Saltwater by Jessica Andrews follows Lucy, a 19-year-old girl during the summer after her first year of college. Lucy comes from a troubled family and is struggling to find her own identity and voice. When I first started reading, I wasn’t sure if I would connect with Lucy or her story, but I ended up really enjoying this book and the thoughtful way it explores complex family dynamics, grief, and growing up.
|Publication Date||May 16, 2019|
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The Writing Style Pulls You In
One of the things I appreciated most about Saltwater was Jessica Andrews’ writing style. The prose is lyrical and almost poetic at times. I found myself pausing to reread particularly beautiful sentences and phrases. Andrews does an excellent job capturing the introspective, wandering nature of Lucy’s thoughts through her descriptive language.
The writing style perfectly complements the contemplative coming-of-age storyline. The narrative floats along from moment to moment, as Lucy tries to make sense of her family’s past and figure out her future. Andrews has a gift for capturing emotional truths through vivid details.
Complex and Damaged Family Dynamics
At the heart of Saltwater is Lucy’s relationship with her family. Both of her parents are troubled, flawed individuals who have hurt Lucy in different ways. Her father is an alcoholic who lives in his own imaginative world while her mother is emotionally volatile. Lucy loves them both but struggles to separate herself and find her own path.
I found the family dynamics to be complex and emotionally compelling. Andrews gives us snapshots of Lucy’s childhood memories that show how her parents’ issues have shaped her. I ached for young Lucy at times but also admired her resilience. The messy realities of her family relationships felt authentic.
Lucy’s connections with her older brothers Owen and Mike are also fraught. They have a shared history of loss and grief since their youngest brother Luke died in a surfing accident when they were all teenagers. But they deal with their pain in different ways. I liked seeing how Lucy’s relationship with each brother evolves over the summer.
Coming to Terms with Grief
The death of Luke haunts all of the siblings, but especially Lucy. She is still working through her grief and figuring out how to memorialize Luke while also moving forward with her own life. Much of the novel centers around her efforts to spread Luke’s ashes in a meaningful way.
Through this process, Lucy begins to accept what happened to Luke and separate her own path from his. The grief and loss she feels are portrayed in a really genuine way. I think many readers will connect with her struggle to find closure while holding on to memories of her brother.
A Strong Sense of Place
The novel is set in Lucy’s hometown of Portland, Maine which almost acts as an additional character. Andrews vividly captures the sights, sounds, and feel of Portland and the nearby coastal towns. I’ve never been to Maine but the book transported me there with its rich, sensory details and descriptions.
The saltwater of the title becomes a metaphor for Lucy’s emotional journey over the course of the summer. The churning, unpredictable ocean both disturbs and comforts her. The coastal setting underscores the themes of change and turbulence in Lucy’s life.
I found Saltwater to be an immersive read that pulled me into Lucy’s world. The luminous writing and emotionally complex relationships kept me engaged. While the plot is minimal, the inner journeys of self-discovery and grappling with grief resonated deeply. I appreciated how Andrews captured the contradictions and confusion of coming of age. Lucy isn’t always likable, but she feels achingly real. For me, the novel really captured that fragile limbo time between adolescence and adulthood. I’d recommend this book for anyone who enjoys introspective contemporary fiction about the trials of growing up.