Love, Water, Memory by Jennie Shortridge (3 out of 5)
I requested a copy of this from Simon & Schuster, because the entire premise sounded promising. Not only that, but I like the cover. I know, the more I read and the older I get, the more cliched I become. It’s a sad state of affairs. I wasn’t familiar with Jennie Shortridge before this book. I liked her writing style, very fluid and moving along at the right pace, meaning none too fast and none too slow, just telling us the story in its right time element. This is accomplished and it was a very quick read for me.
Lucie Walker comes out of a fog and finds herself standing knee-deep in San Francisco Bay. She has no idea who the hell she is, why she’s there, what she does, who her family is, if she has a family, every memory she once had and the life she once led is gone in a haze. The doctors at the psych ward determine she has traumatic memory loss. She can operate on an everyday functional level, but her entire life as she once knew it, is completely gone. The authorities place her picture and story in the papers and on the news, and a day and half later, her fiance, a handsome and caring man named Grady, comes forth and claims her, proving that she is Lucie Walker, a workaholic fashion and beauty-obsessed woman who isn’t known for being the warmest flower in the garden. The new Lucie is a hard sell for most of those who come to see her after her ordeal, but from the flashbacks to the former, it’s not hard to see why they’re so damn confused by the polar shift.
As we get along further in the story, Lucie starts to remember key bits here and there; most tellingly, she had run away from Grady, not very long after they become engaged. Why? The only family she has left is her estranged aunt Helen, and that doesn’t go over so well because Grady tries to protect Lucie from her aunt. But why? Is there something deep and dark there that Helen knows and is going to tell Grady, blowing up Lucie’s new world and their engagement? That’s the impression you have. Lucie can’t let her only chance of finding out what happened in her childhood that was so traumatic she repressed, so she’s going to have to deal with her lack of family contact and get the truth from Helen. This whole angle of the story in itself was hard for me to swallow, because Lucie seems to really want to confront her demons, Helen just doesn’t really seem to want to share any information, and Grady, as much as he is a sympathethic character, comes off almost as if he has a hidden agenda. That made that part of the story hard for me to follow along with, and I think that made the novel a little harder for me to truly appreciate. However, when the big reveal is revealed, you are more than a little stunned. I remember thinking that I got why Lucie didn’t want to deal with that. Then again, not many people are lucky enough to get a do-over of something traumatic that they went through in childhood, so kudos to the author for letting the characters do just that.
There is a lot of swearing in this book. A lot of “F-bombs”. Obviously, if you know me, that doesn’t deter me! It did take away a little from the emotional see-saw of the book, though. A lot of the language is coarse, and in a novel where there is a shit ton of symbolism, it distracts from that, and the reader might have a hard time readjusting their mental footing. I did, several times, and that lost some of the appeal for me, ironically enough. Lucie does get her answers eventually, and what happens to her, Grady, and her aunt is quite a tying up of the loose ends. I would recommend this one for book clubs, it’s a lot nicer of a read than say, A Light Between The Oceans. I loved both books and think they would be book club standouts, but for radically different reasons. A Light Between Oceans ripped me apart all the way through, emotionally and psychologically. Love, Water, Memory was a great roller coaster of an emotional tidal wave, minus a lot of the incredibly spinning psychological questions posed in the other book. This is more of a summer day siesta read, something you could sit on the veranda and read with your sweet tea. It’s a more relaxed book club pick. While I love that once in a while, I have just read my way through a lot of lighter paced novels, and I really wanted a whopper of a book. I don’t feel like this book completely grabbed me.
I did really enjoy it, I just felt like something was off. Lucie is a great character, definitely a chameleon all the way through the novel, whether she wants to be or not. Grady bugged me, and I’m not quite sure why that character drove me nuts throughout the book. I felt like he was too milquetoast and not enough ore for the situation that the woman he loved was in. Overall, though, Ms. Shortridge tells a compelling story and when the reveal does come about, it all makes sense why Lucie is the person she is (and was). A nice, quick read.