All The Books I Can Read

1 girl….2 many books!

Review: Deep Water by Sarah Epstein

on April 14, 2020

Deep Water
Sarah Epstein
Allen & Unwin
2020, 389p
Copy courtesy of the publisher

Blurb {from the publisher/Goodreads.com}:

Henry Weaver is missing.
Three months ago, thirteen-year-old Henry disappeared from The Shallows during a violent storm, leaving behind his muddy mountain bike at the train station.

Mason Weaver is trapped.
While Mason doesn’t know who he is or what he’s capable of, he knows the one thing binding him to this suffocating small town is his younger brother, Henry.

Chloe Baxter wants answers.
Why would Henry run away without telling her? One of Chloe’s friends knows something and she’s determined to find out the truth.

As Chloe wades into dangerous waters and Mason’s past emerges, a chilling question ripples to the surface: how far would you go to keep a secret?

When I was about 7, we moved to a small town in the Southern Highlands of NSW, just north of Mittagong, off the highway. We lived there for about four years – it was tiny. The local school had only 170 students spread out over grades kindergarten to six. There was a service station that also sold basics like bread and milk for exorbitant prices. And that was it. Everyone had an acre block at the very least. This book is set in The Shallows, a fictional town in the Southern Highlands, so it was incredibly familiar to me. Chloe Baxter spends her life divided between The Shallows with her father and Sydney, with her mother, since her parents’ marriage dissolved.

Three months ago, during a violent storm, Chloe’s friend Henry disappeared. Like a younger brother to her, Chloe is sure that Henry wouldn’t just leave without telling her. But nothing has been seen or heard of him since – just his bike, found propped up at the local train station. Back in The Shallows for school holidays, Chloe is desperate for answers. The longer Henry is missing the bleaker it seems the outcome will be and that’s not something she can accept. She wants – no, needs to find out what happened to Henry. And she’s looking firmly at his older brother Mason, a troubled teen with anger issues and a secret he’s keeping.

This had me utterly gripped from start to finish. It’s told in a non-linear fashion, beginning with Chloe arriving back in The Shallows for school holidays, the very place where Henry’s bike was found. Then it switches back forth, filling in backstory of Chloe as well as Mason and Henry. It showcases relevant events leading up to the night Henry disappeared interspersed with scenes from the present of Chloe reconnecting with her group of friends as she seeks to find out just what happened to Henry, searching for any sort of clue. When everything seems to be pointing to Mason, Chloe is determined to find out the truth and get the evidence that she needs so that the local police officer will finally take her seriously, instead of humouring her as he seems to do.

Chloe is incredibly single minded – although she’s sixteen and Henry’s just thirteen, the two of them have formed a very strong friendship that began many years ago when Chloe’s mother, who was then still living in The Shallows, offered to watch Henry and Mason after school while their mother worked. Chloe and Henry become almost like siblings and Henry confided in Chloe, including how rough life at home was which led to Chloe feeling incredibly protective of him. And sometimes antagonistic towards Mason.

As the friends come together again and Chloe’s investigations continue, one thing seems certain – more than one of them is hiding something. Not everyone has told the truth of where they were and what they were doing the night Henry went missing. Chloe is so tenacious, she’s never going to let this go and at one stage, it seems like she’s willing to blow up just about every friendship she has in order to get to the truth. She’s not afraid to voice some of the more horrible potential scenarios, when others won’t. She seems like a perfect candidate for a future police detective.

Even though Chloe has had her issues with her parents and now lives split between two homes with her mother determined to have sole custody (the reason for this seems unexplored) and even though Henry has confided in her, I’m not sure that she truly grasps the reality of the life Henry and Mason are experiencing. The grim situation of Mason’s life is bluntly laid bare – he’s both a product of his genetics and his situation, even when he tries desperately not to be. Such is his lot in life, the things that he’s struggling with deep down inside, that the anger can’t help but spill to the surface. And his pride is such that he’s never able to tell anyone what he’s going through either and he’s been conditioned to accept it as his due, all he deserves.

I loved the twists and turns Chloe’s investigating uncovers and it kept me guessing right up until the end. Loved the small town setting, the building of the storm and the night of Henry’s disappearance, the struggles of the friendship group to continue on as normal even as everything was changing and the gripping way that this was told.

8/10

Book #66 of 2020

Deep Water is book #21 in my reading for The Australian Women Writers Challenge 2020


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