at water's edge book coverReviewed by Jax Kepple

As a follow up to Water for Elephants, Sara Gruen goes across the pond during WWII for a very weird, uneven story about a selfish woman who somehow gets everything she ever wished for.

Maddie Hyde is a rich woman who is married to even richer Ellis. They live a Peter Pan lifestyle – drinking, partying and staying up late – in Philadelphia with Ellis’ best friend Hank (also rich). After an embarrassing drunken incident at a party, Ellis decides that he’s had it with the U.S. and wants to go on an expedition for the Loch Ness Monster in order to win back the respect of his father, who faked a discovery of the Nessie and was publicly ridiculed for it. So they all travel to Scotland. In the middle of WWII. When no one could get anywhere. Needless to say, this book requires that the reader overlook some pretty well-known realities of the time period.

Ellis and Hank plan the entire trip, and they all hole up at a dingy tavern. For the first time ever, Maddie is required to entertain herself when Ellis and Hank decide she is too frail to go out monster hunting. She befriends the tavern workers, and even winds up helping out there during the day when she’s abandoned for weeks by Ellis and Hank. See? She’s paying her dues for being so selfish!

Maddie has a romantic interest in the tavern keeper, Angus, who winds up being rich as well. He’s home due to a convenient injury sustained while he was being heroic on the front lines. But she doesn’t love him for his money because she’s got her own after her rich father dies!

The stakes are incredibly low in this story, and never is there a real problem. So what, Maddie does light housekeeping and learns how to cook? So what, Ellis abandons her? As stated above, she is rich so doesn’t NEED his money. So what, WWII is going on? So what, the Loch Ness Monster could be real?

Gruen fails to fully flesh out the characters and have them have any sort of real problems. The result is a light read, with a “soft historical” touch that is best read while suspending disbelief.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Jax is in an accountant at a hedge fund. She resides in NYC with her husband.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Spiegel & Grau. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.