If a novel starts with the main character leaving a mental hospital at the age of eighteen, you’re going to encounter something either cliche or wonderful. Thankfully, The First Time She Drowned by Kerry Kletter takes you right into the latter.
Cassie spent two and a half years detained against her will thanks to her mother’s insistence that she is crazy and potentially dangerous. At eighteen, Cassie can finally leave and begin to scratch out a place for herself in a world she hasn’t been allowed to experience until now.
The thing is, as anyone with a complicated relationship with their parents will know, it’s not always easy to avoid their poison. Though Cassie does her best to study and do well at school, her mother begins to worm her way back into her life. Along the way Cassie discovers things about her family she didn’t know and spends a lot of the book carefully questioning the source of the trouble. Is it Cassie? Or is it her mother?
There are few people as well-placed as parents to manipulate and twist the truth of their children, and when those children grow up it’s not always clear which way they will go. This story deals with that struggle; is Cassie able to find her strength apart from her mother, or will she be under her dangerous thrall forever?
The First Time She Drowned is not an easy, quiet read. It’s full of beautiful language that sweeps you away and drags you under until you’re as part of the story as Cassie herself. The only warning I will give is that if you have your own parental issues, you might want to avoid this book unless you’re in need of some good catharsis. Other than that, I highly recommend it to you, readers.
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