On Grayling Island, off the coast of Maine, Kelly Kelleher meets the Senator at a Fourth of July beach party. He is old enough to be her father; she is young enough to find his attention flattering. And with an optimism born of inexperience, she believes she can take care of herself. As evening approaches, the two move unaware toward a shattering appointment with destiny. When the Senator offers Kelly a ride to the ferry, it is not love but death that awaits her.
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This past July, I read an article in the New York Times called 'What (Books) to Listen to This Summer,' and thus received recommendations for some astonishingly great books I might never have stumbled onto otherwise. A few of them were so good I'll never forget them. One such incredible gem is Black Water, narrated by the preternaturally gifted Amanda Plummer. This book (which tells a fictionalized version of the Chappaquiddick story from the point of view of a fictionalized Mary Jo Kopechne) might have been a very good book on paper--or it might have been simply ordinary--but now I'll never know, because having heard even five minutes of the text as performed by Plummer, you can't ever go back and try just reading the book to yourself. I've never, ever heard anything like this performance, which ranks up there with the likes of those by Meryl Streep, Alan Rickman, and Santino Fontana, and maybe even exceeds them. This isn't just an audiobook; it's great ART.
Still, be forewarned that this is neither a feel-good read nor a page-turner that you will be tempted to listen to all in one sitting. This is dark, dark water indeed, friends. Proceed with caution. Grade: A+
What's summer without a 4th of July party on a beach in Martha's Vineyard, a man-eating shark, or a plunge off a bridge into a murky tide-swept pond?
This novella was first published in 1992, 23 yrs. after Chappaquiddick. Oates began taking notes on the events at Chappaquiddick in 1969 out of what she called "a horrified fascination and sympathy" for the victim, adding that the story is not Chappaquiddick, but rather she wanted the story to be "somewhat mythical, the almost archetypal experience of a young woman who trusts an older man and whose trust is violated.'
Kelly Kelleher is 26, one of the young women decorating the Washington political scene, when she attends a 4th of July party at a celebrity couple's beachfront home. It's rumored *The Senator* will be attending; a powerful 50-something, Democratic Senator, separated from his wife, and the Democratic nominee for the Presidency, from which he withdrew. The man has a reputation. Sounding familiar? Oates stays away from the facts and evidence of that event, keeping the reader with the victim in her parallel story. The car swerves onto a side road, bumps along, then smashes through the guardrail. The plunge is more sudden than she thought it would be...the water smells like sewage and is thick and black. As it disappears into the murky water she fights to free herself, she's stuck; she feels his foot push against her head as he propels himself away from her and the sinking vehicle. Struggling to keep the sludge out of her lungs, her mind begins to madly recount the events of the day, then reel through how she got to this place...and "I can't die here..."
The writing is what you'd expect from Oates, descriptive and intelligent, but the style she chooses for this story was not my preference. The narrative is a fast flow of words, almost frenetic, reflecting the panic of the situation through the victim's thoughts alone. But that didn't detract from what was a powerful experience. If you are considering this audiobook, I'll give you this from a more qualified listener: *In 2007, The New York Times Book Review editor Dwight Garner wrote that Amanda Plummer's "cool, dark telling" of Black Water was "the best book on tape ever recorded."