Floating in Saltwater

Barbara Ann cannot understand why she should feel so alone in a house filled with so many.

Or why her mother collects people like others collect stamps or teacups.

The six-bedroom house is filled with children and elderly adults, noise and confusion.

Anything can happen at any moment.

Her mother insists that Barbara Ann has everything a child could ever want… but Barbara Ann feels something is missing.

By observing those around her she fears for her future. Her mother controls a young woman living with the family, keeping her trapped and unhappy and afraid to ever leave.

Deep inside, Barbara Ann knows that this is life her mother wants for her and that happiness will depend on finding a way to break free.

Hope is offered by meeting people in a rental property nearby, people unlike others in the neighbourhood: hippies, artists, girls from the city, a black man and a rock and roll band.

Barbara Ann must sort out what to believe in, whom to trust and how to find the love and happiness she desperately seeks.

Critic Evaluation

The cover was a little confusing at first. I wasn't sure what the image was supposed to represent. Reading the book gave me a little insight and I'm guessing it's a bird. After reading a little more about the author, I wonder if the cover is original art created by the author. If so, that's a wonderful addition to the authenticity of the book. I might like to see a little note on the inside cover about the art work.

Book Blurb Score: 8

The book blurb provided a nice intro to the story within. It prepared the reader for the variety of characters that came and went and gave hints to some of the delightful and dark undertones present throughout the book

Formatting Score: 10

No issues with formatting. I liked the way the stories were presented in short sections and the addition of the children's poems to help set the tone and highlight the themes of each section.

Grammar & Spelling Score: 10

Only one small blip in an otherwise exceptionally clean book:

The teacher put her arm around my shoulder and asked what had brought on such an attack. More questions I couldn’t answer, for how could explain what I didn’t fully understand myself?
I said, “I didn’t know.”

I believe the last line should have been: I said, "I don't know." or I said I didn't know(without quotation marks)

Plot & Structure Score: 9

The linear nature of this book allows the read time to get to know each of the characters much like a child gets to know them as she spends more time with them. It allows the reader to empathize with each of them. I think younger readers will be drawn into this book because it provides a window into the not so distant past. Life without indoor plumbing, the cigarettes, the crazy superstitions, it all provides a "life is stranger than fiction" kind of vibe that delights and fascinates. The author did an excellent job of highlighting and pinpointing those moments that made an impact on her perception of herself and the world around her. The book touched on several taboo subjects, but presented them beautifully, allow us to watch Barbara Ann's innocence and naivety begin to fade, just like in real life.

Character Development Score: 10

Each of the characters in this book are so well developed, by the end I was sure I could identify each of them if I passed them on the street. I like that the author did not burden the reader with too much description, but allowed room for each reader to fill in the empty spaces with ideas and images from their own lives. 
I appreciate that no character was supremely good or bad. It made them real and believable, as they should be, but at certain moments, also bigger than life. There was no clearly identified protagonist, but various characters took turns providing the drama and conflict necessary to make Barbara Ann an empathetic character. 

By the end, I was definitely vested and wanted to know more about what happened to each character. Did Barbara Ann manage to break free and pursue her art? Did Dorothy ever find a husband? What about Kathleen and the other children. How did their own awareness create conflict? Did Violet ever have a moment of clarity that allowed her to better merge doing what she felt needed to be done and doing it with a kind and loving heart? 

Originality Score: 9

This coming of age story gives just enough of the familiar to make it relatable and then weaves it into the unique pieces of a life that make the story Barbara Ann's own. Just the flow of people, from so many different walks a life, each with their own special set of troubles ensures this book is one of a kind.

Pacing Score: 9

The book progresses organically, with the later memories, just as you expect, are clearer, more detailed, and more defined. The wonderful addition of the growing sense of self awareness adds to the pacing. The tight sections made this an easy read.

Use of Language Score: 10

This book is full of gorgeously simple and yet brilliant prose. There was not a single passage I felt was over or under done. It was as if I was right there, sitting in the back seat of the car or huddled in the kitchen the entire time. 

Overall Readability Score: 9

Once I started reading, I just couldn't stop. This book provides such a realistic window into the life of this family, I really commend the author for her bravery and transparency. Barbara Ann's struggle is timeless, even if her circumstances are uniquely her own. I think many readers will connect with her.

Curator Evaluation

<p>A glimpse into Barbara Ann's childhood where she learns to question what's real and what's not, learning to become her own person as she grows.&nbsp;</p>