Book Review: Into the Water

INTO THE WATER | Paula Hawkins
Riverhead Books | 05.02.2017
Rating: 3/5 stars

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Nel Abbott has been found dead at the bottom of the river running through her hometown. The same river claimed the life of her daughter’s best friend, Katie Whittaker, earlier in the year. The river has a reputation for being the final resting place for many women over the history of this town. A history that was being exposed in a book Nel Abbott was writing.

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People turned a blind eye, though, didn’t they? No one liked to think about the fact that the water in that river was infected with the blood and bile of persecuted women, unhappy women, they drank it every day.

Left behind from these tragic deaths are Nel’s daughter and Katie’s best friend, Lena Abbott, who must now find solace in the care of her estranged aunt, Jules, who thought she left this town behind for good many years ago. Woven into their lives are the Whittaker family, led by the angry and bitter mother, Louise, who will stop at nothing to blame Lena for Katie’s death.

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You lost your daughter and I lost my mother. Doesn’t that make us even? Can’t you just forgive me now?

The cast of characters quickly spirals out of control as practically each chapter introduces a new narrator. These narrators alternate at sporadic intervals, leaving the reader flipping back through the novel to figure out who they are and how they play a role in the story. It feels as though Hawkins wanted the reader to be able to experience firsthand the manner in which each narrator has been affected by a woman lost to the river, however, I believe this could have been more seamlessly portrayed. Mixed throughout the regular chapters are excerpts from Nel Abbott’s tell-all book about the river. These excerpts don’t seem to add much to the story and often feel like a retelling of information from whatever narrator was tied to that particular story.

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Serious, how is anyone supposed to keep track of all the bodies around here? It’s like Midsomer Murders, only with accidents and suicides and grotesque historical misogynistic drownings instead of people falling into the slurry or bashing each other over the head.

I picked up INTO THE WATER because of my love for THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN, but was cautious because of the influx of negative reviews across the internet. I believe that Hawkins told a compelling story of tragedy and family connections, but for a reader looking for the next great thriller, this slow-burn read does not deliver. Despite my distaste for the endless list of narrators, I did find myself engaged with the characters and wanting to know the truth behind the women lost to the river. Hawkins neatly wraps up the story in Part Four with one last snippet from each narrator and finally, the truth.

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