Blue Water

( 12 )

Overview

From New York Times bestselling author A. Manette Ansay comes an unforgettable story of two families united by tragedy — and one woman's deeply emotional journey toward a choice she'd never thought possible.

On an ordinary morning in Fox Harbor, Wisconsin, Meg and Rex Van Dorn's lives are irrevocably altered when a drunk driver — Meg's onetime best friend, Cindy Ann Kreisler — slams into the Van Dorns' car, killing their six-year-old son, Evan. As Meg recovers from her own ...

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Overview

From New York Times bestselling author A. Manette Ansay comes an unforgettable story of two families united by tragedy — and one woman's deeply emotional journey toward a choice she'd never thought possible.

On an ordinary morning in Fox Harbor, Wisconsin, Meg and Rex Van Dorn's lives are irrevocably altered when a drunk driver — Meg's onetime best friend, Cindy Ann Kreisler — slams into the Van Dorns' car, killing their six-year-old son, Evan. As Meg recovers from her own injuries, she and Rex are shocked when Cindy Ann receives a mere slap on the wrist. In their rage and grief, they buy a boat to sail around the world, hoping to put as much distance as possible between themselves and Cindy Ann. But when Meg returns to Fox Harbor for a family wedding, she's forced to face the complex ties that bind her to the woman who has destroyed her peace.

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Editorial Reviews

Chicago Tribune
“[A] brilliant new novel...[with] a pitch-perfect tone.”
Boston Globe
“Ansay’s clear voice, clean style, true characters, and sophisticated plot exude a gem.”
Publishers Weekly
In Vinegar Hill author Ansay's latest, a probing character study, Meg Van Dorn and her husband, Rex, struggle with the loss of six-year-old son, Evan, in a crash with Cindy Ann Kreisler-Meg's best friend from high school and an alcoholic, who was drunk at the wheel. The two file a civil suit that would financially ruin the well-off Cindy Ann, but Meg has a change of heart, given the impending marriage of Meg's older brother to Cindy Ann's sister; it's more a contrived plot device than a genuine narrative event, but it does force Meg to constantly shift her perspective on the tragedy, especially as Ansay offers a sympathetic sketch of Cindy Ann and her troubled past. Most of Meg's emotional cycling takes place on the Atlantic coast, where she and Rex have gone sailing as a coping strategy and have fallen in with various strands of lower-end sailing culture: the book's best energy is spent in places like the Island Girls bar, to which Meg eventfully repairs one night without Rex. The resolution of Meg and Rex's marital issues seems glaringly underwritten in the final chapters, but on the whole, this is a solid and revelatory novel on themes of grief and loss. (On sale Apr. 25) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Ansay takes us on the dark, emotional journey of a mother's losing a child and brings us out on the other side into forgiveness and redemption. Meg and Rex Van Dorn's comfortable life in Meg's home town on the Wisconsin shore of Lake Michigan ends when their young son is killed in a car accident as Meg is driving him to school. Cindy Ann, the driver who caused the accident, was Meg's best friend in high school. Meg and Rex file a civil suit against Cindy but drop it when they find that bitterness is dominating their lives. Trying to start over, they buy a sailboat and move to the Caribbean. Their seafaring life, which Ansay depicts authentically in all its drudgery and danger, seems exotic but offers them little comfort. In time, Meg's feelings about Cindy evolve into something like a supernatural connection. When she learns that Rex is secretly pursuing the civil suit, the differences in how they cope with grief begin to pull their marriage apart. For all popular fiction collections; buy to please the many fans of Ansay's Oprah selection, Vinegar Hill.-Reba Leiding, James Madison Univ. Libs., Harrisonburg, VA Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A soft-spoken, unenergetic narrative of grief, anger and forgiveness. Megan Van Dorn, nearing her 50s, has found fulfillment in late motherhood; life in her Midwestern suburb is good, and she even seems to enjoy spending hours in an ergonomic chair in an accounting office. Then tragedy strikes: Her bright, pleasant son is killed in an automobile accident. The offending driver is Megan's childhood friend Cindy Ann Kreisler, who, it seems, has a drinking problem but who manages to avoid a Breathalyzer test until a couple of hours after the crash, and even then "her blood alcohol level . . . was barely within Wisconsin's legal limit." In depicting all this, novelist and memoirist Ansay (Limbo, 2001, etc.) is matter-of-fact, at a seeming remove from her characters. When Cindy Ann is acquitted with a slap-on-the-wrist punishment, Megan finds herself "terrible in my anger: strong, and fierce, and righteous. I could have led an army"; yet the reader doesn't ever feel much of this anger, for Megan's narration is flat and without affect, and her discovery of "the sheer cathartic power of . . . rage" is evidenced mostly by the fact that she sets a lawyer loose on Cindy Ann while she and her near-perfect husband, Rex, fulfill his dream of setting sail to the Caribbean. A year passes, and Megan, who returns home from time to time to attend to household matters, finds her rage slowly dissipating at the sight of poor Cindy Ann, who has hit rock-bottom and seems not to know how to climb up again. What to do? Well, Rex has taken to hitting the bottle himself, and to his irritation, Megan acts on that sense of pity, all of which has-well, consequences. Effective at moments. But, for the most part, thetelling is long and the showing short; not much happens, and when it does, it seldom moves.
Booklist
“A perfectly pitched, impossible-to-set-down tale of the consequences of the death of a child”
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780380732883
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 4/11/2006
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 969,675
  • Product dimensions: 5.31 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.68 (d)

Meet the Author

A. Manette Ansay

A. Manette Ansay is the author of eight books, including Vinegar Hill, Midnight Champagne (a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award), and Blue Water. She has received the Pushcart Prize, two Great Lakes Book Awards, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. She teaches in the MFA writing program at the University of Miami.

Biography

A. Manette Ansay's first novel, Vinegar Hill, established the writer as a novelist who could tell a difficult story with great grace. Born in Michigan in 1964 and raised in Port Washington, Wisconsin among a huge Roman Catholic extended family, Ansay infuses her fiction with the reality of Midwestern farm life, the constraints of Roman Catholicism, and the toll the combination can take on women and men alike.

Philosophical and cerebral, with a gift for identifying the telling domestic detail and conveying it in a fresh way, Ansay incorporates the rhythm of rural Midwestern life -- the polka dance at a wedding reception, the bowling alley, community suppers, gossip, passion, and betrayal -- into novels that illuminate the most difficult aspects of maintaining any close relationship, whether it be familial or not. In Vinegar Hill, Ansay examines the forces that hold a Catholic woman in the 1970s hostage to her emotionally abusive marriage. In Midnight Champagne, set at a wedding, she focuses her lens on the institution of marriage itself; the story is told through the shifting points of view of the couples who attend the event.

Readers and critics alike have testified to her talents: The New Yorker said of Vinegar Hill, "This world is lit by the measured beauty of her prose, and the final line is worth the pain it takes to get there." The novel was selected for Oprah's Book Club in 1999; Ansay's following book, Midnight Champagne, was a finalist for a National Book Critics Circle Award.

Like Flannery O'Connor, whom Ansay cites as an influence, Ansay is concerned with moments of grace in which the truth suddenly manifests itself with life-changing intensity. In the wrong hands, her material could be the stuff of soap operas. But Ansay strives for emotional complexity rather than mere bathos, and addresses both suffering and joy with intelligence and sensitivity.

Ansay's life has been as complex and fascinating as the dramas that unfold in her novels. A gifted pianist as a child, she studied at the University of Wisconsin while still a high school student. Later, while a student at the Peabody Conservatory of Music, she was afflicted by a disease that devastated her neurological system, cutting short her dreams of becoming a concert pianist, and leaving her confined for years to a wheelchair. She had never written fiction before, but turned her disciplined ear and mind to writing, promising herself to write two hours a day, three days a week, the same sort of disciplined schedule she had imposed on herself as a student musician.

Limbo, Ansay's story of her struggle with illness, is as evocatively written as her novels. Ansay never descends into sentimentality, but instead confronts her medical problems – and the limitations they impose – unflinchingly, describing both the indignities that disabled people face daily, as well as how her own illness has become a personal test of faith.

Good To Know

Ansay was still looking for the appropriate title for her first novel when, on the way to a meeting with her MFA advisor near Cornell University, Ansay spotted a street sign with the answer. "I happened to glance up and see a street sign that said "Vinegar Hill." It was perfect," Ansay writes on her web site. "I had never turned onto that street before, and I made a point never to do so afterwards. I wanted it to belong solely to my characters. And it does."

One scene in Midnight Champagne, the air-hockey table encounter, was written for a friend of Ansay's. She writes, "A friend of mine had been musing about sex and literature, and she said, 'Why is it that we so seldom read about the kind of sex we want to be having?' I said, 'What kind of sex is that?' She said, 'Fun sex.' I said, 'I'm writing a scene just for you."'

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    1. Hometown:
      Port Washington, Wisconsin; now lives in New York City
    1. Date of Birth:
      1964
    2. Place of Birth:
      Lapeer, Michigan
    1. Education:
      MFA, Cornell University, 1991

Read an Excerpt

Blue Water

A Novel
By A. Ansay

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright ©2006 A. Ansay
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0380732882

Chapter One

Forget what you've read about the ocean. Forget white sails on a blue horizon, the romance of it, the beauty. A picnic basket in a quiet anchorage, the black-tipped flash of gulls. The sound of the wind like a pleasant song, the curved spine of the coast --

-- no.

Such images belong to shore. They have nothing whatsoever to do with the sea.

Imagine a place of infinite absence. An empty ballroom, the colors muted, the edges lost in haze. The sort of dream you have when you've gone beyond exhaustion to a strange, otherworldly country, a place I'd visited once before in the months that followed the birth of my son, when days and nights blurred into a single lost cry, when I'd find myself standing over the crib, or rocking him, breathing the musk of his hair, or lying in bed beside Rex's dark shape, unable to recall how I'd gotten there. As if I'd been plucked out of one life and dropped, wriggling and whole, into another. Day after day, week after week, the lack of sleep takes its toll. You begin to see things that may or may not be there. You understand how the sailors of old so willingly met their deaths on the rocks, believing in visions of beautiful women, sirens, mermaids with long, sparkling hair.

The crest of awave becomes a human face, openmouthed, white-eyed, astonished. The spark of a headlight appears in the sky, edges closer, fades, edges closer still. There's a motion off the bow, and I clutch at the helm, catch myself thinking, Turn!

But, eventually, I learn to let my eyes fall out of focus. Blink, look again. Wipe my sweating face. There is nothing out there but gray waves, gray waves.

Clouds. A translucent slice of moon.

Space.

We alternated watches, Rex and I: four hours on, four hours off. We had a ship's clock that rang out the hours. We had charts and a sextant, a handheld GPS. We had an outdated radar system; we had a small refrigerator, a water maker, clothing and books sealed in plastic wrap. We had five hundred pounds of canned goods, nuts, dried fruit and beans, powdered milk.

We had a ship's log, where we jotted down notes: latitude and longitude, course and speed, wind direction, weather, unusual observations.

We had a float plan, which we left with my brother, Toby; he posted it in the fish store, on the bulletin board behind the cash -register. People stopped by with farewell gifts: cookies sealed in Tupperware, a book of crossword puzzles, religious cards, funny cards, cards simply wishing us well. Everyone in Fox Harbor knew why we were leaving, of course, and this was another reason why I'd agreed to rent our house and move onto the sailboat Rex had bought in Portland, Maine. Our first destination was Bermuda, our ETA three to five weeks. From Bermuda, we'd continue southeast to the Bahamas, island-hop down to the Caicos. Perhaps we'd -winter over in Puerto Rico. Or perhaps we'd cross the ocean to Portugal -- who could say? We might even head to Panama, pass through the canal, find our way north along the coast to the Mexican Bajas. So much depended on weather, on wind. On our own day-to-day inclinations.

The plan, Rex liked to tell people, is not to have a plan.

It had always been Rex's dream to live aboard a sailboat, and Chelone was exactly the boat that he had wanted. A blue water boat, he called her. A boat built to sail around the world. He'd grown up on Cape Cod, sailing with his father; at twenty, he was captain of his college sailing team, and before heading west to Madison for law school, he'd worked as a mate aboard a private schooner, cruising the Virgin Islands. On cold winter nights as we lay in bed, listening to the east wind screaming off Lake Michigan, he'd tell me about the islands he'd seen, casuarina trees and pink sand beaches, sailboats at anchor outside each rustic harbor. Passing these boats, you'd see dogs racing from bow to stern, bicycles lashed to the safety lines, laundry fluttering from the rigging. Entire families spent their whole lives just cruising from place to place, dropping anchor wherever they chose. No bills to pay, no responsibilities. You didn't like your neighbor, no problem, you sailed away.

Maybe, he'd whisper, his breath warm against my neck, we could do the same thing someday.

I like our neighbors fine, Rex.

Seriously.

I am serious.

At the time, I couldn't imagine saying good-bye to Toby, to my friends at the accounting firm where I worked, to our fieldstone house overlooking the lake, to the small, Wisconsin town where I'd been raised. Still, after years spent trying to conceive a child, after the shots and surgeries, the herbal teas, the special masses; after trying to adopt the infant of a teenage girl who changed her mind, I started to pay more attention whenever Rex talked about heading to sea. I leafed through his copies of Practical Sailor, his scrapbook of sail plans and hull designs. I studied the glossy brochures he -received from boat builders around the world. I'd always enjoyed sailing, and though I'd only sailed on the Great Lakes, I figured that the ocean couldn't be all that different. Water was water, after all. You wore a life jacket. You learned to hang on.

Then, one week before my fortieth birthday, I discovered I was pregnant with Evan. After eleven years of marriage, we were -finally -- unexpectedly -- about to have a child. Our plans no longer belonged to us, and the truth was that we gave them up eagerly. We wanted to make sacrifices. We wanted to shake our heads ruefully, saying, But then we had the baby so we couldn't . . .

Six years later, our lives changed again, when Evan was killed in a car accident involving someone I'd known since grade school. Someone whose birthday parties I'd attended. . . .

Continues...


Excerpted from Blue Water by A. Ansay Copyright ©2006 by A. Ansay. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 12 )
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Sort by: Showing 1 – 13 of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 19, 2014

    Looking in the mirror

    I picked up this book because my husband and I plan on moving onto a cruising sailboat someday. What I did not expect was that it would bring up my own past and drag out emotions and questions that I never dreamed were living inside me. Long story short, my father was killed by a drunk driver when I was 5 months old: she also killed her 14 year old nephew and landed herself in prison for manslaughter. I found myself wondering about this woman who's name I didn't even know. What is she doing today? Does she think about me, the fatherless child that was left behind? And about my mother's capacity to forgive this woman who never meant to destroy our lives. How did she manage to get out of bed everyday and feed my sister and I when she was so stricken with grief.

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  • Posted June 27, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    A must read. This is a shorter book (280 pages) but not short o

    A must read. This is a shorter book (280 pages) but not short on substance. A couple's son is killed in a car accident, and the story follows the year plus after his death. It shows you the emotional journey that his mother goes on after that time, and the rifts that comes between the couple. There are parts of the book when Meg and Rex are on board, and nothing much happens in the book. However, what is happening is inside them, as part of their learning to sail and learning to live a new life - on the water, without their son, with each other.

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  • Posted August 3, 2012

    Blue Water is a decent book. The premise of the story is quite c

    Blue Water is a decent book. The premise of the story is quite captivating, as it tells the story of a woman whose life got turned upside down when her son was killed in a car accident by a hung-over driver one morning while on her way to driving him to school. The hung-over driver is her one-time teen-hood friend who was actually on her way to driving her daughters to school. The accident influences the protagonist, Megan Van Dorn and her husband Rex to go on a sailing trip to put distance from the town and get away from their stresses and strains. Things take an unexpected turn when Megan receives an invitation from her brother, Toby, to his wedding, where he wishes to tie the knot with his fiancee, Mallory, the sister of the very woman who killed her son.

    Blue Water's concept is what influenced me to pick it up and read it. One reviewer before me with the review title "Eh..." sums up a lot of my feelings on the book. Some things that I like about the book are that it is very poetic in its contents. It is written with a certain lyrical finesse that I find captivating in a novel such as this, one with the central themes of loss, emotional conflict and forgiveness. The characters are very realistic as well. Nothing is exaggerated. Each character is a real person, fleshed out and rendered raw to the reader. Ansay's themes of heartache and pain are described very well with a finely honed sense of how to use her metaphors and similes that sparks utter fascination in a reader.

    There was one thing I did not like about the novel. After Megan and Rex leave Fox Harbor and set sail on the open seas, the novel seems to slow down its tempo a bit. When Megan and Rex are out at sea, they don't exactly do a whole lot until they meet other people. A lot of that time is describing how they're spending their time with each other aboard Chellone, their boat, and I personally don't find these sections of the book to be all that exciting. The only thing getting me through these parts of the novel was Ansay's literary finesse. The novel is at its most engaging when there is a sense of tension or confrontation among the characters. This novel is, in my best guess, considering I've never gone sailing, a lot like the seas themselves: when it's calm, it's very calm, almost boringly calm, but when it's turbulent, the tempest is thrilling and unexpected. This aspect of the novel, for me personally, is realistic to a fault. Realistic to a fault in that I understand why the slow parts of the novel were slow, but still wish they hadn't been.

    All in all, I thought the novel was well-written and very well-conceived, but the frequent slow patches in the story prevented me from giving it a higher rating.

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  • Posted May 15, 2012

    Excellent Read

    I picked this book up attracted by the cover and title. As a sailor and avid reader I was quickly caught up in the author's wonderful story telling. I couldn't put it down. I work at a library and know we have at least one of her books. I will now make sure we have all of them.

    I will pass this on to all my sailing friends to read this Summer.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 5, 2011

    Eh...

    I didn't finish the book. It starts off interesting, and my first thought was, "Wow, I can't wait for this to pick up," because I was sure it would. But it didn't. Part of the problem is because it felt like the characters were stripped of their challenge.

    The first chapter is very interesting. The characters are struggling. But then, to get away from that struggle, they run away from it, and then it's just them, alone, running away. It's not very exciting.

    I put the book down when I saw it might not pick up any time soon.

    One problem I had was with the characters. The main character and her brother, are pretty well developed by the end of the first chapter. You have an idea of who they are. But the woman's husband, I felt I didn't know much at all about until the second chapter, where I knew slightly more. The husband is a main character, and I didn't feel he was developed well.

    However, that said, I didn't finish the book. So, it might become the page-turner I was expecting it to be a little bit further on, and I'll be sorry I put it down. The writing was very well done -- I love the way the author opened the book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 19, 2010

    Disappointed...

    I was really disappointed with this read. While the first few chapters really caught my attention, I was very bored throughout the book and was really trying to "just finish it." However, the last few chapters did catch my attention again and I was quite pleased with the ending. The author did very well at making the characters real and pain was felt for the loss of the son.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 23, 2007

    Life's lessons

    I chose this book from the reviews that were written. I was not disappointed. The book is an easy read and one that I could not put down. Being able to walk along with the main character as she went through the grieving process was helpful in dealing with my own grief.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 24, 2006

    COULD NOT PUT THIS BOOK DOWN

    It has been a long time since I read a book that I couldn't put down and Ansay's Blue Water accomplishes that task nicely. As a freelance writer myself, I especially loved the writing style of this author. Words, scenes and pages flowed smoothly. Truly a poignant story, there were times that I laughed and times that it brought tears to my eyes. While reading this wonderful book, I emphasized with the many characters and felt I was outside looking in on their lives. That's how real this story was for me. I would recommend this book highly to anyone who is interested in a compelling story. I also liked how the author chose to end the story. There's nothing worse than reading a book and 'knowing' how the story ends by the middle chapters. Blue Water is truly a remarkable book. I intend to read more of this author's books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 30, 2006

    A Great Book That Teaches!

    The story Blue Water is endearing yet it is one every parent hopes to never have to face. What Meg and Rex go through after losing their son is difficult for me to imagine since I have a son who is almost two. I was able to reflect on my own life and be thankful for everything that I do have. I won¿t forget what happened in this book because it does come close to home. The characters were so real to me that I put myself in Meg¿s shoes through the whole book. I most felt for Cindy Ann since she had the most to deal with and to lose in this story. On the same side, I didn¿t like that Cindy Ann had a hard time facing the reality of where her life was heading. I really thought that getting away from the small town was smart for Meg and Rex. Though I didn¿t care for how Rex handled everything after their son¿s death, he was probably doing only what he thought was best for him and Meg. My favorite parts in the story were the flashbacks Meg had. I really got to see how special Evan was as well as his relationship between him and his parents before the accident. It was so much fun and it made me look forward to the time when my son is older. I enjoyed the book from start to finish. I especially loved the ending for Meg. Rex still bugged me I didn¿t get the feel that he knew how to handle the loss of their son. A. Mannette¿s writing style was amazing. She gave you various points of view as experienced by different characters in the story. I really felt each part of the story as it unfolded scene by scene. I was impressed with how well A. Manette was able to deal with the situation of a loss of a child. Sometimes I forgot I was even reading fiction, it seemed that real to me. I would highly recommend this book to people who love books about real life situations. The whole struggle after the accident from all perspectives was not always easy to read. I had to find out what happened to both families. I needed to know if Meg would ever be able to forgive. It was a truly compelling story line and I hope to read more by this author in the future.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 17, 2006

    A mut read book for everyone

    How much can I say that I enjoyed this book!! It should be required reading for everyone before they finish school, and the world would be a much better place!! We forgive because we have to forgive to go on and live. In BLUE WATER, A. Manette Ansay proposes that there are others who have forgiven us for something important in their lives and we need to do the same thing to retain some semblance of sanity. I have always known that we need to forgive, though we do not need to forget or agree that the offense is now 'OK'. This book tells the story of one woman who lived this experience in such a way that everyone should be able to emphasize with her feelings--both of anger and of forgiveness. The story in itself would have made this book well worth reading, but the writing style is also beautiful and compelling. This is the best book that Manette Ansay has ever written. Thank you for this book that I will be recommending and giving to all my friends and family!!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted October 7, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted August 18, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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