A very busy friend of mine, Mrs M, recommended The Drowning Girls to me. She loves to read but, by virtue of being a teacher, finds very little time outside of summer to do so. I’m always very wary of book recommendations (oh, the irony!) particularly when there is the physical donation of the book itself, meaning that you actually have to read it. I’ve actually never been a person who looks for recommendations outside of a couple of very trusted friends. There tends not to be a quid pro quo in these matters, either you read the same kinds of books or you don’t. If I want to buy for The Husband, then yes, I might ask a few people or keep my eyes open for book reviews but for myself, a trip to the bookstore, is like visiting a sweetie shop. I’m happy to go there any day of the week and just take my time.
All that aside, on this occasion I’m happy to have found myself obligated. The Drowning Girls by Paula Treick Deboard is a very sad suburban tale and actually my friend was right to recommend it, as it’s one of those stories that you read whilst all the time thinking that it could happen to you or any one of your friends. Who doesn’t enjoy a little relatable fiction once in awhile?
Liz and Phil McGinnis move into an enormous house within a luxury gated community in the Bay Area, with Liz’s teenage daughter Danielle. The move is generated not by their own affluence but due to Phil’s new job as property manager for the community. From the very beginning, the move does not feel like a good fit to Liz. Although pleased with her husband’s success, she struggles both socially with the entitled residents of the community and the house in which she finds herself living. When Danielle becomes friendly with Kelsey, the same girl who appears to be developing a crush on Phil, things quickly spiral downwards.
The great strength of this novel lies in the vividness of the characters. The story itself feels familiar, but I think this is largely because you feel like you are being told it across the table from a friend, whilst enjoying a large glass of wine. You can see, mostly, where the plot is going and there is nothing you can do to stop it. Nothing except read and read and read. Treick Deboard shows us by turns just how easy it is to dismantle trust in all the things we hold dear and how even our absolutes can totally fail us when put to the test.
As familiar as the plot may have seemed at times, it never took away from the enjoyment of the novel, nor did the ending disappoint. In fact the ending was a total surprise to me. The novel is well devised so that you fluctuate effortlessly between the terrible events unfolding in the present day and that back story of how the family ended up there. It’s all just too awfully plausible and sad. Read it.