The Weight of Water by Anita Shreve. I have to assume it came by way of a random yard sale purchase because the sheets and the cover were yellowed with age but it very well could have been given to me. The name sounded familiar and apparently it's because it was a movie over a decade ago starring Elizabeth Hurley and Sean Penn. Maybe the familiarity of the name is why I decided to grab this particular title off my shelf though I can't say I ever saw the film.
I hesitate to use the word "gripping" to describe a book but it seems to be a perfectly acceptable adjective to employ for this one. This book tells two tales sort of simultaneously; Shreve weaves in and out of thoughts and memories so often and unexpectedly that it was confusing at first. The first story is about Jean who is on a boat with her husband, daughter, brother-in-law and his girlfriend. They have set sail in a small boat to take Jean to photograph a former crime scene on the small island of Smuttynose, off the coast of Maine. The close quarters seem to brew feelings of jealousy and insecurity in Jean that parallel emotions found in the second story which is the historical account of the sole survivor of a double axe murder that took place in the late 19th century. Interestingly, the murder is based in fact but the survivor's account is fictional aside from the court testimonies. At the time this book was written, the OJ trial had just taken place so there is that double murder casting a shadow over the story as well.
Shreve uses language that had me checking the dictionary more than once. Her voice for Jean versus her voice for Maren, the survivor, was distinctly different but they were both just so lyrical. While the story of true crime appealed to me, I wasn't sure how I would respond to the themes of incest and jealousy and lust. I'm not really a big reader of romance novels, so to speak. However, I read this book over the course of a mere three days because I was pulled into these stories so strongly and was so very curious to see how things would turn out. Although Maren's ending was a bit predictable, I have to say I was stunned for poor Jean. This book was very well written and left me nearly breathless after many pages of exasperating suspense.