Erin Bartels’ “The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water” ~ a Revell Reads Review

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I was so thrilled to get to read Erin Bartels’ newest! Revell Reads kindly sent me a digital e-book version of The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. I admit, I was captivated by the cover before I even knew what it was about. As it turned out, the book was as gorgeous and as haunting as the cover is.

My impressions of The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water

I’ve heard it said that writers should never read reviews of their work. Something akin to that is the problem, the weight, that Kendra Brennan is carrying around: a letter from someone signed as, A Very Disappointed Reader. Now. That’s not disheartening, is it?

There’s also another weight. Kendra is the author of a best-selling book. Her first one, as a matter of fact, and such a success that her second book has already received an advance. The only problem? She hasn’t been able to get any words down on paper. And the time is ticking by…

For many years of her childhood life, Kendra spent her summers at her grandparents’ cottage on the remote Hidden Lake in Michigan. She met her best friend there, after Cami’s adoptive parents brought her home from China. Kendra’s and Cami’s summers were spent in utter happiness there together; in the water, on the sand, in the canoes, or on their special island. Robert and Beth, Cami’s parents, adopted Tyler, an older boy from China. And the once-besties-type of friendship between the two girls begins to erode. Eventually, Kendra stopped coming to the lake. And Cami and Kendra haven’t spoken, or seen each other, in years.

So, Kendra, who’s lost her grandmother and grandfather, is returning to the empty cottage in the hopes of jump-starting her writing. Of breaking the writer’s block that has stymied her efforts. Her first book, which was fiction, was viewed by many as autobiographical, with obvious villains and heroes. But after receiving the unhappy reader’s letter (which has never left Kendra’s possession) her well of words has dried up. Maybe her book was autobiographical. The letter’s words, “Your book…is the work of a selfish opportunist who was all too ready to monetize the suffering of others…” are branded on her mind, ever-present in her days and her nights, serving as a painful roadblock. Its intimate words make her believe that the author has to be someone from Hidden Lake. Someone who knows.

But then.

A German translator, Andreas, arrives at the lake, there to get her words just right in the translation of the bestseller. Robert and Beth are there. Tyler arrives. But Cami is still missing.

Sometimes the past really is shrouded in mystery. We see faintly the moments of our own histories, but we wrestle with their pain, especially if they are childhood pains. I found Kendra’s struggle, with so many missing pieces that she feels she desperately needs to know, to be a true and honest one. The reader hopes beyond hope that she will find peace, and restoration, even when Kendra’s path might take her places she really doesn’t want to go. Perhaps Kendra will find the Very Disappointed Reader. Or maybe not. In any case, don’t miss The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. You won’t be able to put it down. Erin Bartels excels at bringing the reader along in her protagonist’s journey. There is beauty and brokenness here; but there is also a truth that we all need to know.

This is a book worth reading. And when you do read it, don’t miss the author’s note at the end of the book.

–Wren

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from Revell Reads. All opinions are my own.

2 thoughts on “Erin Bartels’ “The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water” ~ a Revell Reads Review

    • I totally understand! The pain of those characters, and what they’d undergone…and what they *did*–so painful. I’m finding that subject matter more and more in fiction, Cindy. I really do wonder if that is something God is wanting to draw our attention to. But yes. A difficult but beautiful book.

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