Reviewer Candace Lybarger: Candace is a young wife, mother, and lover of all books. She received her Master's Degree in Early Childhood Education from The Ohio State University. Candace taught 3rd grade until an opportunity presented itself where she could work from home and be with her toddler. In addition to spending time with her family, Candace enjoys reading, music, history, traveling, and spending time outdoors. Her perfect day in a nutshell would be sitting in the sun with a book...or two!
Author: Tom McNeal
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
To Be Sung Underwater, by Tom McNeal, is a moving story about a middle aged women and what has come of her life. Judith is a wife, mother, but most importantly a career women. Working in Hollywood as a television show editor, Judy puts in long hours at work and lives what others might call a perfect life. She has a handsome banker husband, a beautiful and smart daughter, and an impressive Hollywood career.
Unbeknownst to those looking in, Judy has recently come to question her husband's fidelity as well as her detached relationship with her daughter, Camille. Judy finds herself at a crossroads while renting a storage unit for her childhood furniture. Instead of giving the storage company her true name Judy writes down an alias. She then spirals rather quickly into a life where she finds herself retreating to her storage space in order to dwell in the past and relive past regrets, namely regarding her first love, Willy. When Judy's mother finds out about her secret, she pointedly says, "I think you're trying to run away from home but don't know how to do it."
As I started reading To Be Sung Underwater, it quickly pulled me in and then refused to allow me to put it down. I really enjoyed how the novel switched back and forth between Judy's teenage life in Nebraska and her present life in L.A. Tom McNeal effortlessly exhibited how Judy developed and grew into an adult and how she lived as that adult.
I felt that the character of Willy was very realistic and likeable. From the style that he dressed in, to the way he spoke, Willy was a great 3 dimensional character. Judy views Willy as the man she never really left behind. Judy thinks fondly of Willy and comes to realize that not only was he her first love, but quite possibly her one true love. McNeal shows what can unfold when second chances are presented and the past makes its way into the present.
McNeal did an excellent job in creating a special relationship between Judy and her father. A summer trip to visit him in Nebraska turned into a permanent situation when Judy realized that his house and town felt more like home than her childhood home with her mother. Judy discovered a friend in her quiet father and enjoyed the time spent with him, be it driving around country roads, weeding the garden, reading aloud from novels, or doing homework at the same table that he graded papers. While they may not have spoken much, Judy found comfort and familiarity in their silence.
I thought that McNeal did a terrific job painting the setting in To Be Sung Underwater. As the story unfolded I could perfectly visualize Nebraska, along with Judy and Willy's hangouts. McNeal gave life to the lakes, back roads, little towns, and storage unit. This helped To Be Sung Underwater feel profoundly realistic.
Tom McNeal's, To Be Sung Underwater, is an excellent novel which I would without a doubt read again. I definitely recommend this novel to book lovers, both male and female.
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