Blue Water

Blue Water

3.9 12
by A. Manette Ansay

View All Available Formats & Editions

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

…  See more details below


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.

Editorial Reviews

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.
Chicago Tribune
“[A] brilliant new novel...[with] a pitch-perfect tone.”
“A perfectly pitched, impossible-to-set-down tale of the consequences of the death of a child”
Boston Globe
“Ansay’s clear voice, clean style, true characters, and sophisticated plot exude a gem.”

Read More

Product Details

Gale Group
Publication date:
Thorndike Basic Ser.
Edition description:
Large Print Edition
Product dimensions:
5.66(w) x 8.70(h) x 0.93(d)

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.


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.


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. . . .


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.

Read More

Meet the Author

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.

Brief Biography

Port Washington, Wisconsin; now lives in New York City
Date of Birth:
Place of Birth:
Lapeer, Michigan
MFA, Cornell University, 1991

Customer Reviews

Average Review:

Write a Review

and post it to your social network


Most Helpful Customer Reviews

See all customer reviews >