When I saw that Eternal on the Water was going to be the January’s First Look book selection, I have to be honest and tell you that I didn’t know much about either the book or its author, Joseph Monninger. However, the blurb regarding the book was enough to incite my curiosity. So, I sent my message and eagerly awaited the arrival of this novel and the opportunity to discuss it.
I would love to be able to say that the book lived up to the promises in the blurb from the start. Alas, the opposite was true. In sticking with a current trend in fiction, the ending was revealed in the prologue. I am not sure why this trend exists. For me, it is akin to skipping to the last couple of chapters of a book, just to see how it ends. I personally prefer to be kept in suspense, wondering what might happen in the next chapter and around the bend.
Still, I kept going. The book is only 344 pages long, which should be an easy two-hour read. Unfortunately, it was actually very slow going. The lead male character (Cobb) is on sabbatical tracing Thoreau’s trip down the Allagash river. It is here that Cobb meets Mary. Stories about crows and pretentiousness about Thoreau ensue for about six chapters. It is here that we meet the Chungamunga girls and the story picks up for a little while. But, like the river, this story ebbs and flows, picks up speed during the rapids and then slows to a babbling brook.
There are many references in the novel that make me wonder if there is a companion novel where the characters show and if I am missing something. While I live my life in randomness, I am not sure if I appreciate that in what I read. There are many points where Monninger interjects comments that had me checking several pages earlier to make sure I didn’t miss something (and no, I didn’t).
In the last few chapters, Monninger almost redeems the story…almost. The resolution leaves you wondering if you would help your loved one make the same choices if faced with the same inevitable ending. If you knew there was nothing you could do to change the fact that life would end, would you help it to end on his or her terms?
I end in the middle on this novel. I again rate a book based on its re-readability. I would probably read this one again, but it wouldn’t be at the top of my have-to read pile.