As children, Tam and her older brother were swimming when she suffered her first epileptic seizure. He pulled her from the water and was crowned a hero. Tam was labeled “disabled” and never swam again. And so began 30 years of vigilance, never allowing her body to betray her, never allowing her brother or her family or anyone else to influence her path. Now, in middle age, a lifetime’s worth of control has taken its toll. Exhausted, she heads to Maine where, while working on a genealogy project, she falls under the spell of two dead women: an ancestor, Mary Catherine, who died at 33; the other, the town ghost. Through their cloistered, tragic lives Tam relives her own life over and over — until a distant cousin forces her to see herself in a new light. Tam’s quest to transcend self-imposed limitations is superbly crafted and richly satisfying.
A gripping tale of compulsion, obsession, and forgiveness, set so evocatively amidst the fogs and furies of the offseason Maine coast. It’s also an intriguing exploration of the ways in which our ancestral pasts echo within our own psyches.
Shipwrecks, doomed lovers, family secrets, sea-babies, toilet-babies, and historical-reenactment sex are but a few of the facets of this deftly kaleidoscopic novel. With Waterbaby, Cris Mazza shows us how, through resuscitating our pasts, and rescuing each other, we might just save ourselves.
With the wickedly wry observation, ‘Family is always best,’ Chris Mazza pierces the heart of this big-hearted novel. Mean and funny and, ultimately, loving, Waterbaby is the pitch-perfect tale of an all-American family in gothic and comic splendor. This is a delightful and delightfully smart book.
[P]acks a lingering wallop.