The Nature of Water and Air by Regina McBride

Clodagh is an Irish girl who lived in a crumbling manor house, cold and drafty, with her sickly twin sister Mare. She is enamored by her distant beautiful mother, Agatha, whom she hasn't really known despite living with her. They said she tired of life and went away to the sea and that she was half a selkie. It seems Clodagh, too, is feeling out of place in ordinary and most normal places. So she is out to find herself. What started as a daughter's yearning for a mother's love and grief for her twin ended with a journey on unfamiliar landscapes, self discovery, and a mysterious stranger.

Regina McBride writes like a poetry and nostalgia rolled into one. It has that quality of melancholic memory, as if remembering things in a coat of sepia. I was definitely enthralled by her tones, Clodagh's voice, and was only regretful that the character's decision in the end propelled her into a territory that disturbs me somewhat.

That said, I must say, I like the first half of the book and not so much the rest of it. I love the description of the Irish countryside, resonating well to Clodagh's mythical musing and tumultuous emotions. Had it been set in another country, I am not sure it would have worked. It is the magic of Ireland that pervades one's sense of being. McBride's words form dreamy images to mind, making the memories more tangible as if they are a living and breathing thing. Plot twist aside, this book is quite beautifully written.

"My mother was never easy in the world of houses. She was a tinker, a traveler girl who had married a wealthy man. Her name was Agatha Sheehy....There are silences all around my mother's story." 

So begins The Nature of Water and Air, set on a patch of Irish coast where, amid a flurry of whispers, we meet Agatha's only surviving daughter, Clodagh. Determined to secure her mother's elusive love and the truth about her, Clodagh is swept into a relationship with a handsome, isolated man. He brings her to the heart of her mother's story, where she must confront the questions "Does a truth change love?" and "What madness will come from chasing a secret?" 
Powerfully sensitive, this startling debut novel about forbidden love will place Regina McBride among our most celebrated novelists.

Title: The Nature of Water and Air
Author: Regina McBride
Genre: Cultural, Historical
Published: 2001
Publisher: Touchstone 
Rating: ♨♨♨ (3 cups - I'm still on the fence about the twist in the end but the prose are quite beautiful, as natural and raw as water and air.)