Floating Underwater is a new Women’s Fiction novel by Tracy Shawn. It was released in September 2021, published by Turbulent Muse Publishing. Recommended for readers who enjoy works from authors such as Brunonia Barry, Alice Hoffman, and Sue Monk Kidd.
Part psychological fiction and part mystical fiction with a dash of magical realism, Floating Underwater follows a woman’s astonishing journey through the extraordinary and, ultimately, to her own self-actualization and power.
Fearful that her lifelong premonitions not only predict the future but can also change its very course, Paloma Leary is devastated when her latest vision predicting a third miscarriage comes true.
Falling into a mystifying world of increasingly bizarre phenomena, including a psychic connection with her mysterious neighbor, out-of-body experiences, and visits from her long-dead mother, Paloma grows desperate for answers. She is also desperate to start a family. But when a life-changing vision reveals a tragic secret from the past, Paloma learns to accept her gifts and embraces a far different future than she ever could have imagined.
A Note from the Author:
Floating Underwater was inspired by my own personal history, past work experience, and sheer imagination. Having suffered through two miscarriages myself, I wanted to write about how a character deals with that particular loss. Motivated from my past work as an intern at a psychiatric center, I also wanted to explore what it’s like for a daughter when her beloved mother has severe schizophrenia. I added in the narrative element of magical realism and otherworldly events because I believe loss and grief can make our day-to-day reality too difficult to bear without the hope that something magical is just beyond this realm. I created these extraordinary experiences for my protagonist, readers, and for myself to help us all feel as if everything in this crazy, upside-down world (and beyond!) will somehow, someday be okay.
“The author delivers spot-on dialogue, believable and enchanting characters, and surprising twists. It’s easy to imagine the novel as a talked-about book club selection (in fact, there’s a list of questions at the book’s conclusion).” – STARRED REVIEW, BlueInk Review by Reviewer Patricia Moosbrugger
“One woman’s mystical journey to move forward while confronting a troubled, mysterious past. Beautifully written; an ethereal, eloquent pleasure.” – Marlene Adelstein, author of USA Today bestseller Sophie Last Seen
“…mysticism, feminism, friendship, and love… The women in this novel represent different forms of strength … The writing is stunning… This book will remind you to listen to the wind when it speaks and to look for what’s floating beneath the surface of the water.” – 5 Stars, Reviewed by Jenna Swartz, San Francisco Book Review
(from Chapter 1)
Paloma smiled at Reed as she clenched the sides of her chair. They sat at their usual spot—a small table outside their favorite deli. Pedestrians slogged by through an unseasonably humid June. A heat wave had intruded on the small town of Sunflower Beach; even the window-box geraniums were wilting in defeat. Paloma doubted they’d survive the summer.
She directed her attention back to her husband. She had to tell him. But she kept her mouth shut as she caught sight of a small bird flitting by and out of view so quickly it could have been her imagination. She swallowed down the murky taste of dread. Maybe it would be better for Reed not to get his hopes up. But he had a right to know—and besides, she wanted him to know.
He cocked his head, grinning. “What is it?”
“I’ve got some good news.” She reached over and held his hand, knowing he had already guessed.
“We’re pregnant,” he said.
She laughed and nodded in confirmation.
“Honey, that’s great.” He squeezed her hand and smiled as if loss were never an issue. “This time will be different. I just know it.” He got up to hug her. She stood and received his embrace, the glow of his positivity radiating through her body. “I hope so.” She sat back down, wishing she could catch sight of the bird again. She didn’t tell him how two days earlier, as she was mindlessly driving to work, one of her visions had struck. With both hands fixed on the steering wheel, she had managed to pull off the road. She’d tried to will the image away, yet it grew even more vivid. A corpse of a baby sparrow floated down a creek. With its thumb-sized frame and bruised eyelids, it looked like it had plummeted to its death before it even had a chance to breathe. She waded in and scooped it out of the water, but its translucent form had slipped through her cupped hands. She watched, paralyzed, as it tumbled toward the waiting mouth of the ocean—lifeless, distant, gone.
When the vision ended, she had eased her car back onto the street, shutting out the message. But, as before, she could not forget it, even here with Reed. Especially here with Reed. “Of course it’s going to be okay,” he said. “Wait just a minute.”
He went into the deli and walked up to the counter.
Paloma held her stomach as she watched her husband point to a row of Russian tea cakes. He beamed at droopy-eyed Manny behind the counter, who never changed his just-give- me-your-order expression. With Reed’s tall, robust frame constrained inside his Oxford shirt and his brown, grey- flecked curls brushing his collar, her husband’s bouncing-on-his-toes earnestness made her want to cry. Even though his optimism could be annoying, it also saddened her in its naïve vulnerability.
He returned and handed Paloma a crisp white bag with two conjoined butter stains already seeping through. “Just a little treat to enjoy later,” Reed said, “for my wife—and baby.” He flashed his big-toothed grin as though nothing bad would ever happen again.
Paloma opened the bag and inhaled the sugary aroma.
Reed chuckled as he folded his large body back into his chair and leaned in, eagerness lighting up his face. “When’s the due date?”
For some reason, she couldn’t remember. She knew the date marked something else, something that made her nervous. “The doctor says I’m due…” She stopped and took a sip of ice water, trying to shake off the apprehension.
“If we count the months from your last period, wouldn’t it be around April?” Reed drew closer, the lunch-crowd noise closing in around them.
She nodded, her memory jogged. “The baby is due April twenty-first.” As soon as she said it, she remembered: April 21 was her mother’s birthday. Paloma gagged; the smell of a pastrami sandwich the ponytailed guy at the next table was wolfing down eliciting sudden nausea.
“Yeah,” she said. “Just feeling queasy.” She picked up a napkin and wiped her forehead. “I guess my hormones are kicking in.”
Reed’s eyebrows shot up. “They are? That’s a good thing. You never felt any morning sickness before.” He beamed at her, his conviction reeling her in.
“You’re right.” Maybe her vision of the dead sparrow was about something else—or maybe it meant nothing at all.
“Sure I am,” Reed said with utter finality.
Manny’s impatient voice burst through an open window as he called out their number and rang the counter’s bell five times in a row—then, impatiently, five more times. Reed stood up and raced back into the deli. But as he brought back his tuna on rye and her turkey sandwich, he gripped the bright orange tray like a little kid who was afraid everything might crash to the ground at the slightest misstep.
Paloma held her sweaty glass to her forehead. “Thank you.” She ignored the foreboding that sank into her gut.
Reed bit into his sandwich and chewed with gusto. Paloma watched him, envious of—but also heartened by—his ability to believe in the future. She reminded herself that happiness was not going to turn into tragedy the second she allowed herself to trust it. Noticing a dab of tuna on Reed’s chin, she smiled as she reached over to wipe it off.
“Don’t worry.” Reed winked. “Our kid can’t ever be as sloppy as I am.”
“I wouldn’t bet on that. Your messy gene runs pretty deep.”
She had missed their silly bantering. They hadn’t been this playful with each other since the last pregnancy, but his jokes and her bursts of laughter had dissipated over time. She wagered, though, that most couples eventually lose sight of what first brought them together.
Reed patted her hand. “It is going to work out this time, Paloma…”
Paloma smiled, then took a bite of her sandwich. Maybe Reed was right; everything would be okay—the future did not have to be defined by the past.
And then, out of the corner of her eye, Paloma saw her. Bone-thin Serena raced across the street and planted herself next to the bumper of a parked car. In her ragged skirt and barely there T-shirt, Serena could be mistaken for one of Sunflower Beach’s many homeless people, who tucked themselves into alleys, behind bushes dotting the hillsides, and around trash-strewn paths by the railroad tracks. Yet the bedraggled Serena lived with her family, who tried their best to care for her in their own, private way. Serena stared at Paloma with her mismatched eyes, one blue and the other an unnatural shade of milky green. Slowly, Serena shook her head as her gaze misted over with what looked to be pity. Even though she had followed Paloma around ever since she’d moved into town, when she was in sixth grade and Paloma in fifth, Paloma’s heart raced now, and the nausea returned.
Reed leaned away and averted his face from Serena’s scrutiny. “She’s been showing up even more, you know.”
“I know,” Paloma whispered. “I think she’s trying to tell me something.” Paloma shoved her plate away. Eating would be impossible now.
“She’s not trying to tell you anything.” Reed sighed. “She’s just more unhinged than usual.”
Paloma dared to look again. Serena pinned her down with those unnerving eyes, and then her mouth suddenly twisted into a grimace. Not knowing what else to do, Paloma waved. Serena turned abruptly. Passersby shook their heads and stared as she skipped barefoot down the street. Paloma watched the last coiled ends of Serena’s long, tangled hair as it floated out of view.
About the Author:
Tracy Shawn lives and writes on the Central Coast of California with her husband, two mischievous cats, and loyal pit bull. Her debut novel, The Grace of Crows, won several indie book awards. Floating Underwater is her second novel. Tracy Shawn’s short stories have appeared in Literary Brushstrokes, Psychology Tomorrow Magazine, and Steel House Review Literary Journal. She’s written numerous articles for print and online publications and is currently working on her third novel.
To request a review copy or an interview with Tracy Shawn, please contact Kelsey Butts at Book Publicity Services at Kelsey@BookPublicityServices.com or (805) 807-9027.