by Erin Bartels
Great character development. Imagery so vivid it makes the reader wish s/he had a cabin on the lake. An amazing story. Put them all together and you get The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. From the very first sentence, I was hooked. The entire book is written as a conversation. This form of writing makes the book seem more personal and makes the reader feel like s/he is part of the story.
Kendra is an author on a deadline. Her first book That Summer was a huge success. Now her publisher is waiting for her second book, and she only has a few weeks to make the deadline. The problem is that Kendra has not started her second book yet. She cannot get past a letter she received from A Disappointed Reader regarding her first book. She knows the author of the letter must know her personally. Not only does the letter come from someone she knows, but this person must also know what happened to her all those years ago. Disappointed Reader seems to know so much about what happened that the letter makes Kendra doubt her own interpretations of the events in That Summer.
In order to solve the mystery and confront the Disappointed Reader, Kendra returns to the cabin on the lake where she spent summers with her grandfather. Her happiest childhood memories were made at that cabin. She spent every summer there. She also met Cami there. Cami was adopted by a couple Kendra knew from her summers at the lake. When they asked her to come to dinner one night, she had no idea she would meet the girl who would become her best friend. In fact, it is Cami to whom Kendra speaks throughout the entirety of The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water. It does not matter that she has not seen Cami in years. In fact, the last time Cami was seen was at the lake months before Kendra got there. Ike, and old fisherman who lives at the lake year round spoke to Cami on his way to Kendra’s grandfather’s funeral. That was the last known contact with her. Cami’s father is at the lake while her mother is desperately following a lead to locate Cami and bring her home.
Erin Bartels leads the reader through a lifetime of memories and emotions. The plot twists will keep the reader up late to find out what happens next. Secrets are revealed. Truths are unfolded. Lives are changed forever. Friendships are destroyed. Friendships are mended. All the characters’ stories are intertwined in a way that is inescapable.
The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water is not only a great book but also an exercise in courage. All my life I have been told that truth is stranger than fiction. I have also been told that in every story of fiction lies some truth. The author reveals in her notes at the end of the book that The Girl Who Could Breathe Under Water was her way of getting her own story out into the open. Before I read her notes, I admired Erin Bartels’ writing and talent for storytelling. Upon discovering the courage it took for her to write this book and send it out for the world to see, my admiration for Erin Bartels increased exponentially. She is an author that I will watch well into the future. I look forward to seeing what else she has in store for her readers – fact or fiction or a little bit of both.