The Sign for Drowning: A Novel [NOOK Book]


Anna has grown up haunted by her younger
sister’s death. In the life she constructs as a barrier against the emotional
wreckage of her family tragedy, Anna settles comfortably into a career as a
teacher of deaf children. But a challenge arrives—in the form of a young girl....

See more details below
The Sign for Drowning: A Novel

Available on NOOK devices and apps  
  • NOOK Devices
  • Samsung Galaxy Tab 4 NOOK
  • NOOK HD/HD+ Tablet
  • NOOK
  • NOOK Color
  • NOOK Tablet
  • Tablet/Phone
  • NOOK for Windows 8 Tablet
  • NOOK for iOS
  • NOOK for Android
  • NOOK Kids for iPad
  • PC/Mac
  • NOOK for Windows 8
  • NOOK for PC
  • NOOK for Mac
  • NOOK for Web

Want a NOOK? Explore Now

NOOK Book (eBook)
$10.49 price
(Save 25%)$14.00 List Price


Anna has grown up haunted by her younger
sister’s death. In the life she constructs as a barrier against the emotional
wreckage of her family tragedy, Anna settles comfortably into a career as a
teacher of deaf children. But a challenge arrives—in the form of a young girl.
Adrea’s disarming vulnerability and obvious need for love offer Anna the
possibility of reconnecting with the world around her—if she has the courage to
open her heart.

Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“By offering her heroine’s hesitant optimism through such disarmingly honest confessions, Stolzman exhibits an authentic emotional and narrative integrity, an impressive feat for a debut novelist. Stolzman brings this lyrical sensibility to an elegiac tale of a family’s heart-stopping tragedy and hard-won redemption, in which a tarnished silence can once again be made to shine through the resonate power of love.”—Foreword Magazine

“At a time when cool, ironic fiction is too much the rage, here is a novel written straight from the heart, a tender yet fearless portrait of a loving family crippled by grief. Rachel Stolzman reminds us what kind of stories matter, and move us, the most.”—Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Whole World Over

“Reminiscent of Ian McEwan’s The Child in Time and Frederick Reichen’s The Odd Sea, this is a moving and important novel. Rachel Stolzman's story about a woman’s attempts to find order in the broken world she inhabits deftly captures grief and the struggle to live within its lifelong specter.”—Bret Lott, author of Jewel and A Song I Knew by Heart

“Against the themes of loss and mourning in this radiant novel are balanced those of nurturing and hope.”—Roy Hoffman, author of Chicken Dreaming Corn and Almost Family

“Rendered in spare and original prose, The Sign for Drowning is a piercing and poignant tale of loss and love. Rachel Stolzman writes from the heart and speaks to the heart. This haunting first novel is the story of unspeakable horror and extraordinary beauty.”—Patty Dann, author of The Goldfish Went on Vacation

"It's a delicately balanced novel, spare but not taciturn, emotional but not overwrought, and finally hopeful but not unnaturally cheerful."—Margaret Quamme, The Columbus Dispatch

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780834826687
  • Publisher: Shambhala Publications, Inc.
  • Publication date: 8/27/2012
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • File size: 240 KB

Meet the Author

Rachel Stolzman

Rachel Stolzman received her MFA in creative writing from Sarah Lawrence College. Her writing has won several awards and her poetry has appeared in numerous journals.

Read More Show Less

Read an Excerpt

From Part Two

We ate dinner together every
night. During the meal, both of my parents would inquire about my day
at school. I’d report my lessons in each subject, and any special
activities or outings I’d done with my class. After dinner, I would do
my homework alone in my room. When I was through, I would seek them out
again to show them. They never asked to see my homework, and I often
felt I was imposing on them for this small attention.

They were
usually curled up on the couch together, watching the news or reading.
Holding out my few worksheets, I’d say, “I’m finished, you can check
it.” My mom would smile at me and return to her book or the television.
My father was always the one to take the papers, look them over. “Fine
job, Anna, very good.” They were like a buoy, making an appearance of
security but impossible to get a foothold on.

I didn’t think we
would ever go to the beach again. But a year after Megan’s death we
solemnly went to see the California coast. We drove across the Bay
Bridge into San Francisco. We didn’t bring pails and shovels. I sat in
the backseat of the car, already in my bathing suit, a yellow terry
cloth dress over it. I could see gray water passing by underneath as we
drove. When we’d first climbed into the car, left our driveway, we were
cheerful in false anticipation. But we never did pretend much,
especially when it was just the three of us, and we quickly grew quiet.

parked, and each carried a bundle toward the shore. I took off my
sneakers after we’d already walked a way in the sand, spilling out the
fine pebbles. The familiar sensation of my bare feet in the sand made
my throat constrict. After laying down our things, my father and I
moved forward together. We stepped into the waves, simultaneously
stooping to cup the water in our hands.

“It seems colder,” I
stated in comparison, glancing at my father to see if he approved of my
openness in remembering the ocean. It seemed as if he hadn’t heard me.
He stared out to sea. I followed his gaze. Perhaps from this new
perspective Megan would be in plain sight. What if here on Golden Gate
Beach sat Megan, patiently filling a pail with sand, waiting for her
slow land-bound family to catch up? I looked back at my mother. She was
seated in the sand. She had buried her feet and was sifting dry sand
through her fingers. She was looking down at her hands, her long brown
hair falling over her bent knees.

Suddenly I felt incredibly long
legged, giant and unchildlike, as if the ocean could never cover my
long pale body from sight. I headed back toward my mother.

looked up and stared right through me, then turned her gaze down again.
I turned back to my father. He still stared out as if the earth might
indeed be flat and he could just make out the opposite shore. I felt
newly afraid to be near the ocean.

I ran back to him and followed his eyes gazing out to sea. “Is it Massachusetts on the other side?”

come here.” He awkwardly picked me up. He was knee-deep in the water. I
perched clumsily on his hip, remembering being younger and clinging to
his body before I could swim. “The other side is Japan. You realize we
haven’t seen the ocean in over a year? The beach was my favorite place
before Megan died.”

I suspected that my father thought I was my mother. I said only, “Put me down.”

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously
Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 21, 2013


    This book leaves you thinking days after you read it. It is a book that takes you places within one's spirit. As Anna is thinking about feelings, i found myself saying "Yeah...that's how i think and feel". There is tremendous depth to her writing. It is at times a difficult book given the strong feelings on delicate subjects but it is a really great read.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted November 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Precise language and ability to capture her characters¿ emotional lives with insightful and telling detail.

    You might think of several reasons for learning sign language, but you probably haven¿t thought of it as a way to communicate with the dead. That¿s what 8-year-old Anna Levy tries to do after her younger sister Megan drowns on the family¿s Cape Cod vacation. <BR/><BR/>¿Nobody said Megan was beyond even silent words. I learned sign language. I wasn¿t told that death is farther than that.¿ Desperate for a way to talk to Megan and reverse the past, Anna enters a private world in which sign becomes a secret language and a metaphor for communication with memory and her own inner self. Over the years, she outgrows this idea and eventually uses her ASL as the director of a center for deaf children in New York.<BR/><BR/>Anna¿s asides on the nuances of sign language and deaf culture can be a pleasure to read, as when she notes, ¿Of course sign language can accommodate lies, but I am certain that the deaf lie less than hearing people.¿<BR/><BR/>Her portrayal of the deaf community is strong and unsentimental. But the idea of sign language or deafness as something mystical might not sit well with readers with a skeptical eye for disability appearing as anything but a physical condition. <BR/><BR/>Learned speech and lip reading take on other meanings here as well. Anna decides to take her adopted daughter Adrea to France for a six-week course in speech therapy. Although Anna, and Stolzman, understand the controversy over imposing adaptations to the hearing world on deaf children, Adrea¿s new skills are accepted by others in the community, and her efforts at speech are presented as symbols of her personal growth. <BR/><BR/>The real reward in The Sign for Drowning is Stolzman¿s precise language and her ability to capture her characters¿ emotional lives with insightful and telling detail. She explores the familiar ground of grief, family relationships, and self-doubt with sensitivity and intelligence. <BR/><BR/>-Rebecca Donnelly

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 23, 2008

    A New Favorite

    Well, I've just finished Rachel Stolzman's The Sign for Drowning, and am in the stunned place an outstanding story leaves you. It is a book that I couldn't put down and then read more and more slowly as I approached and tried to delay its inevitable end. It is A Favorite, absolutely, and one that I'll read again. <BR/><BR/>I mean, I want to adopt a deaf child. I want to adopt Adrea. <BR/><BR/>What I love about Stolzman's voice is its grace. She maintains a poetic facility and restraint throughout A Sign for Drowning, and is worth studying to see how it's done when it's done right. No word is wasted, and nothing sounds precious. The reader is left to experience. And what a story! It moves, it surprises, it takes you in immediately. <BR/><BR/>Rachel Stolzman is a very talented writer, and I cannot wait to see what comes next.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 22, 2008

    Exceptional book!

    In The Sign for Drowning, Rachel Stolzman weaves a story of love, loss and hope. A story that will touch readers to the depths of their soul. A story that challenges the reader to embrace places within that are hidden, places that need to be jostled, nooks which are always present in our being that leave us wondering about life's events and how these events shaped our lives and the lives of those around us.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 25, 2008

    Beautiful book!

    This is a poetic and moving book. The story of Anna's girlhood loss is deeply moving. The event of her sister's death is told in a beautifully rendered prologue. Most of the book centers on Anna and her adopted deaf daughter, Adrea and I was totally transported into their world. Their love is palatable and it is a joy to watch them move through life together. This is a book that will keep you reading and that you will remember after you put down.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 28, 2008

    The Sing for Drowning tells a soulful story

    In Rachel Stolzman's book, The Sing for Drowning the reader immediately becomes entranced by Anna's story. The author's writing is easy to read due to its poetic undertones. Stolzman captures and explores the emotions of death, motherhood and love in a way that allows the reader to embrace the story. The descriptions of Anna's feelings towards Adrea are quite remarkable. As I read the story I continually was wondering and asking myself questions about the Anna, the death of her sister, Adrea and Anna's relationship with her mother. Stolzman wrote a story that answers all the questions and leaves the reader wanting more.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews

If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
Why is this product inappropriate?
Comments (optional)