Book Review: To Be Sung Underwater

It’s hard to know where to start with my thoughts on Tom McNeal‘s new book, To Be Sung Underwater.

As a women who’s own mid-life crisis adventure placed her back at her roots a couple of years ago, on so many levels I could identify with the main character in the novel, Judith Whitman. In To Be Sung Underwater, Whitman’s life took her from Vermont to Rufus Sage, Nebraska and then California, where she ironically ended up living in Toluca Lake, CA, the area of Los Angeles that I lived in for 19 years.

I could not help but wondering when reading the book if there was not something in Los Angeles, that for small town people like myself and Judith Whitman’s character, drains the soul for lack of nature. Because surely in reading To Be Sung Underwater there was a sense in my opinion, that as Judith Whitman returned to Rufus Sage to meet her long lost love after 25 years, she returned not only to a relationship she left behind, but to a place where life was simpler and far more serene. A place that where simpler truly connected the soul to the earth, sky, air and water.

In our youth the idyllic notion of love is far more simplistic than the reality of adult life. Marriage and children bring responsibility that can be difficult at times to settle into and often as the years pass by, leave us wondering about that simpler time in our lives. This time when we start to wonder, mid-life, for many brings a strong desire to reconnect with our lost youth.

Judith Whitman’s wake up calls in mid-life, triggered a series of round-about events that brought her back to her past. And what she found there was profoundly heartbreaking yet enlightening. In the time spent reuniting with her lost love, Willy Blunt, Judith Whitman was given a chance to grow, and make peace with the past. I finished reading To Be Sung Underwater and felt that in time she would.

I was immediately captured by the characters in To Be Sung Underwater. I felt the author, Tom McNeal was at his best in describing scenery in the book only in writing about Nebraska and looked for more about her surrounding in Toluca Lake which were vague. Perhaps it was the parallel of my own life spent in Toluca Lake, but I think it was more of interest in Judith’s life there.

Once immersed totally into the book, as the story deepened I could not put To Be Sung Underwater down. Then when I knew I was nearing the end, I needed to step away to breathe deeply before I finished it. I was glad I did.

If you’ve been through your own mid-life crisis, or long to rekindle with a lost love, you’ll feel this powerful book very deeply as I did. In truth, To Be Sung Underwater is book to get lost in at any stage of adult life.

I may just have to read it again because it’s one of those books that I know will cast a different light the next time around. So much to absorb, so much to feel. So good to read.

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