Cover image for Breathing water
Breathing water
Greenwood, T. (Tammy)
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : St. Martin's Press, [1999]

Physical Description:
276 pages ; 22 cm
Geographic Term:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
X Adult Fiction Central Library

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A tragic boating accident forces Effie Greer to flee the small, New England community of Lake Gormlaith; her boyfriend Max accidentally kills a young black girl. Unable to deal with her own role in the girl's death, Effie drifts from city to city. Then she decides to return and confront her past.

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Greenwood takes time to tell the full story of Effie Greer's return home after three years' absence to her family's lake cabin in Vermont. Her childhood (with loving parents, grandparents, and friends), the abusive relationship she endured for several years, the all-too-painful summer she spends at the lake, and her coming to terms with her adult self are all revealed in pieces and out-of-time sequence but in a way that brings us to know Effie and appreciate her in spite of her flaws and quirks. The lake has been the scene of her best and worst times and is now the scene of her emotional recovery and rebirth. (Lake Gormlaith, which isn't on the map, could be so named as a linguistic game the author is playing with her readers. Does it mean "foolish" or "fool-hating" or nothing at all?) Greenwood does a good job of creating characters of depth and charm in a story that is complex and engaging. This is an impressive first novel. --Danise Hoover

Publisher's Weekly Review

The specter of domestic violence haunts this poignant debut, as Effie Greer, a young woman in her 20s, struggles through an agonizing love relationship and its devastating aftermath. After learning of her abusive ex-boyfriend's death from a heroin overdose, waifish Effie returns from three "fugitive" years in Seattle to her grandmother's Vermont cabin on rural Lake Gormlaith. She had fled the idyllic lakeside to get away from Max, a violent alcoholic, after he accidentally caused the death of an 11-year-old black girl spending the summer with a lake family. Chapters alternate between Effie's return in 1994 and her years (1987-1991) with Max, providing contrast between the tenacious survivor Effie becomes and the self-destructive victim she was. She had not only failed to "help erase the scars" of Max's horrific childhood, but had become the object of his hatred, subsequently turning his malice onto herself in the form of anorexia. And she feels that her decision to leave Max may have contributed to the little girl's tragic drowning. But Effie is thrown some lifelines, reconnecting with a former schoolmate who herself had an abusive relationship. She discovers that the source of small, precious gifts left on her doorstep (a perfect robin's nest, tadpoles, a jar of fireflies) is Devin Jackson, a young black artist and carpenter. By the time Effie realizes Devin's relationship to the drowned girl, she is ready to lay ghosts to rest. The vulnerable and childlike Effie vacillates between extremes of despair and faith, the uplifting ending waxes maudlin in places and Effie's triumph can seem platitudinous. Despite her occasional overreliance on these extremes, Greenwood sensitively and painstakingly unravels her protagonist's self-loathing and replaces it with a graceful dignity. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved