I picked up At the Water’s Edge by Sara Gruen during a recent library trip without ever having heard of it beforehand. I had another book picked out and was stumped on what else to get, so I checked this one out after recognizing Sara as the author of Water for Elephants. As such, I didn’t really have any expectations going into it aside from the fact that I enjoyed reading Water for Elephants when I was younger, so why not give this one a try?
At the Water’s Edge follows Maddie, a member of Philadelphia’s high society as she follows her disgraced husband and his friend overseas to Scotland to search for the Loch Ness during World War II. If you’re thinking this seems like a strange thing to do, well, it is, and that’s kind of what caught my interest as soon as I began reading.
Suffice to say, this element of the story was “meh” for me, but overall I really enjoyed Gruen’s writing to the point where it almost entirely made up for the story being perhaps a bit too far out there. I guess it really isn’t that out there, without giving too much away (whether or not they found the monster), but it’s one of those stories where the plot only works because a number of very specific things had to happen to cause the characters to react the way they do. For instance, there are multiple layers to why the characters are setting off to look for the monster in the first place, and on their own, each one seems believable but in total it is a lot of very small coincidences that had to lead to this excursion taking place during wartime (with two young men who were not serving. This in itself is a plot point I won’t give away, but it goes on to illustrate how many details needed to be just right for the plot to work at all in the first place.)
I think if you’re able to accept this, you’d enjoy the story. Gruen’s take on the main character and how she grapples with her relationship with her husband, being suddenly immersed in several elements of the war, and the bonds that grow with other characters are compelling enough to hold one’s interest. And once I got a couple of chapters in, I flew through the rest of the book because, despite needing a solid suspension of disbelief, the book was really just enjoyable to read.
While I liked the book (not as much as Water for Elephants, though), I wouldn’t say it’s a must-read, but it’s a solid choice for fans of Gruen’s other works or for something that can be read quick during a vacation or as a summer beach read. 3.78/5.