Winner, 2017 IPPY Silver Medal for
Lake Erie was once home to a thriving inland fishery but the sad fortunes of the lake have decimated the industry, forcing those who live along the Lake Erie shore to adapt their expectations, or move on. On a summer’s day, Pen (Penelope) Beau and her four-year-old daughter Maddy are at the beach when they witness a drowning. The tragedy dredges up memories from Pen’s childhood – the death of her father in a boating mishap that may or may not have been an accident, and the subsequent disappearance of her brother Keaton, who fled the town after setting a deadly fire. Also involved in the events on the beach that day is Tom, a member of a biker gang, who is being inexorably drawn into a club-sanctioned bloody showdown. Eventually betrayed and abandoned, Tom must re-think the true nature of his relationships. Pen and Tom’s lives briefly intersect, two outsiders who must each find a way to reconcile the scattered threads of their lives.
“After Drowning is a beautifully written and powerfully moving novel about a young mother’s journey of finding an anchor for her heart in the permanence of change. Valerie Mills-Milde vividly paints microscopic but telling details of complex emotions, thoughts, and descriptions with a deft use of imagery and metaphor. This book nimbly travels through relationships, grief, abandonment, trust, and hope all against the backdrop of a lake that has seeped into the souls of the main characters. This is a book to be felt, savoured, and loved.”
—Sky Curtis, author of Doctored, A Gut Reaction and the forthcoming, Flush
“In her debut novel, After Drowning, Valerie Mills-Milde has mined new territory in a Canadian setting we know little about with a cast of characters that will stay with the reader long after finishing the book, not the least of which is Lake Erie — a beautiful lake that used to provide bounty in the form of fish but can turn on a dime into a menacing adversary with a capacity to kill. Pen and her daughter, Maddie, have returned to Port to stay with her mother and stepfather while Pen sorts out the problems with her marriage. While playing on the beach with her daughter, Pen witnesses a drowning, which triggers memories that set her on a course of self-examination and, ultimately, of release from the constraints and insecurity she has felt all her life. What we learn about the past from Pen’s memories and her internal life is inexorably linked with events that roll out to a surprising and satisfying climax. Love and relationships may fail us in life, but without them we are set adrift, as this author so beautifully demonstrates.”
—Renate Krakauer, author of Only by Blood