This is me, trying to fathom why a writer would so burden her novel with an archaic conceit (“This is you… this is Kim… this is Annie… this is the swimming facility…”) that leaves readers unable to escape its clumsy repetition. This is me thinking surely this trend will only last a few chapters. This is me realizing that there is literally no respite and I am going to be stuck until the last page, dreading the next and the next “this is me.” (This is me choosing to continue Murphy’s style so that curious readers will understand what is in store when purchasing this title.)
This is Annie (and Chris and Dinah, their husbands, Thomas, Paul and Joseph, their daughters, Alix, Sophie, Cleo, etc.) living the insular existence of swim team moms (Dance Moms, anyone?), describing perfectly mundane lives and marriages, expressing the usual interest/envy of one another’s children and spouses. This is me wondering why a murderer pops up among the throng of steamy children and their parents. This is the murderer, a man accustomed to the small New England region and its idiosyncrasies, a familiar if forgettable face in the crowd.
This is my initiation to the world of competitive swimming on a local level, the time-cutting swim suits that also cut the circulation of girls sometimes too plump to fit into their expensive swimwear but more often sleek as seals. This is me not caring, even after considerable exposure in the pages of this book, about swim teams, those who slavishly practice to better their times and move up the ranks, the parents who expend money, time and energy supporting their children’s fledgling ambitions, the stench of chlorine or fustiness of damp swimsuits left on the floor, not to mention the endless washing cycles necessary to provide dry towels to the aspiring athletes.
This is me having literally no empathy for Annie (or Chris or Dinah and their children or spouses), even for poor Kim, the victim of a killer’s obsession. This is Kim, a poor dead footnote. This is me also liking Murphy’s writing and perceptions, her facility with language, but not her bizarre need for repetition, thinking I might even have enjoyed the novel and its unusual niche had I not been bludgeoned with artifice. This is me, wishing it were the good old days, when an astute editor could pull a book back from the precipice in time, thinking I’d even give Murphy another chance if only she’d tell a straight story. This is Dick and Jane, who don’t want to read This is the Water either.