After disgracing themselves at a high society New Year's Eve party in Philadelphia in 1944, Madeline Hyde and her husband, Ellis, are cut off financially by his father, a former army colonel who is already ashamed of his son's inability to serve in the war. When Ellis and his best friend, Hank, decide that the only way to regain the Colonel's favor is to succeed where the Colonel very publicly failed--by hunting down the famous Loch Ness monster--Maddie reluctantly follows them across the Atlantic, leaving her sheltered world behind.
The trio find themselves in a remote village in the Scottish Highlands, where the locals have nothing but contempt for the privileged interlopers. Maddie is left on her own at the isolated inn, where food is rationed, fuel is scarce, and a knock from the postman can bring tragic news. Yet she finds herself falling in love with the stark beauty and subtle magic of the Scottish countryside. Gradually she comes to know the villagers, and the friendships she forms with two young women open her up to a larger world than she knew existed. Maddie begins to see that nothing is as it first appears: the values she holds dear prove unsustainable, and monsters lurk where they are least expected. As she embraces a fuller sense of who she might be, Maddie becomes aware not only of the dark forces around her, but of life's beauty and surprising possibilities.
Read an exclusive note from the author and an excerpt from the book!
Praise for "At the Water's Edge"
- "If I needed a reminder why I am such a fan of Sara Gruen's books, her latest novel provides plenty. Unique in its setting and scope, this impeccably researched historical fiction is full of the gorgeous prose I've come to expect from this author. And even after the final page, its message still resonates with me: The monsters we seek may be right in front of us. In fact, the only fault I can find with this book is that I've already finished it."--Jodi Picoult, "New York Times" bestselling author of "Leaving Time"
- "I devoured this book. Once again Sara Gruen has proven herself to be one of America's most compelling storytellers. You might be tempted to rush to get to the answers at the end--but don't, or you'll miss the delectable journey that is Gruen's prose."--Kathryn Stockett, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Help"
- "Magical . . . "At the Water's Edge" skillfully transports us to a small, tenacious Scottish village in the grip of war, and into the heart of Madeline Hyde, a woman who is a stranger to herself until forces convene to rock her awake. Sara Gruen is a wizard at capturing the essence of her historical setting, and does so here in spades, but it's Maddie's unexpected transformation that grounds and drives the novel."--Paula McLain, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Paris Wife"
- "At the Water's Edge" is a rich, beautiful novel. Elegantly written and compulsively readable, it is at once a gripping love story, a profound examination of the effects of war on ordinary women, and a compelling portrait of female friendship."--Kristin Hannah, "New York Times" bestselling author of "The Nightingale"
Monsters beneath the surface
BookPage Fiction Top Pick, April 2015
A search for an elusive sea monster at the height of World War II sounds like the plot of a genre-mashup movie. But in At the Water’s Edge, the latest novel from Water for Elephants author Sara Gruen, what starts out as a lark on the part of rich, entitled friends turns into a quest that is at times frightening, liberating and even comical.
Bored and wealthy Ellis schemes to find and photograph the Loch Ness Monster in an attempt to one-up his dismissive father, who was ultimately discredited in his own infamous attempt. He and his best friend, Hank, drag Ellis’ wife, Maddie, along—and her journey to uncover truths about herself, her marriage and the kind of life she wants to lead provides the novel’s heart.
Glad simply to be alive after encountering German U-boats during their Atlantic crossing, Maddie isn’t willing to participate in the boys’ foolish scheme—and she soon starts to wonder whether the true monster might be closer to home. Ellis and Hank certainly possess money and the breeding that often goes along with it, but as their search proves futile, Ellis displays increasing disdain for Maddie and the people of the Scottish village where they’ve sheltered. As Ellis’ desperation mounts, Maddie fears for the safety of herself and her newfound friends, including the brooding, handsome proprietor of the village inn.
Gruen skillfully weaves in historical reference points, making Maddie’s story seem larger than that individual focus. The author conveys the lure of the Scottish Highlands, and its storied lore and mystery help create her novel’s riveting, ethereal atmosphere. Maddie’s growing self-awareness is presented in stark—and welcome—contrast to her husband’s spiral into conceit and self-deception.
At the Water’s Edge captivates with its drama, intrigue and glimpses of both the dark and light of humanity. As Jane Austen once wrote, “with due exceptions, woman feels for woman very promptly and compassionately.” For all her faults, Maddie’s tragic history and her courage in the face of her present predicament will win readers to her side.