Carmel Magazine

CM SP16 Online Edition

Issue link:

Contents of this Issue


Page 91 of 211

This is the Water Novel by Yannick Murphy I don't know when I last read such an intoxicat- ing novel. "This is the water," Yannick Murphy writes, treating setting as character. The water in the pool has a memory, and acts as a membrane connecting all the human characters—the woman who mops the floor, the parents cheer- ing their swimmers on, and the serial killer in their midst, watching, selecting the next girl whose throat he will open. The water holds it all, keeps secrets; the water is indifferent. "This is the water, still remembering the way Kim felt moving through it, how her body broke the surface…The other girls, although they can't name the sensation, can feel the water remembering, and it gives the girls a better sense of how the butter- fly is to be swum." Murphy masters the omniscient view- point, being inside the heads of all the main players. In this passage, Annie, the swim mom we know best, is doing laps. "You look down at the silt at the bottom and wonder why everything you see you interpret like a Rorschach, why the silt looks like scarves to you and why your daughter's blood on a menstrual pad looks like an hourglass…" There's an eeriness to her perception even before a girl on the team is killed. In the first chapter, news of a man in Denver confessing to strangling five women, has Annie thankful she doesn't live there. She's glad she and her husband raise their daughters in a small, northeastern town, where "there are almost no strangers." Almost. After this foreshadowing of their town's nightmare, Murphy moves these characters from the initial concerns that drive them— which, in retrospect, can only be seen as petty: the desire for one's child to win a race, the con- cern over one's own waning attractiveness to men as compared to another swim mom, a dal- liance with that swim mom's husband—to a concern that trumps all others—that of keeping one's daughter from being the killer's next score. "Your girls are rosy cheeked from having just swum. Your girls smell like flowery shampoo and almond lotion, and the usual faint tinge of chlo- rine. The killer would be drawn to your girls." Under the constant fear of this peril, every- thing shifts. If only Annie can keep her daughters safe, all will be okay. How lovely Annie's life appears to her now, how very predictable. How is it she had lost sight of the simple beauty of her marriage, of motherhood? Even her broth- er's suicide, which has haunted her, feels now like a pain she can release. Prior to the threat of this killer cutting young girls' necks at a local rest stop, there's a restless- ness in these adults, a boredom. This restlessness among them escalates and spreads like a bad case of poison ivy. Not until lives are at stake, do these characters discover their best selves. And what those selves are capable of will shock you. When Breath Becomes Air Memoir by Paul Kalanithi I n his short lifetime, Paul Kalanithi earned a BA and an MA in English literature from Stanford; an MPhil in history and philosophy of science and medicine from Cambridge; and an MD from Yale School of Medicine. At Stanford, he was fin- ishing up his residency in neurosurgery and neu- roscience, when he learned he was dying. He was 36. Author Ann Patchett says: "This is one of a handful of books I consider to be a universal donor—I would recommend it to anyone, 90 C A R M E L M A G A Z I N E • S P R I N G / S U M M E R 2 0 1 6 IN REVIEW B Y M E L A N I E B I S H O P Murder, Memoir and Micro-essays

Articles in this issue

Archives of this issue

view archives of Carmel Magazine - CM SP16 Online Edition