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  • Writer's pictureCaroline

The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater | New Release by Erin Bartels

Updated: Mar 11, 2022

About the Book

The best fiction simply tells the truth, but the truth is never simple.

When novelist Kendra Brennan moves into her grandfather's old cabin on Hidden Lake, she has a problem and a plan. The problem? An inflammatory letter from A Very Disappointed Reader. The plan? To confront Tyler, her childhood best friend's brother--and the man who inspired the antagonist in her first book. If she can prove that she told the truth about what happened during those long-ago summers, perhaps she can put the letter's claims to rest and meet the swiftly approaching deadline for her next book.

But what she discovers as she delves into the murky past is not what she expected. While Tyler isn't easy, facing the consequences of her failed friendship with his sister, Cami, may be the hardest thing she's ever had to do.

Plumb the depths of the human heart with the emotional exploration of how a friendship dies, how we can face the unforgivable, and how even those who have been hurt can learn to love with abandon.

My Thoughts

According to the author, this book was a vulnerable work for her to write, based on true events of abuse. As such, it's a thought-provoking read. Fiction has the power to set forth ideas in a way that nonfictional memoirs sometimes can't, and this is one of those times.

If you have a past that involves sexual harassment or assault, or self-harm, this book will be uncomfortable to read, so don't worry if it isn't for you. All that We Carried or The Words Between Us are two excellent novels by this author, and I think you may enjoy those more. The same goes for young or sensitive readers. If this isn't the book for you, that's okay.

Now. A word. And hopefully I won't get in too much trouble.

Please don't read this book if you're prudish. Just don't. And if you do read it, please think twice before you write a review that directly affects the author and her new book's reception. I have to admit, the negative reviews on this book horrified me. Some readers are criticizing it for--gasp--describing life in a fallen world.

"Christians shouldn't read this book due to sketchy content." - undisclosed reviewer.

I'm sorry?

Some people, like the author, lived the events in this novel. It took courage for her to share her story this way. The story is tastefully handled, I might add. It is not written erotically, like some other novels with a Christian label. It is honest, yet discreet and veiled. It is not intended to be defiling or incur lust, the siren these reviewers are quick to sound.

Some people, maybe even someone reading this right now, live with the pain of past or present sexual abuse. Are we supposed to believe that we as Christians shouldn't listen to their stories, how it affected them, what they learned?

Because it's too "sketchy" for us? It offends our delicateness?

Do we live on a different planet, one that isn't riddled with the consequences of The Fall? Our Savior ate with prostitutes and sinners. He loved all kinds of people. We can't claim to have higher standards than Him, can we?

It's important for women like Erin Bartels to share their stories. This book is an honest account of life in a sinful world. Women who experience sexual assault of any kind often experience deep shame, and criticism like this on the internet can add to the shame they may already feel--that their stories are too much for our Christian ears. But how else will we come alongside them as the church if we don't listen?

As for the bones of the story, Bartels' writing style is stunning and literary, a joy to read. I appreciated the care she took to explore the humanity of evil people, without excusing their wrongs. Sometimes the antagonist in someone's story is a victim of abuse themselves. This doesn't excuse them from consequences but allows us to have pity and pray for them. It is a reminder that situations are not always cut and dry. Life and human nature are complicated.

The storyline with Kendra and Andreas felt a bit far-fetched, but since it wasn't the main theme of the story, I am willing to let that slide. Kendra's interaction with Robert was my favorite part of the novel. I do think the final conclusion stopped a bit short of the mark, and I would have loved to see justice served and Kendra turn to the One Who can truly heal her heart. But the characters were not purported to be Christians, and sometimes stories are imperfect. In fact, I think the ending wasn't intended to be a fairytale.

Well, that's enough soap-boxing from me today. If you read the book, I'd love to hear your thoughts! Do you agree or disagree with me? I'm always open to hearing your opinion.

5 stars


*I received a copy of this book from the publisher and happily provided my honest review. All opinions expressed are my own and I was not required to post a positive review.*

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