often reluctantly.

This novel is a study of the experience of returning home to a small town by three women who were desperate to leave. They have their different reasons for returning, but a similar trepidation about how to make it work, how to reconnect with the people they left behind.

I returned often to the page of family trees at the start of the book to make sense of who was who, and how they were inter-related. It’s a novel about the impacts of first loves and surprising late loves, of parental failures, and of the difficulties all of these hook ups and absences create for the three women returning to River Bend.

They aren’t particularly ‘nice’ women – they’re rude and troublesome to the people around them – but reading the chapters which are from their perspective helps to untangle those harsh words and make sense of the actions they take.

None of the women are particularly endearing, so that’s not what kept me reading. Instead, the beauty of the language drew me in and kept my attention, as well as the sense of place, and the tightly bound tensions between the three families.

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