Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Review: Eternal on Water by Joseph Monninger

Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger

Publisher Summary (from Simon and Schuster):

From the day Cobb and Mary meet kayaking on Maine's Allagash River and fall deeply in love, the two approach life with the same sense of adventure they use to conquer the river's treacherous rapids. But rivers do not let go so easily...and neither does their love. So when Mary's life takes the cruelest turn, she vows to face those rough waters on her own terms and asks Cobb to promise, when the time comes, to help her return to their beloved river for one final journey.

Set against the rugged wilderness of Maine, the exotic islands of Indonesia, the sweeping panoramas of Yellowstone National Park, and the tranquil villages of rural New England, Eternal on the Water is at once heartbreaking and uplifting -- a timeless, beautifully rendered story of true love's power.

My Review

This book is beautifully written - the prose is simple but artful in its simplicity. There is a lyricism in the writing that is difficult to articulate in a review - as a reader, I felt that I was gently carried through the novel. Below is an example of the simplicity of the writing:

"The boy's breathing had been unsteady for the past two hours. Air had become more difficult for the boy to find."

By saying air was "difficult to find", the author allowed me to visualize the boy struggling to breathe without saying it so plainly. There are many other such examples throughout the novel.

The storyline is poignant but relatively simple and there are no sudden turns in the plot - in fact, the book opens with Mary's death so you really already know how it ends before you begin. Yet, despite that, I was completely drawn in and enjoyed every moment of Mary and Cobb's story. I was honestly surprised by how much their story captivated me - there is no background provided about either Mary or Cobb before they meet so you are not invested in them as individuals at all before they meet and fall in love. They fall in love immediately and are discussing futures including the possibility of children within two days of their initial meeting. I am not a romantic by any definition of the word - I can be logical to a fault at times and I struggle to understand love at first sight. I cannot imagine falling so quickly and completely for another person and yet I loved Mary and Cobb's story - I credit the author's skill in subtly telling their story with my ability to set aside logic and just fall along with Mary and Cobb.

Mary and Cobb's relationship faces a challenge - Mary knows she will likely develop Huntington's disease which is progressively debilitating and ultimately fatal. Having watched her father die a horrible death at the hand of this disease, Mary has strong feelings about living life fully and exerting some control over her own death. The specter of her death and the hand she expects Cobb to play at the end of her life challenges the reader to consider important questions - would I choose to live my life differently knowing for certain that I would not live a long life? How does one summon the strength to make difficult end of life decisions?

This book has it all - a beautifully told love story, scenery spanning from Maine to Indonesia and it challenges you to consider life's big questions. I absolutely loved this novel and the emotional ride I took with Mary and Cobb.

Thank you to the publisher for providing this review copy.

This book qualifies for the "body of water" category of the What's In a Name Challenge and the "New in 2010" category of the TwentyTen Challenge


  1. Wonderful review, I loved this beautifully written novel too, I think it will be one of my favourite reads for 2010. Needed a box of tissues at the end though!

  2. Great review, this sounds like a must read. I love books that are beautifully written, so this is definitely going on my TBR :)

  3. Excellent review. Thank you for sharing your thoughts. The various settings make it especially attractive.

    Bill ;-)


  4. Very good review..The plot sounds amazing and adventurous...

  5. This one is in my stack, and now I am anxious to read it after your review; just great-thanks

  6. Wow, what an enthusiastic review. I'll keep this one in mind. I too have trouble with love at first sight, but I think it really happens.

  7. I loved this book, and tried not to gush when I wrote my review. Mary and Cobb are great people, and I came away with a repertoire of knock-knock jokes. :)

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