Eternal on the Waterby Joseph Monninger
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.
"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."
"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."
“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
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Read an Excerpt
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.
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.
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.
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.
“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
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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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."
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Though I do not generally like books of romance, this book was entrancing and drew me in emotionally. The beginning left me wondering what all the pages could have for me since I thought I knew the surprise ending, but I was completely misguided in that belief. I would highly recommend this book, but also recommend that it is not read at work or another public area, as you will smile, laugh and cry (like a child that fell of the swing set) throughout the book. Thank you for a wonderful book that has opened me up to romance books.
Eternal on the Water is the story of Jonathan Cobb and Mary Fury. It is a love story and a life lesson. We learn from the first sentence of the book how their story will end, but don't assume that this is the whole story because it's not. The story is how Mary faces a terminal illness with dignity and grace, living her life to the fullest making every second count, and how her approach to life affects Cobb, her family, and friends. The book is beautifully written from Cobb's point of view. His emotions as he faces Mary's illness are heartbreakingly real. I highly recommend this book. My only minor criticism is that the first and last chapters are unnecessary. Mary and Cobb's story is strong enough to stand on its own.
This is a love story with an unusual backdrop. The main characters fall in love at first sight while on a kayaking trip in New England. You'll follow Jonathan Cobb & Mary Fury through their love story as you read of their adventures kayaking on the Allagash, to Indonesia, to Yellowstone... and through every day goings-on back in New England. Along the way, you'll fall in love with the people that inhabit their world and the passions that drive them to carve out their unique perspectives on life. Eternal on the Water has a gentle flow about it - maybe it's the beautiful writing about nature and the slower pace that comes from that exploration. It's a nice read that raises some thought provoking questions about life, death and the imprint that other people can make on our lives.
This book is a story about love at first sight. We know that one of the characters dies from the very beginning, so we know that it is going to be a tearjerker. Since I like to know the ending of a book before I read it this was perfect for me. Cobb tells the story of the love and life that Mary and him have. Joseph Monninger mixed in folk lore in with the great adventures that Mary and Cobb take. I think that it was a fantastic book and that you should read it for yourself.
Eternal on the Water was a great book. Be sure to have some tissues near by at the end, it does bring tears to your eyes. I loved this book and my husband is really enjoying reading it also !
Joseph Monninger's ETERNAL ON THE WATER is a wonderful love story that begins in the woods of Maine. Jonathan Cobb takes a break from his teaching job to experience nature as Thoreau did. While on his sabbatical he meets Mary, a free spirit and while enjoying their first night by the campfire, a true love story begins. Mary's tales enchant him; her knock-knock jokes not so much. They travel to Indonesia, Yellowstone National Park and back to New England. Mary is a member of the Chungamunga Girls, a secret society of girls who experience life in the forest. Monninger has written a heartbreaking journey of feeling love, experiencing life to its fullest and understanding death.
Without giving spoilers-this story shows two lives that meshed beautifully together and characters that lived a fully rich while life not accepting any limitations. I loved the chungamunga girls and what they add to girlhood.
Eternal on the Water by Joseph Monninger is a well told and heart wrenching love story set against the Allagash River in the wilderness of Maine, the islands of Indonesia and Yellowstone National Park. Right from the beginning we know that the young couple will not have a happily ever after fairy tale ending and yet the story remains an uplifting tale of the power of true love. The book begins when a woman's body is discovered in the river and her husband tells their story to a ranger. Jonathan Cobb was kayaking and attempting to trace Thoreau's path down the Allagash River when he met Mary Fury. They had so much in common and they fell in love immediately. Cobb is a loving, devoted person and Mary was a bit of a flake but they knew they were soul mates. Mary had Huntington's disease, a debilitating illness. She intended to end her life before she became a burden and she told Cobb he would have to help her when the time came. He agreed and they had a good life, lived to the fullest. For as long as they could, they embraced nature and their relationship. When the time came, Cobb fulfilled his promise and there was a heart-breaking send off. The description is vivid and puts you right in the scene. The symbolism of nature and the river adds an extraordinary depth. The emotional journey of two people was so well portrayed it brought tears to my eyes several times. This is a very special story about love, nature and true commitment. I recommend it very highly.
Eternal on the Water is a haunting love story and a book that will make you evaluate your position of one of the central issues of the story. I like Mr. Monniger's writing style and his ability to transport you from the Allagash River in Maine to a beach in Indonesia and off to the forests of Yellowstone. His use of folk lore and animal imagery is beautiful and haunting. In so many ways its a quiet story - the reader know the ultimate ending of the Cobb and Mary's love story from the beginning and there are no spectacular plot twists. The fact that it is such a quiet story makes it such an enjoyable read. You almost feel like you've been allowed to observe the very private and difficult side of couples relationship and it makes you love them for the gift. Eternal on the Water is a great read for a long cold winter day or a kayak trip down the Allagash.
"Time Passing. A Triangle Life of work, love, family." p307. This story is beautifully rendered. It follows the tale of Mary Fury and Jonathan Cobb from their meeting along the Allagash River in Maine, trips to Indonesia, Yellowstone, and their life in New Hampshire. Mary and Cobb establish a life filled with love, adventure, and compassion. Although at times the story lacks a more realistic touch it is a worthwhile read. The story is poignant and timely. There is much to learn from the depth of love that is exhibited in this beautiful story. Life comes full circle. Mr. Monninger's writing style evokes beautiful images of the beauty of nature and life around us. Pick up the book and enjoy "...a quiet period, a deep chair with a good reading light..."
Eternal on the Water is formost a love story, the kind you want to read on a rainy day or when you just need to get away. But it is also more than that. It is a life story. From kayaking in Maine, to releasing turtles in Indonesia and tracking wolves in Yellowstone the story pulls us into the lives of Cobb and Mary. You know it's going to end and you know how it's going to end but getting there has all the requirements for a very enjoyable read.
I really liked this book and hated to have it end. For me, it's one of those where the characters will creep into my thoughts randomly, I'm sure! The characters were well-developed and the writing was exceptional. I loved the mythical stories woven throughout and found the topic of corvids to be a tempting "side read"! The description of the New England landscapes made me feel the crisp, cool nights and smell the evergreens, and the same goes for the writing of the locales in Indonesia. I think Mr. Monninger did an exceptional job with this subject and I've made a point of recommending it to the many people with whom I share book knowledge.
I received an advance of Joseph Monninger's Eternal on the Water from the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club program. Eternal on the Water does have an interesting premise - a husband and wife must make a difficult choice when she is diagnosed with a degenerative neurological disease - so it sounded interesting. I've also only ever missed one First Look book and that was when they did two at once and you could only pick one. So I signed up, promptly got behind in reading because Flannery O'Connor's short stories weren't being kind to me, and finally finished Eternal on the Water the other night. Monninger has a lovely writing style, very in tune with the natural setting of rural New England, and it fits with the narrator's (Cobb) initial goal in the book of writing an essay about Thoreau and his wife's (Mary) occupation as a corvid biologist. Interwoven throughout the story are many different folk tales surrounding crows and a few about bears (an old legend has it that bears turn into people when they want to come close to the fire so it becomes a running joke throughout the novel). Thoreau's Walden is fequently invoked and I kept thinking of it while reading Eternal on the Water (even though I've only ever read part of Walden). There's a also a very lovely sequence when visiting Mary's brother in Indonesia; the nature theme is continued because he is heavily involved in coral reef and sea turtle conservation. The bulk of the book spans a single year following Mary and Cobb's meeting. Once symptoms of Mary's disease (Huntington's disease - an autosomally dominant genetic illness) manifest Monninger speeds up time, only hitting highlights so that the last years of Mary and Cobb's time together are compressed into a chapter; I'm still not quite sure how many years Mary and Cobb were together. Monninger draws out Mary's final days and his writing makes a very touching scene. What I could have dispensed with was the "present day" scene that began and ended the book. Cobb narrates the story of his life with Mary in flashback and I find that the whole "tell-the-end-then-explain-what-happened-to-the-reader-for-350-pages" is getting a bit overdone. Because we know all the particulars in the first five pages it really becomes a struggle to stay with the narrative. I think it is a testament to the quality of Monninger's writing that I was able to stay with the narrative and admire the work. I think this would have been a very powerful novel using just Cobb's narration alone but Eternal on the Water is a very lovely book as it is now.
I normally don't read books like this but I am glad I asked to read this one. From the gorgeous cover and the amazing characters I was impressed. I fell in love with everything about this book. It was like a love letter to a girl, to a river, to life. It is impossible to explain how this book touched me. Wow. I was plain speechless! I hung on to every word wanting to know the entire story. This book is enchanting.
This a beautiful story of a couple going through the motion of finding themselves and ended up finding each other. I couldn't put it down! If only we all could be loved as much as Cobb and Mary loved each other and their worlds around them, we could all be so lucky!
ETERNAL ON THE WATER is a lovely book that takes Life and Love and mixes them into a perfect match. The flow of the story is like a river, often running over rocks and between crevices but coming to a peaceful pool at the end. The two main characters Mary and Cobb find each other, fall in love, and deal with the ultimate challenge, death, in a beautiful way within the scenery of nature. It is not a romance book so do not skip over it because of the love element, but it is a view of how two different people deal with living in the present moment and deal with their future, knowing what is coming. This story has had me thinking about it long after I finished the book and that is unusual nowadays.