Water Music: A Cape Cod Story
by Marcia Peck
Sea Crow Press

"Tides filled and emptied our small world and I tried to figure out who belonged to whom."

In the summer of 1956, eleven-year-old (soon to be twelve) Lily Grainger describes her family’s annual summer vacation at their undeveloped property on the shore of a salt pond on Cape Cod. As this coming-of-age novel progresses, it mirrors the Beaufort scale of wind velocities that mark each chapter heading with increasing speeds and potential damages, an apt reminder of the increasing tension in Lily’s parents’ marriage and the marriage of her forceful Uncle George and delicate Aunt Fanny. Lily describes this crescendo of life-changing events in the prologue: “All summer the storm gathered and gathered, took its breath from every direction we thought we knew, and lashed us into spindrift.” Interestingly, the summer of 1956 is meaningful historically as the shipwreck of the Andrea Doria happened nearby on a July evening.

The story is gracefully measured by the author’s love of music. Peck is a cellist and is fascinated with musical connections to language. Lily’s growth throughout the tale is colored not only by her love of the picturesque, watery environments of Cape Cod and her adventures with her older sister Dodie and her cousin Nicole but also by her interest in learning to play classical cello. Lily and her mother, Lydia, observe the atmospheric stranding of pilot whales as it becomes ever apparent that their relationship is also stranded.

Lily’s resemblance to her father, Weston, and her mother’s unconscious preference for her older sister make life more complicated. Peck punctuates the family turmoil repeatedly with familiar forces—a competitive relationship between the adult brothers, insults from a stony grandmother, excuses from a codependent grandfather, and the unrelenting summer storm that leads to more than one unexpected tragedy. Lyrically rendered prose, unforgettable characters, and vividly wrought settings thrust this nuanced debut novel into the lofty realm of a masterpiece.

RECOMMENDED by the US Review

Next Focus Review
Previous Focus Review

Return to USR Home