Floating in the Neversink (Andrea Simon)

Floating in the Neversink is a novel by Andrea Simon.
Finished on: 25.2.2020
[I won this book in a librarything Early Reviewer give-away.]

Content Note: child sexual abuse

Amanda grows up in New York in the 50s. Her best friends are Francine, the only other Jewish girl in her neighborhood, and her cousin Laura, even though she is a year younger than her. The summer brings her to the countryside, away from Francine, but closer to Laura. Navigating her friendship with those two girls is almost as difficult as navigating her family. As Mandy grows older, she encounters moments of betrayal, but also of true friendship and love.

Floating in the Neversink is an evocative novel that draws on Simon’s own childhood to ground it in a sense of realism that’s devoid of nostalgia. I really enjoyed it.

The book cover showing a bridge over a river with a black old-time driving over it.

Floating in the Neversink can be read as both a novel and as a series of connected short stories, which is structurally pretty interesting. The stories all revolve around Amanda and her friends and family, and they are told in chronological order from the time when she is nine to about 15 or so. You could each read them on their own, but personally, I thought of the book as a novel and wouldn’t have liked to jump around. That they theoretically stand on their own means that a couple of things do repeat – like the fact that Laura is a year younger than Amanda seems to be mentioned in almost every chapter. But while I noted the repetitions and wouldn’t have needed them, I didn’t mind them at all.

Simon’s language flows very nicely and she really manages to capture the drama of elementary school (and beyond) friendships. I felt very much reminded of my own friendships I had in elementary school and the jealousy dramas we regularly had back then (fortunately those times are over). But she also shows the difficult relationships in Amanda’s family – especially Mandy’s relationship with her father holds a lot of pain in all the things that aren’t said or done.

In fact, Mandy’s life is full of bigger and smaller dramatic events – she is abused by a family friend, family members die, she has to leave friends behind – and she takes it all in stride. Yes, those things are horrible, but they are not life-defining for Mandy. They are just a part of it. They do damage, but they don’t destroy. And thus Mandy’s story becomes not one of drama, but one of resilience – and one I really liked to read.

Summarizing: It’s really good.

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