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Novel set in a fictional village in MICHIGAN

10th May 2023

The Polite Act of Drowning by Charleen Hurtubise, novel set in a fictional village in MICHIGAN.

Novel set in a fictional village in MICHIGAN

The Polite Act of Drowning opens with a description of the death by drowning of a beautiful young woman, Cathy. She is visiting Kettle Lake, Michigan from the city, goes swimming on the beach and never returns. There seems a certain resigned sadness among the locals about her death, almost as though it was inevitable. Sixteen-year-old Joanne Kennedy is on the beach that day and witnesses the tragedy. The whole community is affected but for Joanne’s family the event is more than just poignant; it reawakens raw emotions from the past, associated with the drowning of little Billy Kennedy and Joanne’s mother’s role in his death.

Author Charleen Hurtubise evokes a wonderful sense of place in this beautifully paced novel. Her familiarity with its location in rural Michigan is evident. It’s easy to picture the scattered lakeside community, and its natural surroundings as the story unfolds during the heat and the oppressive atmosphere of summer. This is one of those lovely books where learning about the setting is part of the joy of reading.

It is the characters that really make this book though; from the naïve teenage Joanne, who seems powerless to control any aspect of her life, to the newcomer — the energetic and rule-breaking Lucinda — who offers friendship, only to snatch it away again. Joanne is drawn to Lucinda’s vitality and the possibility of intimacy, which she craves. The catty ‘friends’ from school, the drunken and intimidating ex-soldier and the warm hug that is Marylou all jump off the page, they are so real.

Joanne’s family is somewhat dysfunctional, even before Cathy’s death. Her mother has never been accepted by the Kennedy family and there are undercurrents that parallel the unpredictable waters of the Great Lake. It is apparent that, while struggling with grief and guilt, many people will struggle to keep their heads above water. But these are not just personal struggles; they affect everyone in the community and the Kennedy family’s future is in jeopardy. Joanne feels guilty because she didn’t recognise that Cathy was drowning and act to help her. Is this what has caused her mother’s emotional instability or is there an even worse secret that she has been hiding all these years?

The Polite Act of Drowning is a wonderfully engaging book, with a satisfying ending – and it’s worth the wait to discover why the enigmatic title is so appropriate.

Sue for the TripFiction Team

Catch the author on Twitter: @CharliSolo and on IG: https://www.instagram.com/charleen_hurtubise/

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