Book summary: The Memory of Water


The enduring ties between two estranged sisters drive the darkly engaging latest from White (Learning to Breathe ). Marnie Maitland, an Arizona school teacher, returns to her South Carolina Lowcountry hometown after a 10-year absence at the request of Quinn, the ex-husband of Marnie's sister, Diana. Quinn believes Marnie can help Gil, the nine-year-old nephew she's never met, who has refused to speak since a sailing accident almost claimed Gil and Diana's lives. As Marnie begins to bond with Gil (and with Quinn), she instinctively senses that Diana's simmering anger toward her is tied to the childhood sailing accident that killed their mother but spared the two girls. Marnie remembers little of the accident, which is cloaked in mystery, as is Diana's obsession with “the Maitland curse” (related to a murky blasphemy from previous generations) and the mental illness that runs in the family. As Marnie tries to get at the truth, the first-person narrative is tersely handed among the four leads. Careful plotting, richly flawed characters and a surprising conclusion mark this absorbing melodrama.

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