• To Be Sung Underwater

  • A Novel
  • By: Tom McNeal
  • Narrated by: Susan Boyce
  • Length: 15 hrs and 10 mins
  • 3.9 out of 5 stars (107 ratings)

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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

Critic Reviews

"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)

"Beautifully written.... a compelling story, uniting the literary, character-driven novel with what eventually becomes quite a page turner....This novel will make for great book-club discussions." (Sarah Willis, The Cleveland Plain-Dealer)

"Smart, sexy, gorgeous, and at times devastatingly sad - these words describe the woman at the heart of this wonderful novel almost as well as they do the book itself. This ravishing love story will envelop you for a few days and then linger for a long time thereafter." (Ann Packer, author of Swim Back to Me and The Dive from Clausen's Pier

What listeners say about To Be Sung Underwater

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    4 out of 5 stars

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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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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 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars

Very Good

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

2 people found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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On the Water

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

1 person found this helpful

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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 person found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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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.