The Color of Water in July by Nora Carroll is a beautifully woven story of a young girl, Jess Carpenter, trying to figure out who she is amidst the secrets of her mother and grandmother. It takes place in alternating moments between the 1920’s and present day at the family’s summer cottage, Journey’s End, on a lake in Northern Michigan. Jess is forced to return to Journey’s End after staying away for seventeen years, when her grandmother passes the cottage onto Jess in her will. Carroll takes the reader on an eloquent journey around the lake, weaving together clues about a dark time in Jess’s family’s past, through flashbacks from her grandmother, Mamie, and memories of Jess’s own childhood summers at Journey’s End.
“This could not properly be called returning. There was no call to feel like this. She was imputing qualities — breath, flesh, blood — to a structure made of pine board, shingle, and stone.”
I’m not sure how to express how much I enjoyed this book. Jess is an interesting character to get to know. She is every girl, but with an unusual upbringing that see-saws between years abroad with her eccentric mother, and summers at Journey’s End with the very straight laced and strict Mamie. Yet, Carroll’s beautiful descriptions and writing melds the reader with Jess in such a way, that you can see and feel all of Jess’s confusion and yearning to find her own form of happiness, without having any clue on how to achieve it. Carroll then mixes in Mamie’s flashbacks and stories from Jess’s childhood, giving the book a slow and steady progression into its conclusion. It was like reading a jigsaw puzzle, both relaxing and completely captivating. I found myself thinking of Jess and Mamie when I wasn’t reading, and was so happy with where Jess’s path took her, and how she grew as a character at the end of the book, which is why I give it five stars. There was no violence or sexual scenes in the book. However there were implied sexual situations, and some medical situations described that were slightly graphic, for any readers who are wary of blood. I would, and will, however, recommend this book to any of my friends or family looking for their next read.
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