Title: Treading Water
Author: Belle A. Decosta
Ambitious, career-driven, and on top of her game, Caroline McMerritt appears to have it all, until the day it all comes crashing down. Forced to take a break from the relentless pace of her New York existence, she finds herself spending the summer in an old family cabin, situated in a rural town in Maine where the stores don’t even sell alcohol. It’s there she discovers an old family secret, meets new friends, and gradually comes to terms with the woman she’s become and the life she’s led.
Treading Water is one of those books that is largely driven by the strength of the main character, because there’s not as much happening otherwise in the plot. It’s a straight-forward story, and the narrative is more or less linear, apart from a parallel storyline toward the middle of the book which added an extra layer of intrigue and suspense. The book had some pacing issues and could have been improved by editing out parts that didn’t add much to the wider fabric of the story.
The writing style was easy and fluid, with a sharp sense of humor that keeps things from being overly maudlin and trite even in the more emotional and provocative scenes. But truly, the beating heart of this story, as previously mentioned, is its main character. Caroline leaps off the pages and within the first few paragraphs of the opening chapter, you already get a sense of who she is and what she’s going through. She is an emotive character: readers will either love her or hate her, but they certainly will keep reading on to find out more about her.
Belle A. Decosta did a very good job of juxtaposing this portrait of a self-made woman who has it all together with the gradual self-destruction of a suffering human being just underneath the surface. Caroline’s soul is practically crying out for help and some kind of change. Fortunately, she is surrounded by a large group of supporting characters that, in the hands of lesser-skilled author, could have made the book feel crowded, but in this case were perfectly slotted to complement rather than overwhelm.
Caroline’s character arc and journey toward personal growth is allowed to take center stage and is clearly the whole point of this story. Sure, said personal growth could have been more fleshed out so it felt more organic; perhaps her character arc wasn’t fully realized by the end of the book. Overall, however, the book had a strong point of view and a clear message of finding yourself and liking the person you see in the mirror when the superficial strappings of life are stripped away.
Treading Water is a light, easy read that has enough substance to elevate it from the usual, run-of-the-mill beach-read fares. The warm, homey feel of Sunday mornings and roast coffees is coupled with the cautionary tale of what happens when we fail to recognize what truly gives our lives meaning. Ultimately, it is a testament to the joys of just being, and a reminder that it does not do to spend so much of our time chasing after more. Sometimes, you just need a jolt to remind you that all you need is enough.
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