Book Reviews

Book Review: The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water by Erin Bartels

When Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather’s old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader that’s keeping her from writing her next novel as long as its claims go unanswered. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend’s brother–and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book–in order to prove to herself that she told the truth as all good novelists should.

What she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. Facing Tyler isn’t easy, but facing the truth of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she’s ever had to do.

Award-winning novelist Erin Bartels searches the heart with this lyrical exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgiveable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.

My Thoughts:

There are SO many things to say about this gripping novel.

First of all, Bartels is a remarkable storyteller. If you haven’t given one of her novels a try, you really don’t know what you’re missing. I love the rich setting and complex characters. There’s a hint of Jaime Jo Wright’s Gothic style, and yet it’s a vastly different genre. More women’s fiction than suspense. But there are similarities between the two authors, and I do adore both.

This particular story touches on some rather tough subjects. I think she does an excellent job staying tasteful and giving you just enough to understand without going into too much detail. That being said, those who are triggered by any form of sexual abuse should be warned. Again, I want to stress that I found it tasteful and I can see where some victims will find healing or courage through this story. But others may want to pass.

While I absolutely loved the story, I have to do my audience justice and point out a couple areas that didn’t sit quite right with me. As a dry Baptist, I always find it off-putting when characters drink alcohol in a Christian novel. While these characters were never seen drunk, they did drink some form of alcohol as we Southerners drink our sweet tea: casually and all day long.
And sadly, as a Christian novel, I expected a stronger Christian witness throughout the story, but there really isn’t one at all. It was basically a clean novel but not a Christian novel. The author openly pointed to Christ in her letter to the readers at the end, but I couldn’t figure out why those same sentiments weren’t woven into the fabric of the story itself.

At the end of the day, this story is memorable and flat-out stunning. I applaud Bartels’s honest, openness in writing about a difficult subject and giving a voice and dose of courage to others still looking for their chance to heal.

Oh, and did I mention the sweet little romance tucked away inside? 😉 This guy’s a keeper!

Rating and Recommendations: I’m giving The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water 5 stars.

~ I received a copy from Revell. All thoughts are my own. I was not compensated for this review or required to give a favorable one.

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