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Salt Water

Salt Water

  • reading group guide
In the summer of 1963 I fell in love and my father drowned....So begins this luminous story of a young man's passage through the dark turns of adult passion. A contemporary retelling of Turgenev's classic tale "First Love," Salt Water is set against a summer landscape of water, sand, and sky, and relates in seductive detail the momentous events that changed a family forever.
On an isolated island off the Atlantic coast, fifteen-year-old Michael and his parents begin their customary lazy vacation. When two exquisite flirts shatter the calm, Michael experiences the provocative mysteries and the consequences of various kinds of love -- romantic and sensual, paternal and filial.
William Faulkner Award-winning author Charles Simmons explores the very heart of the human need to be wanted, the intricacies of the father-son bond, and a boy's adolescence in all of its desires, confusion, and heartbreak.
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  • Gallery Books | 
  • 176 pages | 
  • ISBN 9780671035679 | 
  • July 1999
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Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: The Sandbar
In the summer of 1963 I fell in love and my father drowned.
For one week in late June a sandbar formed half a mile out in the ocean. We couldn't see it, but we knew it was there because waves were breaking on it. Each day at low tide we expected it to show through. A bar had never formed that far out, and we wondered if it would stick. If it did, the water near shore would be protected and calmer, and we could move our boat, the Angela, in front of the house instead of keeping it in Johns Bay, on the other side of Bone Point. The swimming of course would change, it would be like bay swimming, and the surf casting... see more

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide
1. Which is the more important relationship for Michael, the one with Zina or the one with his father?
2. Would the people in the story have acted differently today from the way they did in 1963?
3. Do you think Zina is permanently changed by the events in the summer of 1963?
4. Are any of the characters bad? Is there a villain in Salt Water?
5. At the end of the story Michael, now older than his father was when he drowned, says he still feels like a child. Why should this be so?
6. If the characters were real people, which would you like and which would you dislike?
7. If you were Michael, would you have acted differently?
8. Do you think Michael really wanted to kill his father?
9. Can you think of a better title for the book?
10. Would the story have been better if it had been told by the author instead of by Michael?
11. What do you think happens to Michael after the summer of 1963?
Q: You use an epigraph from Turgenev's First Love to signal the reader that Salt Water will resemble the earlier narrative. Why did you follow another writer's plot rather than invent a new one?
A: A number of reasons. But first let me say that Turgenev pointed out that First Love was almost literally autobiographical, so in a sense I took my story from life.
My four previous novels -- three comedies, a see more

About the Author



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