To Be Sung Underwater

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May 31, 2011 at 04:00 AM EDT

Fortysomething L.A. film editor Judith Whitman’s life seems like a model of modern bourgeois comfort. But she finds herself foundering in her work and her marriage — and increasingly drawn back to the formative love affair of her Nebraska youth. McNeal’s writing vacillates between Cormac McCarthy’s muscular, squinty-eyed prose style and a goopier Bridges of Madison County-esque romanticism; the transitions can be jarring. Eventually, though, To Be Sung Underwater finds its stride: Even if its characters are archetypes (the cornpone-wise farm boy, the brittle Ivy League urbanite), they’re ones we come to care about. B

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