"Body Surfing" by Anita Shreve

I knew that I wanted to include this book as a requirement for the Fall Into Reading Challenge 2010, but I originally thought it would be as a book recommended to me by a friend (in this case my mom).  But the more I thought about it, I think I’m going to include it as a book by an author I love.  After reading this book, I realized that I have actually read quite a bit by this author; this is the fifth novel I’ve read by her actually.  Kind of sneaky, really – If you were to ask me to list some of my favorite authors, I doubt Anita Shreve would have come to mind, but I obviously like her if I keep reading her!

So, the book at hand:  Sydney is 29 years old and has already been divorced and widowed.  We find her at a crossroads – she really doesn’t know where she is headed at this point of time, and has therefore taken a summer job tutoring the learning disabled 18 year old daughter of a wealthy family.  Actually, it is unclear what disability the daughter has, the reality is that she is likely autistic but she is only ever referred to as “slow” in the book.  Sydney spends the summer with the family at their New Hampshire beach house, and toward the end of the summer she meets the girl’s two older brothers.  The story takes off from there – there are family secrets and dramas, forbidden love, anger, grief and finally, hope.

Reading this book was kind of like an out-of-body experience.  The narration is such that you feel as though you are looking down and around these people…  passages describe scenes with little active action.  It is somehow third person in the extreme….  I felt so removed from any emotional energy, until halfway through the book, I felt so entwined with Sydney that I didn’t even see it happen.  Its very clever how it happens, as it is exactly how Sydney herself is as she progresses through the book.  She is very emotionally detached, save for her memories of her late husband, but as her relationship with the brothers wakes her up to her emotions – she becomes charged in a way and I, as the reader, reacted without even thinking about it.

A bit of trivia for you:  The family’s beach house in this book is the same one from A Pilot’s Wife, and in fact discuss the house’s previous owners briefly.

Body Surfing
by Anita Shreve
Back Bay Books/Little, Brown and Company, 2007
291 pages

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