To Be Sung Underwater: A Novel

To Be Sung Underwater: A Novel

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by Tom McNeal
     
 

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Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio." Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford.

Overview

Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio." Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford. When Judith left home, she didn't look back.

Twenty years later, Judith's marriage is hazy with secrets. In her hand is what may be the phone number for the man who believed she meant it when she said she loved him. If she called, what would he say?

TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER is the epic love story of a woman trying to remember, and the man who could not even begin to forget.

Editorial Reviews

Cynthia Crossen
An exceptional novel.... McNeal writes a kind of prose that's almost endangered today: natural, smooth and subtle.
The Wall Street Journal
Susan Salter Reynolds
Love stories have a terrible gravity, a centrifugal force. McNeal has created characters so dimensional, so memorable, that we are caught up in that urgency. Our rationality is compromised; the rules of the world fade away.
Los Angeles Times
Caroline Leavitt
Hypnotic .... so vividly written that it takes you to a place where all your perceptions seem dizzyingly altered. Which is, of course, exactly like love itself.
Washington Post
Carrie Keyes
McNeal's ability to tell the story from a female point of view is shockingly accurate, as is his Richard Russo-esque ability to make small town characters simply complicated....a beautiful novel that bravely examines the effect a broken relationship can have on one's life path.
Seattle Post-Intelligencer
Sarah Willis
Bautifully written.... a compelling story, uniting the literary, character-driven novel with what eventually becomes quite a page turner.... This novel will make for great book-club discussions.
The Cleveland Plain-Dealer
Gale Walden
This lovely novel is quiet and smart, drawing you so deeply into the characters that the ending might just leave you coming up for air.
Oprah Magazine
Markus Zusak
"You don't so much read To Be Sung Underwater as you're consumed by it. The characters are unforgettable. The writing is staggering. More importantly, though, it's the courage of this book that sets it apart. It's the bravest, most beautiful book I've read in a long time."
Carrie Keyes - Seattle Post-Intelligencer
"McNeal's ability to tell the story from a female point of view is shockingly accurate, as is his Richard Russo-esque ability to make small town characters simply complicated....a beautiful novel that bravely examines the effect a broken relationship can have on one's life path."
Cynthia Crossen - The Wall Street Journal
"An exceptional novel.... McNeal writes a kind of prose that's almost endangered today: natural, smooth and subtle."
Ann Packer
"Smart, sexy, gorgeous, and at times devastatingly sad--these words describe the woman at the heart of this wonderful novel almost as well as they do the book itself. This ravishing love story will envelop you for a few days and then linger for a long time thereafter."
Richard Ford
"To Be Sung Underwater is such an immensely readable novel. McNeal has the enviable talent of making splendid writing look easy at no cost to the complexity and the beauties of what fascinates him (and me) -- the terrain occupied by women and men in love with each other. This is a wonderful book."
Sarah Willis - The Cleveland Plain-Dealer
"Bautifully written.... a compelling story, uniting the literary, character-driven novel with what eventually becomes quite a page turner.... This novel will make for great book-club discussions."
Caroline Leavitt - Washington Post
"Hypnotic .... so vividly written that it takes you to a place where all your perceptions seem dizzyingly altered. Which is, of course, exactly like love itself."
Gale Walden - Oprah Magazine
"This lovely novel is quiet and smart, drawing you so deeply into the characters that the ending might just leave you coming up for air."
Susan Salter Reynolds - Los Angeles Times
"Love stories have a terrible gravity, a centrifugal force. McNeal has created characters so dimensional, so memorable, that we are caught up in that urgency. Our rationality is compromised; the rules of the world fade away."
From the Publisher
"You don't so much read To Be Sung Underwater as you're consumed by it. The characters are unforgettable. The writing is staggering. More importantly, though, it's the courage of this book that sets it apart. It's the bravest, most beautiful book I've read in a long time."—Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief"

Smart, sexy, gorgeous, and at times devastatingly sad—these words describe the woman at the heart of this wonderful novel almost as well as they do the book itself. This ravishing love story will envelop you for a few days and then linger for a long time thereafter."—Ann Packer, author of Swim Back to Me and The Dive from Clausen's Pier"

To Be Sung Underwater is such an immensely readable novel. McNeal has the enviable talent of making splendid writing look easy at no cost to the complexity and the beauties of what fascinates him (and me) — the terrain occupied by women and men in love with each other. This is a wonderful book."—Richard Ford"

McNeal's ability to tell the story from a female point of view is shockingly accurate, as is his Richard Russo-esque ability to make small town characters simply complicated....a beautiful novel that bravely examines the effect a broken relationship can have on one's life path."—Carrie Keyes, Seattle Post-Intelligencer "

An exceptional novel.... McNeal writes a kind of prose that's almost endangered today: natural, smooth and subtle."—Cynthia Crossen, The Wall Street Journal"

Bautifully written.... a compelling story, uniting the literary, character-driven novel with what eventually becomes quite a page turner.... This novel will make for great book-club discussions."—Sarah Willis, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer"

This lovely novel is quiet and smart, drawing you so deeply into the characters that the ending might just leave you coming up for air."—Gale Walden, Oprah Magazine"

Love stories have a terrible gravity, a centrifugal force. McNeal has created characters so dimensional, so memorable, that we are caught up in that urgency. Our rationality is compromised; the rules of the world fade away."—Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times"

Hypnotic .... so vividly written that it takes you to a place where all your perceptions seem dizzyingly altered. Which is, of course, exactly like love itself."—Caroline Leavitt, Washington Post

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316127387
Publisher:
Little, Brown and Company
Publication date:
06/05/2012
Pages:
464
Sales rank:
375,656
Product dimensions:
5.40(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.30(d)

What People are saying about this

Ann Packer
"Smart, sexy, gorgeous, and at times devastatingly sad—these words describe the woman at the heart of this wonderful novel almost as well as they do the book itself. This ravishing love story will envelop you for a few days and then linger for a long time thereafter." --(Ann Packer, author of Swim Back to Me and The Dive from Clausen's Pier)
Ehud Havazelet
"What a pleasure to hear Tom McNeal's voice again, its humor and intelligence and muscle. By turns gentle and grim, lyric and comic, To Be Sung Underwater is a lovely book about what remains after so much is lost. What sweeps you along is not just the power of its writing but what distinguishes McNeal from nearly every other writer working in America these days—his unironic affection for the characters he brings so richly to life." --(Ehud Havazelet, author of Bearing the Body)
Lily King
"Anyone who has grown up and away from their roots will commiserate with Judith Whitman's attempts in the middle of her life to put back all the broken pieces of the past. Anyone who has ever been left behind will ache for Willy Blunt and his long and excruciating wait for her return. These characters in To Be Sung Underwater, written with such perception and tenderness, are vivid, funny, flawed, and truly unforgettable. Tom McNeal is a stunning writer who can do everything effortlessly." --(Lily King, author of Father of the Rain)
Richard Ford
To Be Sung Underwater is such an immensely readable novel. McNeal has the enviable talent of making splendid writing look easy at no cost to the complexity and the beauties of what fascinates him (and me) — the terrain occupied by women and men in love with each other. This is a wonderful book.
Markus Zusak
"You don't so much read To Be Sung Underwater as you're consumed by it. The characters are unforgettable. The writing is staggering. More importantly, though, it's the courage of this book that sets it apart. It's the bravest, most beautiful book I've read in a long time." --(Markus Zusak, author of The Book Thief)

Meet the Author

Tom McNeal's first novel, Goodnight, Nebraska, won the James A. Michener Memorial Prize and California Book Award, and his short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories, The O. Henry Prize Stories, and The Pushcart Prize XXI. He lives near San Diego with his wife and sons.

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To Be Sung Underwater 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 78 reviews.
BookHounds More than 1 year ago
Judith has been married to Malcolm and begins to wonder if she married the right man. Her thoughts turn to Willy, the boy she left behind years ago. The story flips back and forth between the present and the years before when she first met Willy. The story flows easily between the two time periods and you can easily get a feel for how Judith has matured. She has a dream job editing films, a lovely home and a man she thinks might be cheating on her. The drama builds effortlessly and the words are so lovingly chosen that you won't want to skip a one. I had to go back and read several paragraphs over since the writing is just so exquisite. The characters stuck with me long after I finished this book. This book would make an excellent movie since it feels like everything is in perfect order and you can see each scene unfold into the next. I am so glad that more authors are turning up from Orange County and especially the University of California, Irvine. This book would be a winning choice for a book club since there are so many interesting angles that can be discussed.
Lisa Sherer More than 1 year ago
I'm not much of a fiction reader but this was an amazingly well told story with characters I feel like I really know and care about. Be forewarned - you won't want to put it down!
Sandge More than 1 year ago
As an avid reader, this is the first novel that I have felt completely compelled to review. From the first sentence to the final word, I found myself stealing seconds out of the day to read the next paragraph...or word. Even though I "knew' the ending, it still left me in shock and silently screaming "NO! This can't be the end!" This novel left me in silent tears mourning both the loss of the love of my life from my college days more than 40 years ago to the fragility of my current 8 year relationship and all the resultant "what ifs?".
AAR More than 1 year ago
TO BE SUNG UNDERWATER by TOm McNeal is a wonderful epic love story set in Nebraska and Los Angles. What a sad,intense,heartbreaking and compelling story of love,secrets,life,second chances,fixing broken pieces of your heart,told with tenderness,that is truly unforgettable. The characters are engaging,sometimes witty,vivid and will trul capture your heart with their flawed,sometimes funny personalities.You will get sweep away with this truly epic love story. "To Be Sung Underwater" will leave you with an intense feeling of sadness and happiness as Willy and Judith comes to grip with their past and their future.This story will have your turning pages and have you desperately hoping for the best.A great story that is well written whose characters could be the family next door. This book was received for the purpose of review from Reading Romance Blog and the publisher and details can be found at Little,Brown and Company,a division of Hachette Book Group and My Book Addiction Reviews.
Bettikins More than 1 year ago
Good story with interesting connection between present and past. It was not one of the more compelling books I've read.
frankiesgirl41 More than 1 year ago
The author reaches out and wraps you within the pages of this book! Beautifully written, hard to put down...you'll be thinking about what you have experienced within this story, long after you have finished the last page.
Texgal47 More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed reading this novel but it really needed an epilog. There were too many questions unanwered. The writer made me really care for Judith so the ending was just not satisfactory. I actually looked for more pages when I knew there were none.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was just OK for me. It actually took me a couple of tries to get all the way through it. I'm glad I gave it a 2nd chance because I eventually did get into it, but it was still just OK. Maybe it's because I just didn't like any of the characters.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
We were easily introduced to each key person in the book, and the pages kept turning as new and very unique individuals entered the story. Many unexpected twists and turns. I couldn't wait to read the final chapter and, while it was a surprise, it did not disappoint. I will read again, and perhaps as you read it you'll notice the color red popping up.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Atthebeach More than 1 year ago
This was a really great read. The author's writing style is wonderful, the story goes back and forth in time but not is a confusing way. The time changes actually help fill in the story as the main character looks back and forth in her life.  I guess many people wonder if they married the right person and about the person they left behind. This is a classic look at that circumstance and is so well done. It does cause reflection. The story is beautiful and sad and had me deeply engrossed throughout. I keep thinking about the ending. Was that the right ending? It certainly was for this character and this book, but in real life? 
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was one of those amazing reads that I never wanted to end! I totally adored this book and the depth of the characters, the poignancy of their flaws and the  author's brilliant weave of suspense, love and sorrow. I wish I could read 10 more books that made me feel the way this book did when I finished. It was pure escape and pure joy.
BookCharmer More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written! Caution - this novel may inspire you to a moment of self-reflection.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I absolutely loved this stiry. It was so well written and surprised even me. Many thanks to the author.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I throughly enjoyed this book. The story and the sentence structure used to weave this enchanting and thought provoking tale are magical. After I finished reading the story, I felt as if I had to go back and reread it immediately in order to fully appreciate the author's incredible talent......the second reading was even more beautiful.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The romance, the humor, the sadness and regret, it was all there in this book and I loved it! The ending surprised me! I loved Willy's Character!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SarahtheShopper More than 1 year ago
I purchased this book on the recommendation of a friend and because of all the great reviews. I simply could not get through this book. I stuck with it till about half way through thinking it would pick up but I finally gave up (something I rarely do). The writing was boring, the characters too muddled and I just didn't enjoy the plot. Wouldn't recommend.
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