Waiting Under Water, a novel by Riel Nason, begins and ends with sea glass. When Hope was eight, she started making sea glass on the beach behind her house in St. David’s, a small town in New Brunswick. She collected bits of broken glass and made a sack out of old window screens to hold it while the tides went in and out on the Bay of Fundy. Over time, water and sand tumble the glass pieces, wearing off the rough edges, polishing them, and eventually transforming them into translucent rocks. At 12 years old, Hope is still waiting for the glass to be ready to harvest.
Hope is also waiting for a dreaded event: the end of summer, when she and her family will be leaving St. David’s and moving to Ontario, where her father has been transferred. With the family home for sale, Hope is trying to come to terms with the prospect of leaving behind nearly everything she loves. The anxiety about moving has intensified Hope’s verbal tic, an uncontrollable “hummph” sound she makes in times of stress. As a way to distract herself, Hope sets to making a special quilt as a goodbye present for her best friend, Willa. Hope also gets involved in a national TV contest making posters and rallying community spirit as St. David’s competes against four other small villages for the title of “Canada’s Tiniest Treasure.”
With deft characterization and poetic description of Hope’s outer and inner worlds, Nason tracks her character’s journey through a series of difficult emotions – exploring her verbal tic with sensitivity and humour and giving readers an inside look at what it’s like to live with this uncomfortable condition.
Nason writes with a lyrical appreciation of place. Seen through Hope’s eyes, St. David’s is a flawed but familiar childhood paradise that has nurtured a strong sense of home and belonging. Like the Bay of Fundy tides and the careful construction of Hope’s quilt, the book moves slowly, with changing colours and moods. Hope struggles to accept the unacceptable – sometimes falling into anger and despair, sometimes rising up with courage. Similar to the sea glass, Hope is changed by the rough and tumble of her life as she waits to become a different version of herself. Waiting Under Water is a gentle, heartfelt account of a 12-year-old’s perspective on navigating change.