Breathing Water

T. Greenwood, Author, Greenwood, Author, Tammy Greenwood, Author St. Martin's Press $23.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-312-20283-5
The specter of domestic violence haunts this poignant debut, as Effie Greer, a young woman in her 20s, struggles through an agonizing love relationship and its devastating aftermath. After learning of her abusive ex-boyfriend's death from a heroin overdose, waifish Effie returns from three ""fugitive"" years in Seattle to her grandmother's Vermont cabin on rural Lake Gormlaith. She had fled the idyllic lakeside to get away from Max, a violent alcoholic, after he accidentally caused the death of an 11-year-old black girl spending the summer with a lake family. Chapters alternate between Effie's return in 1994 and her years (1987-1991) with Max, providing contrast between the tenacious survivor Effie becomes and the self-destructive victim she was. She had not only failed to ""help erase the scars"" of Max's horrific childhood, but had become the object of his hatred, subsequently turning his malice onto herself in the form of anorexia. And she feels that her decision to leave Max may have contributed to the little girl's tragic drowning. But Effie is thrown some lifelines, reconnecting with a former schoolmate who herself had an abusive relationship. She discovers that the source of small, precious gifts left on her doorstep (a perfect robin's nest, tadpoles, a jar of fireflies) is Devin Jackson, a young black artist and carpenter. By the time Effie realizes Devin's relationship to the drowned girl, she is ready to lay ghosts to rest. The vulnerable and childlike Effie vacillates between extremes of despair and faith, the uplifting ending waxes maudlin in places and Effie's triumph can seem platitudinous. Despite her occasional overreliance on these extremes, Greenwood sensitively and painstakingly unravels her protagonist's self-loathing and replaces it with a graceful dignity. (May)
Reviewed on: 03/01/1999
Release date: 03/01/1999
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 276 pages - 978-0-312-26289-1
Paperback - 291 pages - 978-0-7582-3875-7
Open Ebook - 304 pages - 978-0-7582-7991-0
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