Title: To Be Sung Underwater
Author: Tom McNeal
Release Date: June 2, 2011
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Judith Toomey Whitman is unhappy in her current, married life. She has lost any connection to her husband Malcolm, and is reasonably certain he is having an affair. Judith longs for a different life and can’t help but think about Willy Blunt, the boy she loved as a teenager. But the more she thinks about Willy, the more she becomes lost in her memories, until the past and present collide in a shocking way.
In To Be Sung Underwater, author Tom McNeal takes two narratives, years apart, and seamlessly weaves them together in one cohesive whole. In doing so, he makes it clear to the reader that Judith’s past and her relationship with Willy is just as important to who she is as her present with Malcolm. The two time periods are tied together beautifully and effortlessly, though at times, it can be difficult for the reader to tell whether they are in the past or present.
The novel makes for a beautiful testament to the road not taken, something many can relate to. Judith constantly doubts her marriage and revisits her choices, trying to see if she should have lived her life differently. She is sympathetic, and readers will be able to understand her confusion and longing. Judith and Willy are both incredibly well drawn and vivacious characters. Readers will see the Judith of the past and wonder how she has become so drained of life, when she was so vivid as a teenager.
Tom McNeal is a talented writer, and that shows in To Be Sung Underwater. His prose is beautiful and atmospheric, transporting the reader to a different place entirely. His words are carefully chosen and convey so much emotion. At times, though, the novel can seem overly long and drawn out, as the reader waits for the narrative to move forward.
If you are seeking out a fast-paced thriller of a read, To Be Sung Underwater is definitely not what you should pick up. But if you are in the mood for a contemplative, moody novel with beautiful prose and the ache of loneliness, one in which the characters are everything, this is the perfect book to curl up with.