Book Review: The Water Child by Ellen McGinty

Every once and a while, you read a book that haunts you – that stays with you long after you turn the final page. Though I have read and enjoyed several books thus far this year, The Water Child by Ellen McGinty is the first book this year that has invaded my heart and left a clear mark on my soul. Touching on themes of family, courage, humanity, tragedy, and survival, this book has left me deep in thought about my life and the world at large – and has made me want to visit my mother, and hug her tight and never let go.

The Water Child is a work of historical fiction, following the life of the fictitious Tora Hayashi during and after the very real 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake.

Tora has always loved the water – she’s always been drawn to it. Her lifelong dream is to become a pearl diver, but her mother has barred her from diving. The strenuous mother-daughter relationship only grows more tense as Tora’s mother vanishes from their Tokyo home. Tora recruits her best friend and the two return to Tora’s coastal hometown in search of her mother. Here, Tora uncovers a horrible truth about her past that explains the distance between she and her mother. However, before there is any closure, any healing, the earthquake hits. Tora must now survive and help those she love survive the sea she loves – a sea that does not care about the damage it does or the lives it takes.

McGinty states in the Author’s Note, “So often humanity has a tendency to forget about disasters that don’t touch home for us – and understandably there are so many disasters all around the world. But there is healing found when we acknowledge another’s pain, when we touch it and then do something to help – even if that something is to only listen. I hope this story is a way for you to listen.”

My heart hurts – not just for fictional Tora and what she went through, but for the real people of Japan that are still trying to heal from the 2011 earthquake. I want to strive to be more aware of the world around me, and I want to do more to help people – I want to listen to their stories and do what I can to help them heal…

People are courageous – and some of my favorite quotes from the book deal with courage. Some of my favorite quotes from the book include:

  • “That pearl began as a painful shard. But the abalone wrapped it with color, cradled it with smooth nacre, kneaded it into something beautiful.”
  • “It takes courage to be happy when life is not.”
  • “Courage is not the absence of fear; it’s taking one step forward in the midst of it.”
  • “I’m in the drowning stage. No matter how many times I tell myself I’m out of the flood, I know I am still drowning. It doesn’t matter that I’m breathing or feel the warmth of a kiss. It’s not my time yet. And I think I’m okay with that. It’s a part of life and I don’t need to run from it. The better parts will come; knowing that helps me.”

The last quote speaks to my soul, especially. I’ve felt like I’ve been drowning for quite some time, but I don’t need to run from it – it’s part of life and better things have yet to come. It reminds me of the Bible verse, “For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope.” — Jeremiah 29:11

If you aren’t turned off by books that will leave you in a puddle of your own tears, then I suggest The Water Child. The raw emotion that emanates from McGinty’s poetic prose will leave you deep in thought and searching for ways to make the world better. The Water Child is easily a 5-star read for me.

Order your copy of The Water Child here!

Published by Kayla E. Green

Kayla E. Green is a school librarian, speculative fiction author, and poet. When she isn’t writing, reading, or going on adventures with her husband, she loves singing loudly and off-key to KLove Radio, snuggling her dogs, and pretending she’s a unicorn. Her award-winning YA fantasy novella, Aivan: The One Truth, and her inspirational poetry collection, Metamorphosis, are now available through book retailers. Kayla also has stories and poems featured in various anthologies. Follow The Unicorn Writer's blog for book reviews, author interviews, writing advice, and more bookish fun!

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