Friday, June 21, 2013

Review of "Flat Water Tuesday" [47]

Flat Water Tuesday by Ron Irwin
Thomas Dunne Books, ISBN  978-1250030030
June 4, 2013, 368 pages

"Rob Carrey, the son of a working-class cabinet maker, arrives at the Fenton School with a scholarship to row and a chip on his shoulder. Generations of austere Fenton men have led the rowing team, known as the God Four, to countless victories—but none are as important or renowned as the annual Tuesday-afternoon race against their rival, Warwick.

But first Rob must complete months of preparation driven by their captain, Connor Payne’s vicious competitive nature. As the race nears, the stakes rise, tempers and lusts are fueled, and no one can prevent the horrible tragedy that befalls one of them.

Fifteen years later, Rob returns home from a film shoot in Africa to end a heartbreaking relationship with his girlfriend, Carolyn. But when a phone call from one of the God Four compels him to attend the reunion at Fenton, no part of Rob’s past remains sequestered for long and nothing about his future is certain.

As much about the sport of rowing as it is a novel of finding oneself, not once, but again in mid-life; Ron Irwin's Flat Water Tuesday is a testament to the pride and passion of youth, and an ode to the journey of forgiveness.

A stunning novel of boarding school, family secrets, deep and passionate love, and the brutal pain of sports training."

Haven't we been here before? Young man with a chip on his shoulder, elite boarding school..something that goes terribly wrong, a secret they share that will shape their lives...

I must say, once again I was sold on this one by the cover, that scull on the calm water.
See, I have a bit of a thing about about rowing.
When I was a kid, I used to spend the summer with my grandparents in Atlantic City and their apartment was just across the street an inlet where an area high school rowing team used to practice. You could go out in the early morning and watch them. Since they now built a launching dock there, I assume they still practice there. Or now, you can go to Lake Lenape at the county park where several area school practice, girls and boys, four and eight man boats.
A single scull, the rower seemingly gliding over the water like some sort of huge bird..lovely.
Of course, as this book details again and again, the reality is pain and scarred, blistered hands and almost unbelievable exertion. That part of the book, I enjoyed.

And there is nothing really wrong with the rest. It is well written. There are some good characters, especially Carolyn, the girlfriend Rob is in the midst of breaking up with. But honestly, it just seems to all have been said before. And maybe a bit better.
Spoiled rich kids with terrible parents. Shocking.
Blue collar boy with chip on his shoulder. Never read that before.
Oh wait...maybe I have.

The book opens well, with Rob receiving a long, rambling letter from one of his former team members and Rob just returning home from a work assignment for National Geographic. Really, what a job!! But as the story go back to his school days, things begin to drag. And drag. All building up to the 15th reunion where we will learn the Great Secret. A secret turns out to be not that much of a secret (I bet most reader guess it) and not that terrible. Honestly, I am still sort of wondering what all their guilt was about. Once again, a Big Buildup for that does not quite pay off.

If you are a big fan of competitive rowing, this one might grab you. Otherwise, I think the prep school angst thing have been done enough before and there is nothing to really make this one stand out in a rather crowded field.

My thanks to the publisher for providing a review copy.


  1. I agree - if you're using the same old plot, you have to come up with a way to stand out!

  2. Well, based on the publisher's synopsis, my antennae was waggling. But there has to be some differentiation, you are right. I really would like to REMEMBER the book two weeks after I finish it.

  3. Those scenarios all end the same. :/

  4. I love the cover too! Bummer that story wasn't anything new or special.


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