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To Be Sung Underwater: A Novel | [Tom McNeal]

To Be Sung Underwater: A Novel

Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio". Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford. When Judith left home, she didn't look back. But 20 years later, Judith's marriage is hazy with secrets....
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Publisher's Summary

Judith Whitman always believed in the kind of love that "picks you up in Akron and sets you down in Rio". Long ago, she once experienced that love. Willy Blunt was a carpenter with a dry wit and a steadfast sense of honor. Marrying him seemed like a natural thing to promise. But Willy Blunt was not a person you could pick up in Nebraska and transport to Stanford. When Judith left home, she didn't look back.

Twenty years later, Judith's marriage is hazy with secrets. In her hand is what may be the phone number for the man who believed she meant it when she said she loved him. If she called, what would he say?

To Be Sung Underwater is the epic love story of a woman trying to remember, and the man who could not even begin to forget.

©2011 Tom McNeal (P)2011 Hachette

What the Critics Say

"To Be Sung Underwater is such an immensely readable novel. McNeal has the enviable talent of making splendid writing look easy at no cost to the complexity and the beauties of what fascinates him (and me) - the terrain occupied by women and men in love with each other. This is a wonderful book." (Richard Ford)

"In this thoughtful and compelling look at the road not taken, McNeal calls up the landscape of the Great Plains as a place where it's possible to see that it's the simple things--a secluded swimming hole, a cold beer, the laughter of the person you love--that are the most valuable." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.9 (69 )
5 star
 (22)
4 star
 (25)
3 star
 (17)
2 star
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1 star
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Overall
3.9 (53 )
5 star
 (20)
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.2 (53 )
5 star
 (24)
4 star
 (18)
3 star
 (8)
2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Pauline C. Mac Kay Concord, NH United States 06-30-11
    Pauline C. Mac Kay Concord, NH United States 06-30-11 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
    10
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    144
    2
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    0
    5
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Nostalgic"

    This was the kind of book that I prolonged finishing listening to the ending as I did not want
    it to end. It is beautifuly written. The characters were so well developed that I felt I must
    know them from someplace.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Adrienne Camp Connell, CA, United States 04-02-12
    Adrienne Camp Connell, CA, United States 04-02-12 Member Since 2004
    HELPFUL VOTES
    105
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    178
    44
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    2
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "An entrancing story"
    If you could sum up To Be Sung Underwater in three words, what would they be?

    thought provoking story


    What did you like best about this story?

    The dialogue and character development.


    What about Susan Boyce’s performance did you like?

    She gave the characters life without stretching to voices out of her range. She let the story be the important thing, not her performance.


    If you could rename To Be Sung Underwater, what would you call it?

    Its perfect the way it is.


    Any additional comments?

    This might be more of a woman's book, I'm not sure my husband would enjoy it, but I think most of my women friends and book club groups would appreciate it. There is a lot to think about or discuss in the story. I plan to purchase copies for friends. I hope this author will write another book again soon.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    mary Lafayette, LA, United States 06-21-11
    mary Lafayette, LA, United States 06-21-11
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
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    2
    2
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    FOLLOWING
    0
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    Overall
    "Very Good"

    This was one of the best books I have read in a very long time. It touched my heart.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 07-14-12
    glamazon The Coast of Rhode Island 07-14-12 Member Since 2003

    glam

    HELPFUL VOTES
    4375
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    483
    310
    FOLLOWERS
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    3770
    0
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    Performance
    Story
    "Can you go back again? And why would you want to?"

    This book seems intent on perpetuating the myth of specialness. When we first "fall in love" - in quotes because I don't think of such a state as real in any emotional sense - we think this one person will fix all the holes and complete all the unfinished sentences in our souls. I don't happen to share that opinion of first love, and consider it, and all attractions that could possibly follow, to be just another drug, evolution's method of perpetuating the species.

    Perhaps I'm too jaded and have outgrown all this stuff and so I have little interest in finding that one special person from my past. It doesn't appeal to me and I don't sigh in support and envy. I don't think one person is ever going to be all that, although certain hookups can and do prove to be advantageous from a child-rearing or economic point of view.

    I liked the story, though, even with its antiquated writing style and narration which I'll label "Jane Austen With Cell Phone", and the one thing that spoke to me throughout the book was the creation of a faux persona, the modern iteration of the treehouse, and when you see you've clearly strayed from any sort of productive or meaningful path and have no other resources than your own imagination, you do a "do-over".

    This novel does happen to be beautifully written and flows seemingly effortlessly, even though the plot lines ignore the protagonist's ties to reality. However, I just don't get how a person can just walk out of her life. Anne Tyler presented this topic in one of her books and was more successfully believable about it, as the main character walks into town and just keeps on walking.

    I also did not relate to the retreat to Nebraska from Vermont. I am a reader who thinks of many interior locations in the continent to be "fly-over" states - shame on me, I know, but I am owning up to my elitist perspective and i am working on it. I do empathize that the abortive departure of the father was due to job circumstances, but how he came to embrace a life as different from the one he left (would have been easier to move to France, or Italy, culturally speaking) was a story arc that I felt needed more exploration.

    On balance, this was an entertaining and enlightening read, in spite of its casting away of practical detail, and, having tried and failed at the same kind of culture shock that Judith and her father successfully achieved, I was hooked from the beginning and like many, hated that it had to end. Maybe a sequel can turn up somewhere. Either by this author or by someone else.






    14 of 19 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Helen Dumont,, NJ, United States 12-18-12
    Helen Dumont,, NJ, United States 12-18-12 Member Since 2009
    HELPFUL VOTES
    17
    ratings
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    54
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    Story
    "Meh"
    Would you try another book from Tom McNeal and/or Susan Boyce?

    The romance was too smooth, the performance was too staccato, I wanted to like it but didn't. It would serve well for those who like Bridges of Madison County or any Sparks book.


    You didn’t love this book... but did it have any redeeming qualities?

    The author was good at pulling you in.


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    js33 New Jersey 07-08-12
    js33 New Jersey 07-08-12 Member Since 2011

    Joyce

    HELPFUL VOTES
    2
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    "On the Water"

    Did not want to stop listening. It is a great book with depth of feeling.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie Seattle, WA, United States 08-06-12
    Julie Seattle, WA, United States 08-06-12 Member Since 2011
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    5
    1
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Gorgeous story that pumped my heart!"
    Would you consider the audio edition of To Be Sung Underwater to be better than the print version?

    I only listened to this story which provoked every emotion and extra miles in the car. I could not stop listening as every chapter unfolded with surprise, joy and sadness.


    What does Susan Boyce bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    The narrator's voice allowed me a clear vision of the characters. She did not just read McNeal's descriptions, but developed a picture for me.


    If you could take any character from To Be Sung Underwater out to dinner, who would it be and why?

    I cannot identify anything wrong with the narrator's performance. She was soft and equally firm depending upon the character and situation.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Nanny 11-05-11
    Nanny 11-05-11 Member Since 2005
    HELPFUL VOTES
    3
    ratings
    REVIEWS
    154
    8
    FOLLOWERS
    FOLLOWING
    1
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    Overall
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    Story
    "Lovely"

    This book read like poetry. A heartbreakingly beautiful story. I liked it so much I have purchased the paper back to give as gifts.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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