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  • Writer's picturePayton Tilley

'The Girl Who Could Breathe Underwater'



(First of all, may I scream for that cover!) Anyway, this book dives into the bowels of humans. How our actions affect others and how one decision - one moment - can shape future versions of ourselves.


To be honest, this book was heavy. Beyond heavy. So with that word of caution, I want to share how the light within it affected me. So many subtle moments the characters did things that pointed to Christ and His light in all the darkness. Erin Bartels truly gave herself in this story. (While enthralled with the story one night, I decided to flip back to the 'Author Note' section. I know now, by the promoting of the Holy Spirit. I had just read a heavy part and I discovered that this book was really the story of Erin. Of her praising God and working through so many things. So please, if you decide to pick this book up, go there first.)


Kendra was such a real human. A real person. Yes, she was constructed of ink and paper, but I felt her so deeply. This book chronicles her journey to come to terms with her past and what really happened summers ago. She is a struggling writer that didn't realize the impact her words - written in innocence - would have on those based upon. I swooned from the snappy dialogue and gasped at the descriptive prose. And cheered for the subtle romance thrown in! I read one reviewer that said they just would reread her descriptions, and yes, so so true. Each brush of seaweed, every stroke of crimson in the sky, sparkles on the lake, and docks scratching your barefeet, took me to this place - this world that Erin created for our story.


This book also hit me in ways I didn't expect. I am a writer. (Shocker! I know😂) And the questions poised in this book on truth and story inspiration hit me, making it personal. Then also just in life. How many times do we play victim to feel victorious or justified in our actions? And how many times do we actually analyze how we may be hurting or helping others? Or, do we even think that our determination and grit through hard times shapes us, drawing us to God?


Goodness, yes, this book really dealt with forgiveness and failure. Every character was beautiful and every line poetic. And my memory will be forever seared by the conviction it brought and the beauty and strength it highlighted of a fictional novelist. So yes, fiction does tell the truth if written as this was. Fiction does challenge us and truly grow us.


Erin Bartels, I applaud you to the highest degree for your bravery and your skill.

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