How Not to Drown: A Novel (Hardcover)

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From WILLA Literary Award-winning author Jaimee Wriston comes a novel for fans of Jami Attenberg and Elizabeth Strout about a former model whose undisciplined granddaughter turns her fastidious, controlled life upside down, forcing her to confront what she values.

Amelia MacQueen has lost her favorite son, Gavin, to a suspicious drowning, for which her daughter-in-law has been convicted. She’s been awarded temporary custody of Gavin and Cassie's twelve-year-old daughter, Heaven, a name that makes Amelia cringe. Reluctantly, she takes Heaven in, but asks the girl to call her Grandmelia instead of Grandma, a name that doesn't make Amelia feel quite so old.

The daughter of drug addicts, who has long been left to her own devices, Heaven does not appreciate her grandmother’s constant critical ministrations, and the pair quickly butt heads. She instead bonds with Uncle Daniel, Amelia's older, agoraphobic son, who never leaves his bedroom. Through the wall between their rooms, Daniel spins Celtic tales for Heaven from the Isle of Skye, where the family's ancestors lived, including fifteen-year-old Maggie, who mysteriously disappeared crossing the Atlantic many years ago.

Heaven decides that the best way to deal with bullying at school is to become a siren from one of Uncle Daniels's stories. She sings "drowning songs" in the swim team pool, luring mean girl Bethany Harrison under at the deep end. Then, Amelia comes home one day to find her granddaughter serving Oreos to the cops who picked her up for "snaking" junk food from the neighborhood. 

As much as Amelia loved Gavin, Heaven is the last thing Amelia would have asked for, but when Heaven goes missing during a dangerous storm one night, Amelia is forced to reexamine her outlook on family. In vivid prose, Jaimee Wriston tells a wry multi-generational tale of redemption, exploring the bonds that make and break a family and the transformative power of storytelling.

About the Author

Jaimee Wriston, under her full name, has written six other books of fiction. She has been awarded the Willa Cather Fiction Prize, Zephyr Prize, Pinnacle Book Achievement Award, the CNY Book Award in Fiction, and many others, and has been a finalist for the American Fiction Prize, Foreword Indies Book of the Year, National Indie Excellence Award in Literary Fiction, and the International Book Award in Literary Fiction, among others. She was recently awarded the 2018-2019 SUNY Chancellor's Award for Excellence in Scholarship and Creative Activities. Originally from Hawai'i, she is Professor of Creative Writing at SUNY, Binghamton University.

Praise For…

Praise for How Not to Drown:

“A poignant portrait of a family struggling to cope with tragedy.”
Library Journal

"Wriston is utterly entrancing in her fourth novel, imaginatively exploring regrets, grief, obsessions, and love with fluent empathy and mordant humor. Improvising on her haunting signature themes—family conflicts, resilient young women, brokenness, the sea, and mystical beings—Wriston offers a complexly evocative, bittersweet, and richly involving tale.”
—Donna Seaman, Booklist

“Both a deeply reflective and highly entertaining read . . . How Not to Drown is one of the most compelling reading experiences I have had over this difficult year.”
North American Review

“[This] lush new novel, drenched in folklore, is a glorious web of family connections and missed connections. This brilliant book will revive you!”
—Bonnie Jo Campbell, National Book Award Finalist, American Salvage

"Funny and heart-wrenching, caustic and emotional, and serious and uplifting. This is the perfect spring read!”
—Elyssa Friedland, acclaimed author of The Floating Feldmans

“A mesmerizing, heart-stopping story of a family mired in grief and a deep history of loss, How Not to Drown is a radiant lesson in the double necessities of mourning and survival.” 
—Minrose Gwin, award-winning author of The Accidentals

“An unforgettable balancing act, at once visceral and thoughtful, raw yet sensitive, sometimes painfully humorous, complex but basic, though never simple.”
 —James Anderson, award-winning author The Never-Open Desert Diner and Lullaby Road

“A fierce—and fiercely funny—family epic, one of those rare books that is both smart and entertaining. If you liked Olive Kitteridge, you’ll love Amelia MacQueen.”
—Alexi Zentner, author of Copperhead

Praise for Jaimee Wriston Colbert:
Winner, Willa Cather Fiction Prize

“Eerie, understated, and deft.”
Kirkus Reviews

"Impressive...The stories stand on their own as sensitive and unsentimental evocations of unrelieved loss.”
New York Times Book Review, on Climbing the God Tree

“[Wriston] looks deeply into the ragged places in our psyches...and reveals our humanity in all its beauty and imperfection."
 —Dawn Raffel, Judge, Willa Cather Fiction Prize

“[Wriston’s] fierce intelligence is at work in every sentence.”
—Lee Upton, author of Visitations

“Extraordinarily incisive, stirring, funny, and haunting all-American stories.” 
Booklist, on Wild Things

“These brilliant, surprising stories defy gravity and take flight.” 
—Bonnie Jo Campbell, National Book Award Finalist, on Wild Things

“An original collection of stories that captures the essence of what it is to be human.” 
—American Book Review, on Wild Things

Product Details
ISBN: 9781643855578
ISBN-10: 1643855573
Publisher: Alcove Press
Publication Date: May 11th, 2021
Pages: 336
Language: English