Mudflowers by Aley Waterman: ARC review
Thank you for Dundurn Press for providing me with this e-galley for review purposes. This in no way impacted my review, and my opinions are all my own.
Overview: Sophie is 27, an artist, and grappling with her mother's death. Having moved from Newfoundland to Toronto with her best friend Alex, Sophie is doing a bit of aimless floating through the world. She and Alex go between being completely platonic friends and casually hooking up with, relationship boundaries that match the hazy quality of the rest of their lives. Then Sophie meets Maggie at work and becomes instantly obsessed with her in a way that she can't completely work out where it falls on the platonic/romantic line either. As Maggie gets introduced into the inner circle of Sophie's life, things get messy, and Sophie has to reconcile that even in a small, carefully curated world, things are always going to change. Overall: 3.5
Characters: 3 I like the idea of these characters, lost in their later twenties, making art, and falling for each other in messy constellations. There's an implied emotional intensity between these three people that never quite lands. Even though we spend the entire book stuck in a giant monologue of Sophie's every thought, she still feels very unclear to me, and reflecting back on the book, it's hard to work out how she's really grown from the beginning of the book to the end. The biggest change is Maggie's introduction to their lives, but that doesn't really alter who they are. The connections built with Maggie feel poorly defined and so hot and cold that we never really sink into why we're meant to like Maggie. We're just told that we should. The relationship between Sophie and Alex and how it's challenged is definitely the most interesting character aspect as the bounds of friendship and dating are so elastic and constantly changing between them. There's is a connection that does hold interest in its development.
Plot: 3 If you're looking for a plot, please do not pick up this book. Especially the opening section is almost entirely drifting through the world of Sophie's various thoughts without her doing much of anything. The latter half of the book has a big injection of plot sending Sophie on a quest, but at that point, the choice feels jarring and against the grain of the book. It's very clearly going for that Sally Rooney-esque no plot just vibes approach, but for that to succeed, it requires such powerful characterization, writing, and vibe building that just didn't quite come together with this one.
Writing: 4 I enjoyed my time reading this book, despite how it looks here. Certain passages got a bit tedious, and it felt much longer than 232 pages, but I did have a definite will to keep going and see how this triangle would settle things. There is a charm here that I don't want to discount and a sense of promise. It just felt like it needed a bit more refining to find its footing. Characters and details about them were created and then mysteriously dropped out of nowhere, there somehow wasn't enough time given to providing depth to these characters despite the focus of the book, and it just felt aimless. I'm okay with a certain aimlessness in plot (I'm not a big plot girlie) but then the character needs to scream off the page or the themes need to be a rock solid guiding force.
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