Eternal on the Water

( 179 )

Overview

Cobb, a devoted teacher and nature-lover, takes a sabbatical from his New England boys prep school seeking to experience what Henry David Thoreau and the transcendentalists did in the early nineteenth century. Kayaking to the last known spot where the American writer and philosopher camped four years before he died, he encounters the beautiful free-spirited Mary. Also a teacher, avid bird-watcher, and deft adventurist, Mary is flirtatious and beguiling, and the two soon become inseparable. Mary is like no one ...

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Overview

Cobb, a devoted teacher and nature-lover, takes a sabbatical from his New England boys prep school seeking to experience what Henry David Thoreau and the transcendentalists did in the early nineteenth century. Kayaking to the last known spot where the American writer and philosopher camped four years before he died, he encounters the beautiful free-spirited Mary. Also a teacher, avid bird-watcher, and deft adventurist, Mary is flirtatious and beguiling, and the two soon become inseparable. Mary is like no one Cobb has ever met before, but he gets the feeling that she is harboring a secret. Eventually she shares her fears with Cobb—that she may be carrying the gene for a devastating, incurable illness that runs in her family. Finding strength in their commitment to one another, the two embark on a journey that is filled with joy, anguish, hope, and most importantly, unending love.

Set against the sweeping natural backdrops of Maine’s rugged backcountry, the exotic islands of Indonesia, scenic Yellowstone National Park, and rural New England, Tender River is a timeless and poignant love story that will captivate readers everywhere.

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  • Eternal on the Water
    Eternal on the Water  

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Praise for The World as We Know It:

"Ask yourself when the last time it was that you read a book so beautiful and agonizing that it made you cry for joy and sorrow. The World As We Know It does that." —Bookreporter

"Monninger has homed in on the beauty and cruelty of the natural world in this gripping and moving story of loss and understanding. Readers ... will revel in Monninger’s warm and graceful descriptions of rural New Hampshire and his adept understanding of the landscape of human relationships." —Booklist

"Joe Monninger beautifully captures the essence of childhood adventure and the sweet innocence of falling in love for the first time. Fans of John Irving, you have a new author to love." —Lisa Genova, New York Times bestselling author of Still Alice and Left Neglected

"Henry David Thoreau meets Nicholas Sparks in this poignant love story rooted in the forests of Maine. On sabbatical, prep school teacher Jonathan Cobb's only goal is to retrace Thoreau's historic 92-mile journey along the Allagash Waterway by kayak, little realizing that, like Thoreau, he will soon "front only the essential facts of life" after meeting Mary Fury on his first night camping. An experienced, exuberant outdoorswoman, Mary invites Cobb to join her for a lecture at the Chungamunga camp for girls suffering with medical illnesses. There, Cobb is impressed by the camaraderie of the group, drawn in by their emphasis on creativity, mythology and survival skills. His growing feelings for Mary are put to the test when she reveals that she's suffering from Huntington's disease, and details the condition's debilitating path. Though the plot sometimes drags through Monninger's numerous digressions, his keen eye for nature, subtle incorporation of indigenous myths and use of symbolism make for a memorable story of love and courage."
PW

"Love conquers all, the saying goes, but it can’t win out over the disease that befalls Mary Fury, the seemingly unflappable heroine at the center of Monninger’s poignant, if a bit overlong, novel. Fury has the gene for Huntington’s, a cruel affliction that attacks the body slowly, reducing a once healthy person to a mass of twitching muscles and nerves. Jonathan Cobb, a University of New Hampshire professor on sabbatical, learns the grim reality of Mary’s situation shortly after the two meet (and instantly fall in love) on the Allagash River. This is the land of Thoreau’s Walden Pond, and Cobb had come there to experience firsthand the pleasures of a simple life illustrated by its celebrated author. When Mary begins showing signs of Huntington’s, the two must cope with the inevitable, which includes honoring Mary’s wishes to live out her days as she sees fit. Monninger (Baby, 2007) is a gifted writer, and readers able to overlook a few maudlin moments will relish this eloquently rendered tale."
—Booklist

“A touching love story immersed in the beautiful simplicity of nature and life lived in the present moment."
—Lisa Genova, NYTimes bestselling author of Still Alice

“Joe Monninger is a brilliant writer. No one understands nature the way he does, under his skin and straight to his bones. He writes about new love with such tension, emotion, and the deep passion and understanding that develops between two people. The novel will keep you up all night. Eternal on the Water will be a classic."
—Luanne Rice, NYTimes bestselling author of The Deep Blue Sea for Beginners

"Eternal on the Water is more than a heartfelt love story. It is a beautiful and searching exploration of the meaning of commitment and the majesty of nature, told in the strong, clear voice of a true believer. In these pages, there is much to learn of life, death, love and healing. It's a book to savor and then to share."
—Susan Wiggs, NYT bestselling author of Just Breathe and Lakeshore Christmas

"Eternal on the Water is a book that reminds you that joy and sorrow are inextricably entwined, that one means less without the other. What would you do if you were Mary, or Cobb? This luminescent story will never leave you. I adored it."
—Dorothea Benton Frank

"Joseph Monninger's Eternal on the Water is a compelling and poignant love story. His two characters, both strong and independent, meet by chance in the Maine wilderness and find in each other the depth of connection they have been searching for and the confrontation with mortality they have been dreading all their lives. Their celebration of life and their emotional parting will touch you deeply and move you to tears."
—Selden Edwards, author of The Little Book

"Genuinely enchanting! If you ever went to summer camp, this book is especially for you!"
—Kaya McLaren, author of On the Divinity of Second Chances

Publishers Weekly
Henry David Thoreau meets Nicholas Sparks in this poignant love story rooted in the forests of Maine. On sabbatical, prep school teacher Jonathan Cobb's only goal is to retrace Thoreau's historic 92-mile journey along the Allagash Waterway by kayak, little realizing that, like Thoreau, he will soon "front only the essential facts of life" after meeting Mary Fury on his first night camping. An experienced, exuberant outdoorswoman, Mary invites Cobb to join her for a lecture at the Chungamunga camp for girls suffering with medical illnesses. There, Cobb is impressed by the camaraderie of the group, drawn in by their emphasis on creativity, mythology and survival skills. His growing feelings for Mary are put to the test when she reveals that she's suffering from Huntington's disease, and details the condition's debilitating path. Though the plot sometimes drags through Monninger's numerous digressions, his keen eye for nature, subtle incorporation of indigenous myths and use of symbolism make for a memorable story of love and courage.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781439168332
  • Publisher: Gallery Books
  • Publication date: 2/16/2010
  • Edition description: Original
  • Pages: 368
  • Sales rank: 281,578
  • Product dimensions: 5.30 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Joseph Monninger has published several award-winning YA novels and three books of nonfiction, including the memoir Home Waters, and has been awarded two National Endowment for the Arts fellowships. He lives and teaches in New Hampshire, where he also runs a dog sled team.

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Read an Excerpt

1

I FIRST SAW MARY ON THE HIGHWAY well before we reached the Allagash. I saw her near Millinocket, the old logging town on Maine Route 11. I noticed her truck first, a red Toyota, and I noticed the yellow kayak strapped on the bed. We both had New Hampshire plates. I also had a Toyota truck, green, and a yellow kayak strapped on top of a truck cap.

Toyota love.

She pulled into an Exxon station. I passed slowly and watched to see her get out. But she fumbled with something on the seat next to her and I couldn’t see her face.

Her hair was the color of cord wood. She wore a red bandanna that sometimes waved with the wind.

THE ALLAGASH WATERWAY RUNS ninety-two miles northward from Chamberlain Lake to the St. John River on the border of Canada. It is surrounded by public and private lands, thousands and thousands of acres of pine and tamarack and hardwoods. To get to the starting point on Chamberlain Lake, you must pass Baxter State Park and Mount Katahdin. Mount Katahdin is the beginning or end—depending on the direction you hike—of the Appalachian Trail.

The indigenous people did not climb Mount Katahdin until late in the nineteenth century. The world, they said, had been built by “a man from the clouds,” and he lived at the summit in snow.

I stopped for gasoline at the last service station before entering the Allagash preserve. The station catered to rafters and kayakers who ran the Penobscot, a wild, dangerous river that churned white water in spectacular rapids through steep cataracts. Three blue buses—with enormous white rafts tied to the tops—idled in the parking lot. A bunch of kids loitered around the door to the service station, all of them wet and soggy. It was a warm day for September in Maine, although the cold held just a little way off, somehow up in the branches of the trees, waiting to fall. The kids went barefoot mostly. A few ate ice cream cones.

I filled my tank. I felt good and unscheduled, but also a tiny bit nervous. Ninety-two miles through a wilderness by kayak. As Dean Hallowen said when I proposed my plan for a sabbatical from my teaching post at St. Paul’s School, a secondary prep school outside of Concord, New Hampshire, “That sounds like an undertaking.”

And it did.

But he had approved the plan, even contributing funds for a trip to Concord and Walden Pond to research Thoreau’s activities there. Now I planned to follow Thoreau’s path into the Allagash, a trip he had undertaken in 1857. Thoreau went no farther north in Maine than Eagle Lake, a still-water camp I hoped to reach my second night. I did not know what I hoped to gain by standing on the same land as Thoreau, but it seemed necessary for the paper I hoped to write about his adventures in Maine. I also thought—and Dean Hallowen concurred—that it would be a useful footnote in any future class I gave on transcendentalism.

Leaning against the flank of my truck, though, the entire project seemed hopelessly academic. Why bother researching a writer who had been researched to death? Did the world really need another appraisal of Thoreau? It seemed hideously theoretical. The river, by contrast, had become more real with each passing mile. Ninety-two miles, solo. Three enormous lakes, two portages, one Class IV rapids, cool nights, warm days. Not easy. Any time you went solo in the wilderness you risked a simple injury or mishap developing into something much larger. Dump my kayak, wet my matches, turn turtle, and what I had drawn up as a seven- or eight-day trip would turn into something more frightening and real. I had promised myself to be brave but cautious, intrepid but level-headed. Prudent and sober. Smart.

“Hurry gradually” was my motto. It had become a little buzz phrase I used with everyone when I described the parameters of my proposed trip.

Ninety-two miles alone on a river! marveled various people—men, women, fellow faculty members, family, friends—when they asked what I intended to do on my sabbatical. I can’t imagine, they said.

Hurry gradually, I answered.

That’s what I was thinking about when Mary’s truck cruised by. I saw it more clearly now. Red. Beaten. A yellow kayak with duct-tape patches. Obviously one of us did more camping and kayaking than the other. And it wasn’t me.

I nodded a little with my chin. Then I ducked as though I had to adjust the gas nozzle, trying to see into her cab. She drove past without braking, and I gained only a quick glimpse of her hair again.

A bumper sticker on her tailgate caught my eye.

A HEN IS ONLY AN EGG’S WAY OF MAKING ANOTHER EGG.

SAMUEL BUTLER

I BOUGHT THREE LOTTERY tickets for luck, a Diet Coke, two bags of Fritos, and stuffed as many packs of paper matches in my pocket as the checkout girl—a dark, Gothy-looking girl with a large stud in her right eyebrow—allowed. When I finished, I nodded to her. She had no interest in me. She watched a pair of boys her age who sat in the doorway, flicked their hair repeatedly, and talked in quiet voices. Dreamy boys, I’m sure she thought.

“Heading down the Allagash,” I said in one of those lame moments where we feel compelled to explain ourselves.

Or maybe I simply wanted human contact.

“Hmmmm,” she said, her eyes on the boys.

I left before I could embarrass myself further. I checked the kayak straps to make sure nothing had jiggled loose along the dirt roads, then climbed into the cab.

As I started the engine, I wondered if this hadn’t been a mistake. I also wondered what it would cost, psychically, to back out. I wasn’t afraid, exactly, but uneasy, a little out of my element. I turned on the radio and found an oldies’ station. I wanted someone to go with me, but it was a strange time of year. Most of the people I knew—teachers, primarily—had already returned to school. If they weren’t already in school, they had to prepare classes, get a new academic year under way. I had stepped out of cadence by having a sabbatical. Everything in my training pointed me toward school, the bells, the new classes, the fresh notebooks, the whistling radiators, but instead I was heading down a river I didn’t know. I kayaked confidently on flat water, but going down a river, through rapids, setting up camp—it made me edgy to think about it. What I needed at that moment was a buddy, a companion, someone to kick a foot up on the dash and pump his fist that we were heading into the wilderness.

Instead I listened to Marvin Gaye sing, “Let’s Get It On.”

But that didn’t make me feel better.

A MOOSE BROUGHT ME out of it. Driving along, eating the orange curls of corn chips from the bag I held between my legs, a moose appeared from the right side of the road. A black, dark mass. At first I thought I had somehow seen a stump walking freely through the scatter woods at the roadside. Then the moose turned and angled as if looking down the road the way I had to travel. A male. Enormous palmate antlers. A string of grass and mud dangled from his left antler. His shoulder came well above the top of the Toyota.

I slowed.

He didn’t move. He didn’t respond to me at all. He stood with his nostrils streaming two tubes of white air into the first evening chill, and his body blended into the woods behind him. If I had looked away at that moment, perhaps I could have let my eyes lose him in the forest. It seemed fantastical that a creature carrying a TV antenna on its head could maneuver through the puckerbrush of Northern Maine. I turned down the radio and braked. Then I slipped the truck into neutral and climbed out.

The bull moose could not have posed more perfectly. I had a moment when I thought, Oh, come on. The whole thing seemed a bit too much: crisp air, black moose, yellow maples, bright white breath. I felt no fear, despite knowing the rut had begun. The moose had no interest in me. As if to prove it, a female suddenly broke out of the woods perhaps a quarter mile away and crossed the road. She did not stop or look back, but the male, becoming vivid, suddenly trotted down the road. He ran with the classically awkward moosey gait, his bottom shanks throwing out with each step. He disappeared into the woods approximately where the female had disappeared. I heard him for a second clatter through the slag piles of brush at the roadside, then nothing.

Okay, I said as I climbed back in the truck. I turned on the heat a little higher. I looked for the moose when I passed their point of disappearance, but the woods had covered them.

YOU REQUIRE A PERMIT to run the Allagash.

I pulled over at four thirty to a small government building with a sign that said: Permits Here.

Mary’s truck took up the best spot. I parked behind it and a little off to the side.

I checked myself in the mirror. Quick smile, quick hair brush, quick glance at my jeans. I climbed out. The office appeared closed. I also realized that the temperature had dropped way off. What had been a warm day had changed in the course of an hour. I made a mental note to remember how fast the temperature sank once the sun went behind the pines. Travel early, camp early. Everything I had read about the Allagash had stated that as a basic survival law. If you left late in the morning, you risked facing the wind as it inevitably rose throughout the day. If you didn’t find a place to camp sufficiently early, then you risked missing a convenient spot and having to set up a tent and campsite at night. Learn to pace yourself, the books said. Think ahead.

I would also need a fire going, I realized. Every night.

I climbed the stairs to the office and pushed open the door. I looked for Mary, but instead a large, raspy woman with a bright yellow shirt stepped out of a back room at my appearance. I understood that the woman lived in the quarters beyond the front desk. Her daily commute averaged around ten feet. She wore a name tag identifying her as Ranger Joan. She wore a baseball hat, army green. The patch on the forehead crest said State of Maine.

“What movie did you want to see?” Ranger Joan asked.

She paused for effect. Then she laughed—a large, smoky laugh. A pinochle laugh.

I supposed I looked as dazed as I felt.

“Don’t worry,” she said. “It’s just my way. A little joke. People show up here a little high-strung. I loosen them up.”

“Good to know,” I said, trying to recover.

“’Course we’re not showing movies here,” she said. “We’re holding a square dance!”

She laughed again, but this time she pushed some papers toward me.

“Okay, you’ll be wanting a permit, I guess,” she said. “Standard stuff we ask. We like to know when you go in, when you come out. Be sure to sign the logbook at each end so we can track you. You going all the way?”

“Yes,” I said. “I guess so.”

“Ninety-two miles,” she said. “Best time of year to do it. No bugs, no no-see-ums. Good crisp air and the water is still reasonably warm. You can still take a quick dip after a day of paddling. You picked the right time of year, I promise.”

“Thank you,” I said, as if I deserved congratulations.

“I suppose you know already that the moose are mating?” she asked. “We like people to know what’s ahead of them.”

“I’d read about it.”

“Just give them room, especially the males. They can get a little funny this time of year. Spring is worse with the mothers and babies. You don’t want a mother moose thinking you’re going to bother her little one.”

I looked up. Slowly she realized I couldn’t fill out the forms and have a conversation at the same time. She smiled. I smiled, too. Then she went up on her toes to see my truck. She nodded.

“From New Hampshire?” she said, happy to talk even if it did distract me.

“Yes.”

“Well, you might want to think about camping here for the night. Once you enter the waterway, you have to camp by boat. In other words, you’d have to start tonight, even if it’s dark.”

“I thought I’d camp by my truck,” I said. “Once I arrive at the Chamberlain Lake landing.”

“Can’t,” Ranger Joan said. “Ranger in there is a man named Coop and he is a bug about the rules. He’ll push you right into the water to get you going. Rules are rules to Coop.”

“But if I camp here?” I asked, trying to move my pen on the form at the same time.

“No problem. You get a fresh, early start tomorrow. That’d be my advice. Sun will be down shortly.”

I looked out the window. Under a small group of pines, I saw a woman setting up a tent. She had backed the Toyota into position so she could unload it without difficulty. She had slipped into a red-checked mackinaw; she wore a Mad Bomber hat, the kind with fake rabbit fur earpieces that buckle under your chin.

“I’ll stay,” I said. “Is there a charge?”

“Ten dollars,” Ranger Joan said.

I paid for the permit and for the ten dollar camping fee. Ranger Joan stamped a few things, tore a piece of perforated paper off a long form, then folded it all and handed it to me.

“You should keep this with you,” she said, nodding at the forms. “If a ranger along the way asks to see your permit, that’s what you give him. This time of year, though, you won’t find many people on the waterway. The rangers are out patrolling deer season. The Chungamunga girls are out there somewhere, but that’s the only group that came through this way in the last day or so.”

“Chungamunga girls?” I asked, fitting the paper into my rear pocket.

“Oldest girls’ camping school in America. They run it every year, sometimes twice a year. They do it for school credit. Just girls, no boys. You don’t want boys and girls in the woods together if you’re a supervisor.”

“I guess not.”

“They take their time,” Ranger Joan said, pulling the pad of permits back to her. “Learn crafts as they go. Read history, natural science, mythology books, a little of everything. We schedule a few talks with naturalists and the like. Some of the girls have never been out of their backyards before. They get a little homesick and a little crazy before they finish, but it’s a great experience for them. They say it’s good luck for a lifetime if you run into the Chungamunga girls on the Allagash.”

“Well, then, I hope I run into them,” I said.

“You’d be surprised who’s been a Chungamunga girl. Presidents’ daughters, captains of industry. And so forth.”

I couldn’t help wondering if anyone used the term “captains of industry” anymore, but I nodded in any case. Ranger Joan walked around the counter and pointed to a camping spot near where the woman had set up camp.

“You can camp right by her,” Ranger Joan said. “Just pull your truck beside her. Johnny cut up some scrap pine and you’re welcome to burn some for a fire. It’s going to get downright nippy tonight.”

“Thank you,” I said.

“She’s a pretty little thing,” Ranger Joan said, jutting her chin at the campsite. “Her name is Mary Fury. Everyone around here loves Mary Fury.”

© 2010 Joseph Monninger

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 179 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(73)

4 Star

(67)

3 Star

(25)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 179 Customer Reviews
  • Posted January 26, 2010

    Not so eternal per this reader

    Although I really wanted to love this book, I am sad to say that it just didn't happen for me. Love at first sight may be a very real thing, and based on most readers reviewing the book, it is evident that I am in the minority. I knew it would be a tear jerker and I wanted to be swept away, but the author just did not draw me in.

    Here's what I really liked about the book:
    1. Stories about crows and raven mythology
    2. A very positive portrayal of the value of assisted suicide

    Here's what I did not like:
    1. Characters, settings and situations were not believable for me - too perfect.
    2. The writing was not challenging for me - the author often writes for young adults, and I felt the vocabulary and style would have been great for that audience.
    3. In the first few pages I knew the death of our heroine would occur before the end of the book, and I felt it was a slow, tedious journey getting to that point.

    The book Love Story kept echoing in my mind, but then Segal also wrote a very popular book that was not well received by the critics. This book may have the same appeal, which means it could be something you will totally enjoy. But to describe it as a major literary achievement with eternal lasting qualities might be quite a stretch.

    5 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 28, 2010

    "You wanted to say . that it meant something, but time just wore it away."

    Eternal on the Water has all the elements that should have made it a great novel: a love story that will inevitably end in heartache, stunning settings, environmental concern and fascinating folklore woven in. And yet upon reaching the final page, I could only deem its sum lesser than its parts. Partially, I think my disappointment over this novel stemmed from the author not knowing what he wanted it to be: a romantic tale, an eco awareness raiser or a mythological fable. As a result, its sections felt disjointed, at times even jarringly so, as though the author were forcing the reader to veer completely off the intended path. Even worse, the romance proved stilted and awkward to read. Monniger is quite masterful at bringing scenery poetically to life, and his characters were overall well developed. In the end, however (borrowing a quote from the book), "I wanted to say that it meant something, but time just wore it away."

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted January 25, 2010

    A Glimpse of the Eternal

    This is an excellent book. The characters are interesting, the plot a real tear jerker, but what is most important for me is the beautiful writing. Monninger brings his natural settings to life. The emotion evoked by the power of his writing about nature is what drives the story for me.

    Deciding to set this tragic love story in such beautiful, yet harsh places make the theme obvious. The world is beautiful and terrible at the same time. We have to appreciate the beauty and live to the fullest with the tragedy and cruelty.

    I highly recommend this book. It's not an escapist fantasy. It says something about honor and living a productive life.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I wanted to like this one.

    I received this ARC copy for the purpose of reviewing it here at BN. I tried really hard to like the book, but I just couldn't get into it. I knew from the get-go that it would be a tearjerker, but although I tend not to read those kind of books, I thought I would give it a chance. I thought the writing was fine enough, but the story just didn't grab me like I was hoping it would. The romance and relationship of the characters seemed somehow too perfect. I did read it until the end, but never felt really invested in the story. I will admit that I may have just been "not in the mood" for that particular book at that particular time. As with all books I don't enjoy, I will pass it on to a friend who is much more likely to love the story. And, still, I must say that you should just try reading it for yourself. My opinion is but one in 6 billion.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Eternal on The Water is a timeless masterpiece

    Joseph Monninger gives us a poignant love story. A story of hello. A story of good-bye. A story of life with all its joys and sorrows. It's like a haunting melody that stays with you long after the song is over.
    Eternal on the Water is a love story. A story of how a remarkable couple deals with a terrible and too often fact of life. Mr. Monninger is a wonderful storyteller which is evident by his flowing prose like dialogue filled with myths, folklore and stories forever told around a campfire, and interspersed with thoughts and quotes from the likes of Thoreau, Steinbeck and Darwin. He gives us wonderful picturesque scenes of wilderness glories from Main to Yellowstone to a brief stint on a quaint island in Indonesia. His characters are all three dimensional, all incredibly in depth and all wonderfully portrayed. His hero John and heroine Mary are exquisite examples of his skill as an author as he unwinds their lives for our reading pleasure.
    This is an exceptional piece of literary fiction, one that's destined to become a beloved classic enjoyed by generations of readers. As heart wrenching as it is to read this amazing story I will always come away from it with the thought of an eternal optimist who turned the lemons of life into lemonade.

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 4, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Water Under the Bridge

    I know this review will be far different than most of the other reviews for this book. I read it, I enjoyed it (for the most part), but I will not remember it for very long. I knew this story would be a tear-jerker and I was fully prepared for that. Surprisingly, I didn't find those tears until the last few pages. The story was romantic and enjoyable, but there were too many things that I found annoying. One of them was the main character, Mary. She had far too many quirks for me to fall in love with her and like her for more than a few minutes. The romantic side of the story just seemed to rushed for me and made it a little unbelievable. Other parts of the story were just too clean cut and perfect, which also made the story a bit unrealistic. But, since this is a work of fiction, I suppose that's to be expected to some extent. I appreciated the assisted suicide aspect, and that was the most interesting thing to me that helped me enjoy the story. Overall, this book would be good for young readers and romantics. I gave it three stars because it was a decent story, but it wasn't captivating for me and I had too many issues with the main characters to really care for either one in the end.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 2, 2010

    LOVED IT!

    I truly enjoyed reading this book! I will definitely recommend it to my friends. This story touches on some of life's most wonderful and most tragic experiences. The scenery is beautiful, the characters are captivating, the story timeless. This is a must read for anyone who enjoys a realistic love story.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 2, 2010

    Eternal on the Water - Fantastic!

    From the very beginning of the book I was drawn in to the story. From the first time that Cobb and Mary met to the end of the book (as I was reading thru tears), I couldn't put it down! The locations used, and the words describing everything were fantastic. One of the best books I have read in a long long time. I will definitely be reading other books by Joseph Monninger...

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 1, 2010

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    One of the BEST Love Stories Ever Written!!!

    What a privilege it's been to read Eternal on the Water.

    I just finished the book last night/this morning;it took me waaaay longer to finish this book than it should have simply because I did not want to separate Cobb and Mary. Their love story was so overwhelmingly real that I could hardly bear to face the end, which of course makes no sense as I already had when I began the book.

    But emotions, and especially love don't always make sense do they?

    As for reading the end first (the book begins with Mary's death), I have to say that doing that was the most brilliant thing done technically in this novel. It made it real from the beginning, no false hope about "maybe she gets saved at the end", and it let me as a reader focus on what mattered. I got to focus on their story together, and not be distracted that "this is fiction" and so therefore think that a miracle was in store. Instead I focused on spending as much time with Mary as I could, alongside Cobb.

    A friend asked me to describe the book without giving away any spoilers yesterday after I had been raving about it. What's funny is I said "it's very real life in that surreal kind of way", lol.

    I had just read the part that talks about the movie "All That Heaven Allows" and the window scene, and was explaining how it reminded me of "Sleepless in Seattle" in that way, but that it was much more as a book than just that little moment.


    Reading Eternal on the Water was seriously like just listening to a new friend tell you his life story (thus far) because you've come to that point in the friendship where you really get to know each other; where you both begin to share that intimacy of real friendship by sharing real stories about the deeper points in your life, not just the so-called powerpoint version. So, reading this book was not like most books I read where I feel as though I'm the main character and I'm experiencing things as if they're happening to me. It's more like this conversation where I was listening to this man Cobb's amazing life story. And it's that intimacy that's so inherent in this book that made me care, and respond as if Cobb were truly my real friend. Because of this, I understand exactly what the author means when he says Cobb & Mary "whispered" their story to him instead of feeling as though he was seeing it or shown visually the story as it came to him.

    On another note, I also found it really meant something that a guy ( Cobb tells the story) was telling this story. As a woman, I don't often hear men open up so much about love stories, etc, the way women do. So all the while I felt that Cobb was telling me his story, I knew it really meant something because a guy is telling it, and so you (as a reader) feel honored to share it.

    Bottom Line:

    I LOVED this book. Thank you Joseph Monninger for writing it, and Thank you B&N for bringing us this book! It's beautiful and without a doubt one of the best love stories I've ever heard/read.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 29, 2010

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    Disappointing - I couldn't stay awake through it.

    I received my ARC copy of Eternal on the Water a few days ago and was excited about being able to be included in the first group of people to read the book.

    However, the story just didn't live up to what I thought it would be. This is the story of Jonathan Cobb and Mary Fury, a woman who has Huntington's Disease. It's the story of their relationship and includes all sorts of descriptions relating to nature; crows and turtles being two prominent figures.

    What I didn't like about the book was that the story never managed to fully grip me. Unlike other authors of this type of novel (Sparks being one I can think of) the characters failed to grab my interest and become alive to me. For the last half of the book I was having to force myself to pick it up because I had become, for lack of a better word, bored by the story. I knew where it was going to end (thanks to the prologue) and the love story wasn't one that held any sort of interest for me.

    The descriptions were vivid and well done and the stories about crows were fairly interesting (I didn't realize I had an interest in crows). They just felt disjointed and didn't make the character come to life as they should have.

    But, on the positive side, I came away from this book with a whole new repertoire of knock-knock jokes.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 28, 2010

    Over the top events over shadow the real story.

    I really never connected with the story myself. Mary and Cobb are suppose to be in their thirties but they seemed like they were in their fifties to me. I'm in my thirties and I just couldn't relate to these people. Old souls you might say but I just found them old. Not that fifty's is old but I don't think these two characters, who were suppose to be in their thirties, were written to depict them that way. Mary,as a character, is suppose to give off the impression she is spirited but to me she just came off as a nut. I get spirit, I really do,I also get crazy. There was too much description of canoe and fishing equipment to keep my interest in the first few chapters. Some of the nature descriptions were very beautiful and I felt like I was there on the river.
    A lot of product names were thrown in ever chance the writer could. I get maybe a writer trying to give the reader a full description of what a person is wearing or product they are using, but book was overfilled with them. Just too much.
    The first few pages you learn the main character dies and I still don't know how I feel about that. The book had touching moments that seemed to get overshadowed by over the top scenarios. Actually it had a lot of those. I just didn't get it. It didn't touch me and I really thought I'd like it. The over the topness of it all never gave me a real chance to connect or care for the characters.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 27, 2010

    Eternal on the Water

    Eternal on the Water is a love story. Joseph Monninger gives us a poignant love story. A story of how two people deal with what life throws at them. Mr. Monninger is a wonderful storyteller which is evident by his flowing prose-like dialogue filled with myths, folklore and stories forever told around a campfire, and interspersed with thoughts and quotes from the likes of Thoreau, Steinbeck and Darwin. He gives us wonderful picturesque scenes of wilderness glories from Maine to Yellowstone to in Indonesia. His hero John and heroine Mary are exquisite examples of his skill as an author as he unwinds their lives for our reading pleasure. It was a heart wrenching story, but one I will always remember.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 27, 2010

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    Not so Eternal..

    There have been a lot of glowing reviews given on this book, but mine will not be one of them. The front half of the book took me forever to read. The book is very nature oriented, coupled with a love at first sight story. A little less nature would have been fine with me. I know Mary's love of crows was a main theme in the book, but I did not enjoy reading, what seemed to me, the endless crow stories. Mary's brother Freddy's fascination with turtles was not quite as tedious to me, & I enjoyed reading the second half of the book much better than the first half. That being said, it is not a book I would recommend to a friend or fellow book lover. It takes much too long to get to the heart of the book.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2010

    Eternal on the Water: Good Read

    I will be honest and say I wouldn't have picked this book up on my own. However, I am SO glad I read it! It was very easy to be transported to the different locales and feel like I was right with Mary and Cobb. Once I was about 50 pages into the book, I couldn't put it down. I enjoyed the humor between the characters and thought it was a nice balanced with the seriousness of the situation faced by the main characters. I also thought the minor characters added to the story in several ways. I didn't really enjoy everything about the crows, but I could easily see how the stories added to the overall story. I also liked how the end of the story was at the beginning of the book -- interesting way to draw in the reader. I will recommend this book to my reader friends (in fact, I already have).

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2010

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    Not usually my cup of tea

    If you were faced with a 50-50 chance of having a fatal condition that would slowly rob your body of mental and physical functions, would you want to know? Would just the possibility of having the disease give you a more heightened awareness of life? Would you want to live life with total abandon? What would happen if you met the love of your life? Would you give this person a chance?

    Mary and Cobb will face these questions in Eternal on the Water. While the story is focused on the relationship between these two individuals, this book offers so much more to the reader. You will find yourself immersed in the wilderness of Maine, the tropical beauty of Indonesia and the majesty of Yellowstone. You will meet characters that will touch your heart and stay with you long after you finish reading the book.

    Although the premise sounds dark and depressing, the story itself is told in an uplifting way. The dialog and humor keep the story flowing over the sad parts so the reader does not drown in the unhappiness of the tale. The folkloric tales that are interwoven are entertaining and provide a nice diversion.

    I will have to admit that I normally would not consider Eternal on the Water to be a book I would pick up and read for myself. I am glad that I did decide to give it a chance; otherwise I would have missed out on a real treat. The mark of a good writer is keeping the reader enticed and entertained throughout the entire story. This is especially true when the book is one the reader would not normally find themselves reading. So kudos to Mr. Monninger for a book that is truly well written.

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

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    Interesting Story

    When I read the Scottish folk saying and prologue at the start of the book, I knew this was going to be an interesting read and different than the books I am usually drawn to. The story is both a love story and a life story. I really like how the author weaves in nature, animal folklore and some very difficult topics for the reader's consideration. I felt the initial meeting and instant love connection of the main characters to be a bit over the top and not too realistic, but the wonderful descriptive writing style made it easy to immerse yourself into the lives of the characters.
    I struggled with the last part of the book as well, as it touches on the subject of ending life and I had a hard time with how that was presented. But on the other hand, the author made me think and ponder so I would consider that a good read.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 26, 2010

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    Living life ...

    This book started off with the ending and captured my interest immediately. Although we know what is going to happen, there is still a little mystery. Namely, the why, how and when. The story centers on the relationship between Mary and Cobb. Specifically, love at first sight. We witness these characters living life to its' fullest in the face of inevitable tragedy. The story has an upbeat tempo . only a minor briefing of Mary's illness, Huntington's disease, is presented and we see only a few instances where the symptoms of the disease directly interfere with the lives of Mary and Cobb. I would have liked the characters of Mary and Cobb to have a little more realism associated with them. At times, they seemed too good to be true. Yes, there are truly selfless people in the world but here it seemed like it was everyone. -----
    The story flowed easily and was a joy to read. The characters and the locations were beautifully described. Each character brought a little something to the stage . very interesting. I found it easy to remember them all. What will you come away with after reading this novel? A feeling of sadness, a zest for life, a desire to help others, a .. You will need to read the novel to find out.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 25, 2010

    An improbable but moving love story

    Although there were many aspects of this book that struck me as implausible, or rubbed me the wrong way, I was in tears by the time I finished reading it. The text reveals its own ending in its first section: Mary Fury, the woman whom Jonathan Cobb meets on a kayak trip following Henry David Thoreau down the Allegash River in Maine and with whom he falls immediately and passionately in love, is dead. Knowing how the story ends didn't lessen my interest in the book or ruin the journey. The book, which chronicles Mary and Cobb's love affair from its first moments to its ending, does several things very well. I enjoyed the quality of Monninger's prose, Mary's role as a storyteller (she's developed a broad and beautiful mythology of crows and other corvids, mixing stories from many different sources), and the text's commitment to show nature in all its beauty. I found the love at first sight part of the love story implausible, as well as the frame story (in which Cobb apparently tells the long, intimate story of their love to a ranger he's just met). Although this book is far from perfect, I'm grateful I had the chance to read it and would recommend it to others

    2 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    Wow

    I really enjoyed this selection. Once I began reading I couldn't put it down. It would be a good book for a book club discussion. It was a sweet story for nature lovers and avid readers.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 17, 2010

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    Beautifully written

    The writing style is just beautiful, and the best that I have read in a long time in that regard. I really felt that I could smell the pine trees and feel the water. This is a story of a life beautifully lived in the face of a terrible illness. The characters are well drawn, and very likeable.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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