To Be Sung Underwater

12 of 16
To Be Sung Underwater
448 pages; Little, Brown and Company
Judith Whitman is midlife, midmarriage, mid-child-rearing; her husband, Malcolm, may or may not be having an affair, and Judith fears that she hasn't "properly inhabited her role as a mother." So she goes out one day, creates a fake identity, opens a secret bank account, rents a storage unit, and sets up a replica of her childhood bedroom. She also buys a secret cell phone that rings "Claire de Lune" and embarks on a plan involving her teenage love, Willy C. Blunt, a boy whose photograph she still carries in her wallet. Her actions are curious, even to herself.

So opens Tom McNeal's To Be Sung Underwater (Little, Brown), part coming-of-age story and part tale of long-lost love. The novel juxtaposes Judith's current life as a film editor in California with the time she spent as a teenager in Rufus Sage, Nebraska, living with her professor father after her parents' separation. Past and present merge when Judith hires a private detective to find her man-that-got-away, the rough but sweet Blunt, who believes "There really isn't anything of importance except maybe who gets handed your heart and what they do with it." This lovely novel is quiet and smart, drawing you so deeply into the characters that the ending might just leave you coming up for air.
— Gale Walden