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Publisher's Summary

Perfect for fans of The Mothers and Olive Kitteridge, in this stunning and perceptive debut novel three women learn what it means to come home - and to make peace with the family, love affairs, and memories they'd once left behind.

"Here are voices from the heartland rendered real, raw, and aching.... Reminiscent of Celeste Ng's Little Fires Everywhere, this novel announces Jeni McFarland as a writer of our generation." (Aja Gabel, author of The Ensemble)

River Bend, Michigan, is the kind of small town most can't imagine leaving, but three women couldn't wait to escape. When each must return - Linda Williams, never sure what she wants; her mother, Paula, always too sure; and Beth DeWitt, one of River Bend's only black daughters, now a mother of two who'd planned to raise her own children anywhere else - their paths collide under Beth's father's roof. As one town struggles to contain all of their love affairs and secrets, a local scandal forces Beth to confront her own devastating past. 

Filled with the voices of mothers and daughters, husbands, lovers, and fathers, The House of Deep Water explores motherhood, trauma, love, loss, and new beginnings found in a most unlikely place: home.

©2020 Jeni McFarland (P)2020 Penguin Audio

Critic Reviews

One of PopSugar's 25 Best New Books Coming Out in April 2020

One of BookRiot's 10 Books to Read If You Like Little Fires Everywhere

"Jeni McFarland writes nuanced, layered relationships in her absorbing debut about three women who return to the small town of their childhoods and grapple with family, race, class and the expectations of womanhood." (Ms. Magazine)   

"Just like life, McFarland's debut is big, messy, and complicated while also being a completely engrossing portrait of her characters and their hometown. She deftly weaves in issues of race and consent. Perfect for those who like books about family dysfunction." (Booklist

"[A] fine debut.... Handled with realistic nuance. McFarland's layered tale will appeal to readers who liked Tayari Jones' An American Marriage." (Publishers Weekly)

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Solid Debut

River Bend, Michigan, a small town full of secrets, lies, lost souls and deeply rooted pain. It’s the place one calls home while longing to escape yet return to because it’s all they know, who they are and all they will ever be.

Gilmer Thurber’s arrest made national news. It was a scandal big enough for the nation to cover, but too painful for the people of River Bend to face head on.

Elizabeth Dewitt, almost intentionally, lost her job in Charlotte, NC forcing her return to her fathers house in River Bend after years of being away. The return home was dark, gloomy and depressing. For months she hid from herself in that house. Kept herself locked away in her room barely tending to her children’s needs as the little girl in her wrestled with the pain of being victimized by Gilmer Thurber. Being molested as a child made Beth feel worthless so much so she believed she was trash unworthy of love.

The House is Deep Water has many characters, but the heart of the story focuses on the life of Elizabeth Dewitt. Written in third person omniscient point of view with flashbacks of Elizabeth Dewitt in first person. At first it’s hard to follow because there’s so many characters with interlocking relationships and the first section attempts to introduce all the man in players, but as the story goes on the writing style becomes smoother as the story becomes easier to follow.

There’s nothing disappointing about the book, but there’s also nothing fascinating. It’s a story about a bunch of hurt people who don’t know how to love. Overall I’d say The House is Deep Water is a solid debut. I’d score the book a three, and would probably read more work from the author.

I also most note, I only heard the voice of two of the listed narrators. I didn’t notice Jonathan McClain or Andrew Eiden.