The Drowning House

The Drowning HouseClare Porterfield is a photographer who is going back to her home town in Galveston, Texas for a photo exhibition that she has been invited to do.  The exhibition is to celebrate the history of the town through portraits and the invitation is made on behalf of the wealthiest man on the island, Will Carraday—who also happens to be the next door neighbor that Clare remembers living beside.  In fact, it is his son, Patrick whom she remembers growing up with when she was young and whom she got quite attached to.
Unfortunately, an incident happened long ago with Clare and Patrick, which involved a burning house and the death of a teenage girl.  It is from this moment that Clare is suddenly separated from Patrick and gets sent to live with her grandmother in Alabama.   Sadly, tragedies seem to follow Clare wherever she goes: before coming back to her beloved island, she has lost her only daughter to an unfortunate accident and her marriage is falling apart.
When she arrives in Galveston, nearly fifteen years later, she is determined to have all her questions answered.  One mystery deals with an ancestor of the Carradays.  Her name was Stella and legend has it that she was killed in the Great Hurricane of 1900.  Another thing she is bent on finding out is why she was forbidden to stay on the island after the episode with the burning house.  Everyone else in Galveston is well aware of all the secrets of the island—even her mother and sister—except for Clare, herself.   She eventually finds out more than she would have ever expected.
As she gets closer to the answers, Clare also remembers moments of her childhood that would best be left unvisited.  When the pieces of the puzzle slowly start coming together, harsh realities are presented to her and she must decide whether it is worth staying in her home town or leaving for good.
Although there are many things to grab your interest in this novel, I found it fell short when it came to the conclusion.  That may have been the author’s point but I thought it could have had more closure at the end.  Do you think the story should have finished differently?

If you are a member of the library, we have this title currently in Hard copy, and as an e-book.  This may or may not change in the future.  Please check the catalog frequently for an update of formats.

To read reviews on The Drowning House, please click on the links below.
From StarTribune.

From The Dallas News.

For information on Elizabeth Black, click below:

Discussion Questions

Here are some questions for you to consider, after reading the novel:

-Did you know much about the Galveston Storm of 1900 before reading The Drowning House?  What do you think it means to live in place like Galveston, where storms are a way of life?
-Almost every character in the book has a secret. Talk about the role secrets play in The Drowning House.  What are some of the different motives that keep the characters from sharing what they know?

For the rest of the questions, please see the following link from Random House:

Interesting Tidbit
I never knew that Galveston, Texas had so much history because of the Great Storm that hit the island in 1900.  There is an interesting website you may want to consult that explains the tragedy and provides links to further details about the hurricane.  Click here to access the site.  I also learned that the island was inhabited, at one point, by pirates.  You can find more information about that by clicking here.

This book reminded me of …
This title brought to my mind three other ones that I read recently.  The first book I thought about was The Good Daughters by Joyce Maynard.  It involves forbidden loves and father-daughter relationships.  In Lisa Genova’s Love Anthony, there is a character who is also a photographer and views many things around her as snap shots of reality.  Finally, The First Rule of Swimming by Courtney Angela Brkic deals with islands and family secrets.  I would say this novel is very similar to The Drowning House.  They both have the same tone and each island lives through tough times (whether through Mother Nature or war).

Favorite quote from book:
“My first photos were of a chair.  The seat, the back slats, from in front, from the side.  I discovered that the act of photography alters the most straightforward objects, perhaps permanently.  That something once observed and photographed, from a certain angle, is never the same again.  I was less interested in things like flowers and sunsets that grew or altered naturally.  Their eventual transformation was to be expected.” (p. 50)

Most pivotal moment in the story:
When Clare finds out what the rest of the town already knows.  (p. 215)

Next month’s title:
The Supremes at Earl’s All-you-can-eat by Edward Kelsey

Take the poll!

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