LET ME BE LIKE WATER

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LET ME BE LIKE WATER, BY S. K. PERRY

In her debut novel, Let Me Be Like Water, S. K. Perry explores the long stay of grief after the loss of a lover. Holly moves to Brighton to be near the sea after the death of her boyfriend. While she seeks to process this unplanned loss, she craves isolation. But then she meets Frank, a retired magician who has also lost and grieved the love of his life. Frank initiates her into “his collection of broken people” and between home-cooked meals and cold swims, book clubs and bar nights, Holly begins to slowly loosen her desperate grip on her pain.

Though this love-lost scenario runs the risk of sounding maudlin, Perry writes in short, vignette-like sections that move between Holly’s present grieving and past happiness with her boyfriend Sam. These passages fluctuate between the dark and the light, the deep and the shallow, much like water. Despite the raw sorrow of Holly’s narration, she uses a sharp eye to describe little details in the landscape and facial features, which holds the reader’s head up above the emotional turmoil. Most importantly it is how Perry writes Holly’s strength of desire to recover which carries her prose forward. Despite bad days and setbacks, Holly wills herself—and the reader—into better places. By Christmas, she drunkenly observes, “I pray for flowers to grow out of my hands and for the wind to play me music, and think that if there is a God, he shouldn’t need us to tell him what it is that we need.” As readers, we don’t need her to tell us what she needs either, but instead we become like water, in its many movements alongside her.

Melville House.

—Review by Joy Clark