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A Grateful Life and Sara Gruen’s At The Water’s Edge

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I’ve been trying something new lately. Gratitude. Gratefulness. Contentment. Because somehow, it the last little while, I’d misplaced the best part of myself, the thing that I like the best.

For most of my life, I was a glass half full kind of girl. I liked being the one that said, “well, at least . . . ,” finding a redeeming quality in most situations. Even the really bad ones.

Somehow, though, in the last few months, I’ve found myself looking at the glass as half empty. I’m not even sure why; we have a pretty good life. But I got snarky. And, though I laugh at snarky, I’m not really the person who acts snarky.

I noticed the changes in myself and I didn’t like it. It wasn’t really me. I started looking at the things in life, the things that we didn’t have and I thought we should. In over words, I was jealous. I got somewhat resentful. I wanted more and thought I deserved it.

Not long after the new year I took a deep look at myself. I didn’t like it very much. I made a real effort NOT to look at the empty part of the glass, instead concentrating more on what WAS in the glass. And, for Lent, instead of giving something up, I decided to take a look around and be grateful for one thing everyday, no matter how small.

And it worked. There are days all I can be grateful for is the breath in my lungs, but other days I can find a whole list of things. I’ve tried very hard to not repeat grateful things, and that can be hard. Everyday I’m grateful for my daughters, my husband, my dogs. I’m grateful that I have a roof over my head and cupboards full of food. Those are the easy ones.

Some days I have to really reach for something new. I have been grateful that my dog keeps my feet warm as she hogs the bed. Grateful that there is salt on the driveway so I don’t slip, even as it is tracked all over my kitchen floor. Grateful for the red light which stopped me because it means I didn’t speed by that waiting cop.

Today was easier. As part of my paying job, I read legal complaints and write up summaries of them. Civil complaints. They are often very boring, but today I got to read a rambling complaint by a woman suing most of the Federal government and three or four local police departments, sure that they are causing all sorts of problems in her world. With electromagnet waves and microwaves and chemicals. She had pictures of workman working in her neighborhood, sure that they were spying on her. And pictures of contrails from airplanes, sure that they were chemicals landing in her backyard. When she had a job, she had to quit because her co-workers were spraying her with body-mites.

Reading that made me grateful that I have my mind. I felt so bad for this woman, so sure that the world is out to get her. I wonder if she has a family nearby, people who love her and protect her if they can. I wonder if letting her file this complaint kept her busy, writing it up and doing all the research and searching through all the pictures.

I think my Lenten promise is working. I think I’m getting back to being the optimistic, open-hearted woman I remember. I thing grateful in life is the way to go, helping me look at what I have rather than what is missing.

I’m going to do my best to live a grateful life rather than a ‘that’s not fair’ life. Life isn’t always fair, but it is wonderful. You just have to look at it the right way.

And speaking of grateful, today I’m grateful to  Sara Gruen for writing At the Water’s Edge.

And here’s why . . . .


I read an advanced copy of this book, but it is available for pre-order. Its release is set for March 31, 2015. 

Sara Gruen seems to have a thing for the beasties of the world. Water for Elephants, Ape House, and Riding Lessons–all have a pretty prevalent animal theme. And At the Water’s Edge stays true, this time incorporating the Loch Ness monster.

Madeline Hyde is a spoiled rich girl having a grand old time with her husband, Ellis, and his bestfriend, Hank, in Philadelphia during World War II. When the three of them get very drunk and disgrace the family during a New Year’s Eve party, Ellis’s father and mother cut him off from the family fortune. Destitute, Ellis decides the only way to get back in the family’s good graces is to prove his father right, to find and photograph the Loch Ness monster (it seems his father went on the hunt early in life and resorted to fabricating photos).

Maddie isn’t excited, but decides she has no alternative but to follow Ellis and Hank to Scotland, which isn’t easy during a war. The trip is hard and horrible on a Navy transport, but they eventually land and are driven to Drumnadrochit, Scotland, a highland town near the Loch. The lodgings are not up to their standards, and soon their true selves, the ones they hide under all their Philadelphia society coolness, start to emerge.

This is a wonderful, readable story of a woman lost to herself, wallowing in a shallow marriage in an even shallower world. When the life she knows is pulled out from under her, Maddie must confront her inner demons and stand on her own two feet. The world she knew in the States is far away, and Maddie is befriended by the two women who work at the inn. When her world is turned upside down by these women, Maddie faces hard truths about herself and her marriage that, in the end, save her life.

I really came to like Maddie. She is smart and funny and very, very broken at the start of the book. Somehow, through it all, she hangs onto her sanity and finds herself.

Crossing the Atlantic, Maddie finds a monster in Scotland, but it doesn’t live in Loch Ness. While Maddie finds her true self is strong and capable, Ellis finds his true self to be what most monsters are inside: a weak bully. And Hank, well he is very one dimensional, the rich, shallow playboy without any redeeming qualities.

The characters are all well written and well-rounded. Maddie is one of my favorite characters of 2015. Gruen does a great job creating real, raw, believable characters in an unbelievable situation. I was transported so thoroughly to Scotland during the rations and blackout curtains of WWII that realizing that I was actually in Ohio in the present day was a shock. And that’s my hope of every book I open; to be transported through space and time.

The story moved well, with just enough twists and turns. The book had a happy ending, which is expected and appreciated, but this one has a twist that makes it a little too happy. That’s okay, a happy twist worked for me.

I give this one 4.5 stars. I LOVED it. It just missed the five star mark for me–the end was just a little too much over the top. But this book made me happy to be a reader, and that is a good thing.

After you’ve read the book, please come back and answer my question below!!!

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Who, or what, do you think killed Ellis?

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Author:

I love to read; writing is my outlet. My blog is my way to combine the two, with a some life stories thrown in for good measure.

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