Cover Image: A Hand to Hold in Deep Water

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water

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A Hand to Hold in Deep Water
by Shawn Nocher
Narrated by Elizabeth Evans

This novel by Shawn Nocher is a haunting and emotionally compelling story with unforgettable characters. It's a tale about confronting the past and family secrets. Nocher's writing is deep, serious, and sensitive, with excellent narration provided by Elizabeth Evans.
Thank you to Net Galley and Blackstone Audio for the advance audiobook and the opportunity to provide an unbiased review.
#AHandtoHoldinDeepWater #NetGalley
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Nocher tells us a captivating, heartfelt, dark, and haunting story of a woman who is abandoned by her mother and is raised by her step-father. The story is set in two timelines – the daughter, Lacey, who is coming to terms with the abandonment by her mother; and the mother, May, who falls in love with Willy, the step-father, and, ultimately, decides to leave her daughter and husband. This story will not be easy for some to read as the subject matter of abuse and abandonment is difficult and tragic.

The writing is very good, and the character development is detailed and draws the reader in. I listened to the audiobook narrated by Elizabeth Evans. While perhaps not my favorite narrator, Evans did a good job telling the story, differentiating the timelines, and breathing life into the characters.

**Thank you NetGalley and Blackstone Audiobooks for sending me the ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
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This was a wonderful narration of a great book. I had the e-copy as well which I reviewed but I liked the book and narration. It had depth, struggle and heart!
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Lacy’s daughter is suddenly diagnosed with cancer. A terrifying thing to face for the fiercely independent mom. 

She turns to her stepfather, the only father she’s ever known, Willy, for support during the treatment. 

While back at her childhood home for the first time in a while and faced with questions about familial medical history, she finds herself wondering about her mother who left them so many years ago. 

As she remembers and discovers more about her mother she begins to treasure just who Willy has been for her.
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EXCERPT: 'Willy,' she had said, nudging her shoulder into his where they sat on the stoop together, her voice small and papery, like it might blow away. 'I don't think my momma likes it here no more.'

'Now, girl,' he said, patting her knee, 'what makes you say such things?' But his heart had already tightened in his chest because he'd been thinking the same thing, the very same thing. May wasn't happy, and it didn't seem right since he had thought for sure she would be. He had been so proud to bring her home on their wedding day, and after that first night with her, feeling so good, he couldn't imagine she would feel any different from him.

That was just the thing that confounded him - that he could feel one way and she could feel another. Of late, when he touched her, she just lay still, not saying 'no' to him, but like she'd taken out her heart and set it aside. And just last night, when he'd lifted his head from the sweet-salty crook of her neck, she lay wide-eyed and staring at the ceiling, and he couldn't go on.

It was a terrible thing, to feel connected to a woman and then find out you weren't really touching her at all. Something like that made a man start asking questions that he didn't want to know the answers to.

But even then, at that moment, with Lacey tucked against his shoulder and his hand patting her knee, he couldn't possibly have imagined that May would disappear the way she did, that she could just quit the life they had like it meant nothing, leaving him and little Lacey without even so much as a 'so long and see ya later'. Gone. Like a breath that has been inhaled and exhaled and done with.

ABOUT 'A HAND TO HOLD IN DEEP WATER': Willy Cherrymill and his stepdaughter Lacey are deeply bruised by a past brimming with unanswered questions. It’s been thirty years since May DuBerry, Willy’s young wife and Lacey’s mother, abandoned them both leaving Willy to raise Lacey alone.

Lacey Cherrymill is smart, stubborn and focused. She’s also a single mother to a young daughter recently diagnosed with a devastating illness. The last thing she needs to think about right now is the betrayal that rocked her childhood. Reluctantly, she has returned to her rural beginnings, a former dairy farm in the Maryland countryside, and to Willy, a man steeped in his own disappointments and all the guilt that goes with them.

Together they will pool their wobbly emotional resources to take care of Tasha, all the while trying to skirt the issue of May’s mysterious disappearance. But try as she might, Lacey can’t leave it alone. Just where is May DuBerry Cherrymill and why did she leave them, and how is it that they have never talked about the wreckage she left behind?

MY THOUGHTS: The writing in A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is beautiful, lyrical. It flows like molasses from a spoon. It is a novel that drew me in so that I was breathing the same air that the characters breathed, experiencing their triumphs, their pain, feeling their emotions, living their lives
along with them.

A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is an exploration of love - the love of a mother for her daughter, her need to protect her daughter at any cost, even that of her own happiness.

At first I thought this story belonged to Lacey and her daughter Tasha, as Tasha is diagnosed with cancer and their battle with this demon is the predominating thread, with the mystery of May surfacing only occasionally. But gradually the tables turn as Lacey faces up to her need to know just what happened to her mother, her need to know her mother and where she came from. And so she packs up Lacey and Willy and Carlotta, and they embark on a mission to find out just who May duBarry was.

The story is split between the 'present', being the mid-2000s, and the 'past' of the early 1970s. The story is interspersed with May's diary entries. I found the telling of Tasha's battle with cancer difficult to read. It is a brutally honest, no holds barred account. But it was worth getting through, because it is May's story that is the crux of the book.

This is very much a character driven novel. If you are looking for action and excitement, look elsewhere. If you are looking for a beautiful, tender and heart-piercing story of family, love, sacrifice, secrets and shame, then you couldn't do better than pick up A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher.

I both read and listened to A Hand to Hold in Deep Water. Elizabeth Evans is a wonderful narrator, and enriched my experience with this book.


#AHandtoHoldinDeepWater #NetGalley

I: @shawnnocher @ blackstonepublishing

T: @shawn_nocher @BlackstonePub1

#contemporaryfiction #familydrama #historicalfiction #love #mystery #sliceoflife #audiobook

THE AUTHOR: Shawn Nochers compelling short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Eunoia Review, and MoonPark Review, and she has been longlisted or won honorable mentions from both SmokeLong Quarterly and Glimmer Train.

She earned her master of arts in writing at Johns Hopkins University, has given wings to two children, and lives with her husband and an assortment of sassy rescue animals in Baltimore, Maryland, where she writes in a room of her own. This is her first novel. (Amazon)

DISCLOSURE: Thank you to Blackstone Publishing and Blackstone Audio via Netgalley for providing both a digital and an audio ARC of A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher for review. All opinions expressed in this review are entirely my own personal opinions.

For an explanation of my rating system please refer to my profile page or the about page on

This review and others are also published on Twitter, Amazon, Instagram and my webpage
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I have to start checking for trigger warnings! Even though, generally speaking, there’s nothing I am adamant about avoiding, some things caught me off guard. This was an excruciatingly difficult read for more than one reason. I was not prepared for it.

Honestly, when I read the blurb of this book, I kind of assumed it's going to turn into a mystery/thriller kind of thing. If I knew it's gonna be this dark, I probably wouldn't even attempt reading it. I had to skim through some parts, and even then it was hard for me to finish the book.

The good news is that it was pretty well written. The writhing - I wouldn't say it was lyrical, but there was something poetic about it. Perfect to tell this particular story.

If this kind of books are your thing, then you'll probably like it quite a bit. It grabbed even me after a while; though I was considering DNFing it because of the difficult topics, I just had to know how it ends.

BTW, is this a debut novel? I couldn't find any other books by this author, but there was something very… experienced about the narration. And also the characters - they were so complex, but so easy to understand and they just felt real.

Anyways, even though it was hard to go through it, I’m glad I read this book. I'm sure it will stay with me for a really long time.

Thank you to the #NetGalley and to the author and publisher for providing me with an audiobook version of A Hand to Hold in Deep Water by Shawn Nocher in exchange for an honest review.
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Happy Pub Day to Shawn Nocher and, “A Hand to Hold in Deep Water!” This work of fiction is heartbreaking while also being heartwarming. Triggers abound, so be warned! This story is an emotional tear jerker. The narrator brought this story to life beautifully and did justice to this well crafted novel. Well done!

Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and publisher for the opportunity to listen to this audiobook. The opinions in this review are entirely my own. 

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It is an emotional story that will tug at your heart strings. Lacey’s daughter Tasha is diagnosed with Lukemia and the two of them return to the farm to stay with Willy, who is Lacey’s mom, May’s husband - where Lacey grew up while Tasha undergoes Chemotherapy. While there, memories are brought up and Lacey searches for the truth of her mother years after May just disappeared into a car when Lacey was 13. The characters were all well developed, deep and complex.  There are multiple plots throughout the story, but not so much that you, as the reader, are confused. This was a long book but is well worth reading. A story about family, secrets, love, and heartbreak. 
Thank you to #netgalley for my advanced audiobook copy! All thoughts and opinions are my own.
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This is not the feel-good story of chosen family that it is being marketed as. 

Willy is rapey (see, May’s description of sex as laying back and pretending her heart has left her body) and predatory (starts pursuing May when he is 38 and she is 17; ogles his stepdaughter when she breastfeeds Tasha), and I don’t care to read more about him. The story shows little awareness of this problem thus far, even setting him up as a savior to May and Lacey, in comparison to May’s father?? It is absolutely no mystery to me why May left; the real mystery is when Lacey will figure out he’s sort of gross. The prose is mediocre, too, especially following on the heels of the previous two books I read. Can’t find a reason to keep reading this. DNF at 23%.

The only version of this story I would want to read would be if Lacey were to finally clue in to how gross Willy is, remove herself and Tasha from his life, find May, and those three live happily ever after. And Willy can get hit by a bus. 

I am grateful to both the publisher and NetGalley for providing an Audiobook ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Narrator 2 stars
I hated this narrator and her voice. She irritated my ears.

Story 2 stars.

I can say the author is clearly very talented when it comes to writing but this story ABSOLUTELY BORED ME TO DEATH!!!!
Considering the content of the story you would think you would feel something towards the characters but I didn't not. No empathy, no rage.. Just nothing. Maybe this wasn't the write time for me to listen to this book. It left me feel nothing. 

**please note due to low rating I will not be leaving a public review for this book as I have not paid for it**
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When I read the description for A Hand to Hold in Deep Water. I had to try and get it! 
Knew this book was going to fire! 

Lacey returns to her rural hometown in Maryland..... and she is looking for answers! Her child was filled with questions! 
Laceys mother May up and left her 30 years ago for her stepfather Willy to care for her! They both have questions about why she just left! 
Lacey and Willy pull together to take care of Laceys daughter Tasha who was just diagnosed with an illness. 
Will she finally get answers? And what will be the outcome? 

I absolutely love books that draw me in. And I'm so gripped in reading that I forget about the world even if its for A couple minutes! That's what this book did for me! 
I absorbed these characters. The story held my attention throughout the entire read!n
That is what makes a great book to me! 
The audio version was Amazing, couldn't have asked for a better narrator! 

I can't thank Blackstone Publishing, NetGalley and Author for giving me a chance to read this fabulous ebook copy! 

Will post to my Goodreads and bookstagram closer to pub date!
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his was a very special story to me since it was the first ever audiobook i was permissioned on NetGalley.
nethertheless i would have liked it anyway! from the beginning i got totally immersed into this deep and very emotional story about a family and their moved past. i enjoyed the set up of the family- not a usual one.
the characters are all so well developed and to me they seemed so realistic.
thanks to the narrator Elizabeth Evans and the gripping story i thoroughly enjoyed this book.
i should mention, that i am not a native speaker and therefore enjoy listening to narrators with different accents whether they are british or american ;)

Thanks #NetGalley, #Shawn Nocher
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