Sounding the Waters

Sounding the Waters

by James Glickman
     
 

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Ben Shamas has spent the five years since the accidental drowning of his daughter in a carefully circumscribed routine. Between long hours of work at his law practice and the occasional quiet weekend bender, he has managed to avoid thinking about his daughter, his failed marriage, or his future. Then events break in on his comfortable numbness. Ben's oldest friend,…  See more details below

Overview

Ben Shamas has spent the five years since the accidental drowning of his daughter in a carefully circumscribed routine. Between long hours of work at his law practice and the occasional quiet weekend bender, he has managed to avoid thinking about his daughter, his failed marriage, or his future. Then events break in on his comfortable numbness. Ben's oldest friend, Bobby Parrish, asks him to help run his campaign for the U.S. Senate, in what promises to be a bitter contest against a ruthless opponent. Ben's involvement in the campaign draws him out of his emotional shell, but as the heat of the campaign becomes intense, this brings on different dangers. Bobby's wife, Laura, was Ben's first love. As she turns to Ben for the attention Bobby has single-mindedly focused on the campaign, Ben is brought face to face with the past he has been ignoring, with his sense of loss and roads not taken. Meanwhile, the opposition has been digging into Bobby's personal history in search of anything they can use against him. What they find - and how Ben responds - could not only end Bobby's political career, but change the lives of all three friends forever.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Cahners\\Publishers_Weekly
Fast-paced and engrossing, this political melodrama seems ready-made for Hollywood. On the one hand, the plot is appropriately Byzantine; on the other, the characters have little nuance to be lost in translation. Narrator Ben Shamas is a gifted lawyer losing himself in work and drink two years after the death of his daughter in a boating accident. But he agrees to help his old friend and Yale classmate, the powerful and highly principled Bobby Parrish, campaign for the U. S. Senate. That decision prompts Ben to confront not only the devious campaign strategies of Bobby's opponent, the unscrupulous congressman Richard Wheatley, but also his lingering desire for Bobby's wife, Laura; the political fallout from ill-advised investments Bobby's ailing sister made; and his anger about his daughter's death and the consequent dissolution of his marriage. The novel has enough plot for a book twice its size, and the behind-the-scenes glimpses of American political machinations are absorbing. Although the brevity of the novel ill-serves its characters, who never fully shrug free of their stereotypical underpinnings, Glickman's first effort succeeds as a skillfully crafted tale about the ruthlessness and ingenuity of American politics.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Fast-paced and engrossing, this political melodrama seems ready-made for Hollywood. On the one hand, the plot is appropriately Byzantine; on the other, the characters have little nuance to be lost in translation. Narrator Ben Shamas is a gifted lawyer losing himself in work and drink two years after the death of his daughter in a boating accident. But he agrees to help his old friend and Yale classmate, the powerful and highly principled Bobby Parrish, campaign for the U. S. Senate. That decision prompts Ben to confront not only the devious campaign strategies of Bobby's opponent, the unscrupulous congressman Richard Wheatley, but also his lingering desire for Bobby's wife, Laura; the political fallout from ill-advised investments Bobby's ailing sister made; and his anger about his daughter's death and the consequent dissolution of his marriage. The novel has enough plot for a book twice its size, and the behind-the-scenes glimpses of American political machinations are absorbing. Although the brevity of the novel ill-serves its characters, who never fully shrug free of their stereotypical underpinnings, Glickman's first effort succeeds as a skillfully crafted tale about the ruthlessness and ingenuity of American politics. (Apr.)
George Needham
Lawyer Ben Shamas has been in an emotional vacuum since the death of his young daughter two years ago. Nevertheless, Bobby Parrish, the state's lieutenant governor, asks for Ben's help as he runs for the U.S. Senate. Ben and Bobby are old friends, having gone to high school and Yale together until Bobby went off to Vietnam. Upon Bobby's return to Yale, he and Ben shared many of the dubious joys of the 1960s; these retroactively reprehensible indulgences haunt Bobby as his opponent gears up a dirty campaign. Ben investigates who is responsible for the leaks within the campaign organization while trying to keep Bobby's ailing sister from being indicted for her part in a questionable land deal. Ben must also deal with unwanted advances from Bobby's lonely wife. By getting involved in something bigger than his own self-pity, Ben finds a measure of redemption. It's hard to believe that this is Glickman's first novel; the prose is smooth and self-assured, with a consistently convincing narrative voice.
Kirkus Reviews
On his first outing, Glickman takes us into the deep waters of political turmoil in a tale that carries its resemblance to All the King's Men a bit too heavily and far.

When we first meet Ben Shamas, he is having a hard time of it: Two years after the death of his only child, he has divorced his wife, left his law firm, and lost his ambition. Although he allows himself an occasional drunken binge, work has become his preferred escape: "Most activities that cause you to forget your preoccupations, who you are, or what day it is—drugs, alcohol, sex, violent exercise—are transitory or have unpleasant sequels, or both. But work is safe and predictable." Ben plods cheerlessly away as an appeals attorney and tries not to dwell on things until Jeannie Parrish, a childhood friend, comes to him with a problem. Jeannie's brother Bobby is running for the US Senate, and Jeannie is worried that a shady real-estate deal she made a few years back will be found out and used against Bobby in the campaign. Can Ben help? He tries, and is quickly enmeshed in an escalating series of intrigues and political dirty tricks. An old college classmate threatens to expose Bobby as a quondam acid-head; the opposing candidate's campaign manager (a childhood friend of Ben's) discovers that Bobby was treated by a psychiatrist. As if this weren't enough, Bobby's wife (once Ben's girlfriend) starts coming on to Ben over telephones that turn out to be tapped. The overriding motive for all the schemes seems to be vengeance; neither the problems themselves nor the anger behind them turns out to be especially deep, however, since in the end they are cleared up quickly, neatly, and with small surprise.

A skillful exposition of very little: Glickman seems to have mastered the politician's art of using rhetoric to inflate the mundane without transfiguring its shape.

NPR - Alan Cheuse
“This is the novel Primary Colors promised to be, but Glickman takes the high road, turning his back on cheap gossip and making fictional politicians seem quite real. Dramatizing the complicated process of running for office and contrasting it against the starkness of human motives and desires, he’s produced a cliffhanger of a novel, right down to the final speeches of the final debate of the closing days of the campaign.”
New York Times - James Polk
"...arresting. On the brink of a new political season, it’s nice to read a novel in which what happens in a campaign is less important than what happens to the people engaged in it.”
Los Angeles Times - Michael Harris
“Sounding the Waters is taut and involving, written so cleanly it squeaks…"
Yale Alumni Magazine - Bruce Fellman
“…riveting…a masterful study of the personal cost of running for national office…a great tale for the election year.”
Boston Globe - Barbara Fisher
"...highly absorbing and entertaining. The tensions between (the) characters are well drawn and dramatic. I cared about the outcome of the election and the future of the characters…It was a pleasure to root for them.”

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780517700402
Publisher:
Crown Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/02/1996
Series:
Niagara Large Print Series
Edition description:
1st ed
Pages:
288
Product dimensions:
6.17(w) x 9.20(h) x 0.87(d)

Meet the Author

James Glickman lives in Sturbridge, Massachusetts. He is a graduate of Yale and the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. His short stories have appeared in a variety of journals and national magazines.

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