WATERBABY by Cris Mazza


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From the ambitious Mazza (Girl Beside Him, 2001, etc.), an overstuffed novel about an emotionally paralyzed woman who finds herself living out a ghost story on the coast of Maine.

Tam was a champion swimmer until she had her first epileptic seizure at 13 and never swam again. She was ahead of her brother in the lap, and although everyone else believes he saved her life, she believes he grabbed her leg to slow her down. She has never forgiven him, or forgiven her mother for not pushing her to compete again. Tam has kept her life tightly controlled to avoid another epileptic seizure, although her last occurred years ago, shortly before she graduated college. Now in her 40s, she is comfortably retired from a lucrative career in finance. When her younger sister Martha—whose self-proclaimed quest to bring history to life mirrors the author’s—e-mails the research she’s done on their mother’s family history, Tam heads to Southport on the Maine coast to look into the story of her great-great-grandfather, a lighthouse keeper who possibly saved the life of a shipwrecked baby in the 1870s. Tam soon stumbles onto another story. In 1931, an unknown woman showed up in Southport, walked out to the lighthouse, drowned and supposedly still haunts the coastline. The lighthouse’s current caretaker, Tam’s fourth cousin Nat, prefers to think of Tam herself as the ghost, a role Tam enjoys as they begin an intensely sexual affair. Meanwhile, Tam finds an abandoned infant at a laundromat, turns him over to authorities, then helps his teenage mother steal her baby back. The three hide out at the lighthouse with Nat’s help. The Internet is an integral element of the author’s storytelling, as Tam sorts through family history and comes to terms with her own psychic ghosts.

Although Mazza almost drowns her novel in detail and alternative story lines that don’t quite go anywhere, the overall result packs a lingering wallop.

Pub Date: Oct. 31st, 2007
ISBN: 978-1-933368-84-9
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Soft Skull Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 2007


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