At what point do you know – really know – the person to whom you are married? Is it when you’re falling in love? Is it when you are pronounced husband and wife? Is it on your fifth anniversary? Tenth? Ever?
Eva and Jackson have been married for eight months and have been together for a few years when Jackson falls into a churning river while fishing, leaving Eva a bereft, grief-stricken widow. She cannot fathom how this happened, much less why. All she knows is that she and Jackson were in love and now he’s gone.
Although they lived in London, Jackson grew up in Tasmania, so Eva heads there to try and connect with his family. She quickly discovers that the Jackson she knew is not the Jackson who really existed. She knew and loved a man who was a fabrication.
As she tries to make sense of Jackson and her feelings about him, she finds herself getting closer to Saul, Jackson’s younger brother. For their relationship to take hold, though, Eva needs to make peace with her memories of Jackson. She needs to forgive herself, and she needs to forgive him. And she needs to allow herself to be vulnerable.
Told primarily from Eva’s point of view, we also see Jackson’s. His flashbacks to their romance help us understand his perspective, to a degree. Yes, we can see why he felt he had no choice to do what he did, but feeling that way and actually allowing yourself to choose that path are two very different things. As Eva herself points out, there is always a choice.
I enjoyed this book tremendously. Eva is fragile and tender, a raw wound needing to be healed. A fisherman, Saul is the perfect salve for her. He’s used to tagging water critters and checking in on them. He studies creatures who live under water, and he’s also a fisherman. He baits and catches, but always carefully, never as a predator. That Jackson died underwater and his brother studies what lies beneath is an interesting dynamic, just as is Saul’s teaching Eva to free dive. Once she learns to regulate her breath, she’s able to see things she’s never seen before. She sees what’s there, in all of its beauty and complexity. With just one single breath.
The mystery of Jackson may drive the story, but the central focus is Eva. We worry for her and we grieve with her. We want to protect her, and we hope that Saul’s intentions are as pure as they appear to be. We want her to choose wisely.
Lucy Clarke’s style is evocative, making you feel that you are on the water with Saul and Eva. You can see Saul working on his boat, and you can feels the water beneath you. You also feel the rising tension as Eva gets ever closer to seeing all there is to see where Jackson is concerned.
It’s a lovely book. Read it.