Title: Shallow Enough to Walk Through
Author: Marissa Reaume
Date(s) read: September 25 – 29, 2013
Source: Publisher (Paperback)
“Three weeks it’s been raining, but no puddles…”
Author Sara Pierce is slowly drowning in Windsor, a city where water will seemingly not stay put long enough to form puddles. While living with her germophobic best friend Angie and dealing with her online gaming-addicted boyfriend Dan, Sara finds herself obsessively writing and rewriting her own story in order to gain some sense of control over her life.
Reading like John Barth by way of Lena Dunham, “Shallow Enough to Walk Through” is a portrait of the artist as a young woman trapped in a world she never imagined would end up this way. Marissa Reaume’s playful debut is a novel that makes and unmakes itself at the same time, as strikethroughs and compulsive editorial injections take us into the mind of a young writer struggling to finally come into her own.
Thank you to NeWest Press for the copy of this book for review!
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Shallow Enough to Walk Through was a first time novel for me. I’ve never really been approached too much about Canadian authors and the work they’re putting out, or works that don’t seem to fit in the range of the YA or paranormal romance books I’ve gotten used to (and actually quite comfortable) reading. Before I even cracked open this debut novel of Windsor author Marissa Reaume, I was excited. I was excited that I would be taken on a new journey of something completely different.
Just thinking of the fact that this novel was a bit of a departure for me rings true with the novel’s theme. The main character, Sara, seems to be wading through life as if walking through a steady collection of puddles where change is lacking and life is a little too ordinary, and she has two choices — she can either fall into the deep end and drown, or let the puddles dry up, letting life change and bring in something different and (possibly) exciting.
In all honesty, this wasn’t an easy novel to get through. I’m not sure what it was, but there were some things that held me back from really classifying this as a light, comical, coming of age, slightly YA-centered novel. It’s light in some sections, but with darker undertones, funny in more of a quirky way, but definitely not YA. I’d say the story falls somewhere in the category of being like the TV show Girls, but without all the sexual frustration. But frustration there is — in spades. I had to feel for Sara and her “boyfriend” Dan. When Sara first meets Dan (not when the reader first meets him, but when Sara first makes his acquaintance in a library), I actually liked him, but he turns out to get worse and worse and I felt like a mother hen wanting to tell Sara she needs to change something. Dan felt kind of like that anchor, tied to Sara’s ankle, just ready to pull her deeper into the water.
Speaking of mother hens, we do get a character who is a bit like that, Sara’s best friend Angie. I kind of loved Angie. She was quirky in her own germophobic way (and when I say germophobic, I mean there are germs on the germs and one can never be too clean), but there was something alive about her. She may have been disinfecting the world one square foot at a time, but she was living her life and I could really sense her frustration with Sara with how she want doing the same.
The story is told in a very unique way (at least, unique to me). Sara is a writer and it’s like she’s narrating her own story, writing these words down for us, but we get to see the things that happened and the things that could happen, but that she doesn’t want to happen through the form of strikethroughs. They come into the story gently at first — my thoughts are that Sara was hesitant to grow, to change, in the beginning, so there’s no way they could just appear in full force. I don’t think she truly knew who she was or who she wanted to be and was just too far into the comfort zone to do anything about it. For me, the strikethrough showed her slowly coming out of her comfort zone.
There are no chapter breaks, but intead line-space breaks from scene to scene, flashbacks to the present, etc. Also, the reader is constantly in Sara’s head, with her very extensive imagination — sometimes completely and utterly overreactive. I will say this, I will never think of a skin tag as something so simple again. As I sit here eating my breakfast and writing this review, I’m still slightly grossed out by this one little bit that starts off small in the book and then kind of takes on a life of its own (on kind of a related note, I recently read a Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean At The End Of The Lane and there’s this whole chapter about a worm that starts off the same way, small and then building to throw-up proportions. I kind of felt the same way about this skin tag as I did the worm.).
In the end, I did feel that this was a very enjoyable read, very outside of the box (at least for me, as a reader), and full of quirky and somewhat disturbing characters I will definitely hold on to for a while (whether I want to or not). It might seem slightly depressing at times, what with Sara constantly going back to the source of the thing that constantly brings her down, but that’s life. We don’t always make the right decisions and somtimes just the idea of change can be just as taxing as the change itself.
This was a strong debut from Marissa Reaume, perfect for readers who are looking for reads on the cusp between young adult and adult fiction, and I’m very interested to see what she comes up with in the future.