At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen

Title: At The Water’s Edge
Author: Sara Gruen
Genre: Historical Fiction
Rating: ★★★★★

Synopsis: Madeline Hyde, a young socialite from Philadelphia, reluctantly follows her husband and their best friend to the tiny village of Drumnadrochit in search of a mythical monster—at the same time that a very real monster, Hitler, wages war against the Allied Forces. What Maddie discovers—about the larger world and about herself—through the unlikely friendships she develops with the villagers, opens her eyes not only to the dark forces that exist around her but to the beauty and surprising possibilities.

I received this as an ARC from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

When I requested to read this book, I thought it was going to be the story of a young married couple foraging their way through marriage while also chasing a mythical monster. I was very wrong.

This is where I’ll warn you that this review is slightly spoilery. Read with caution.

While At The Water’s Edge does follow a married couple (and their best friend) as they search for the Lock Ness Monster, they aren’t the cute, struggling kind that I imagined. I immediately had a problem with Ellis, chalking it up to the times (WWII era) and the fact that we had made much headway in feminism yet. What never occurred to me was that I was supposed to be uncomfortable with him. I woke up to it as Maddie herself did.

The Loch Ness Monster plays a supporting role at best, as any mythical creature of the deep should, and is time and time again outshone by Maddie’s new friends: Angus, Meg, and Anna. Unwaveringly Scottish and proud, they allowed Maddie to grow on them inch by inch. And when she reached the inner circle, God help whoever stood in their way.

Ellis and Hank are irritatingly well written. They’re the ones you love to hate, but also the ones you hope will be redeemable. And I found myself wondering if I’d have given Maddie the same benefit of the doubt had it been reversed. The book took on a new meaning.

In many ways this book is Maddie’s coming of age story. She’s most likely in her twenties, newly married, and utterly naive at the start of the novel. After a major mishap at a New Years Eve party the three friends Ellis, Hank and Maddie devise a plan to find the loch ness monster. In doing so they would become heroes, and also clear Ellis’s father’s name of his scandal of faking his pictures of the beast.

They travel from America to Scotland and find that the luxuries they had back home don’t apply. Maddie makes do, the boys do not. And as the story continues a division begins to appear. Suddenly there’s only one protagonist, not three. The hero of the story is a heroine, and she does not share her spotlight.

I said it on Twitter but I’ll say it again on here. Thank you, Sara Gruen, for this wonderful ARC. The approximate release date of this book is March 31, 2015.

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