In Marilyn King’s fictional memoir, A Place on the Water, Julie, our main character, shares her unique story of being in Hawaii when Pearl Harbor was attacked and how that shaped her childhood. She recounts what it was like living with an abusive husband (back when women were not as equal as they are today), how that abuse impacted her life, and how she ultimately found love in her later years. The stark differences between what the lives of women who grew up during World War II compared to today will be striking to many of us younger readers, and Julie’s ability to have dealt with all she did yet have a profound impact on her community and family as well as overcoming her struggles will be an inspiration to all readers.
There are a lot of parts of this story that make it a very unique read. The first is that this is a fiction piece written as a memoir in the style of a memoir. I’ve never seen a piece worked this way before and it is very unique and overall well done. I honestly thought I was reading the author’s memoir until I read her notes that this is a fiction account. The style is just truly fascinating. The next unique feature is that women today enjoy so many freedoms that the author didn’t enjoy in her lifetime. Even women today who acknowledge their husband as head of the household will be amazed at the way that her husband sternly decided things like her job or lack of one, where they would live without discussing these things with her, and how she wasn’t even called by her name at her graduation. We live in a time where it is hard to imagine how this was the norm not so long ago. The character Julie also had an inspiring impact on her community by planning events to change the ambiance of the town and her work as the head librarian later in life. I was also fascinated by the hypnotism use for dealing with several problems in the book, and am eager to look them up and see the research in those areas. These things alone make the book worth the read.
Like all memoirs struggle with, however, there are things in Julie’s life that probably didn’t need to be mentioned, yet the fact that they are leads me to marvel in how much thought and detail the author has developed her main character. The book is not written in chapters, which I feel are desperately needed. The move to a chapter format might fix the issue of having irrelevant information in the book. Memoirs have the difficult task of deciding what is irrelevant to move the story along and scrap it. There are several parts, particularly in the beginning, that could easily be cut away. To help us still keep the depth of the character, the author could use dialogue to show us instead of telling us some of the things about Julie. The dialogue later in the book did this well.
I believe this book will appeal to many readers across the board from fiction lovers to those who enjoy memoirs. The style of the book is so unique in combining fiction and a non-fiction format that even for it’s flaws it is well written and thought out. The main character is easy to fall in love with and readers will be invested in her as she goes through the abuse with her husband and is later able to fall in love with the man of her dreams. The story of abuse is one all too familiar to us these days and this book does a tremendous job of showing the damage done to a person by it as well as making her a hero we can identify with and share in the celebration of her overcoming the abuse by succeeding in her parenting, job, and later love. The story is an inspiration in both the main character and in the author’s ability to think outside the box.