“Shawn Nocher’s A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is beyond thrilling. Tender, fierce, achingly beautiful, this far-reaching novel of family and a woman’s fight to keep her life and those she loves afloat sounds the depths of honesty, secrecy, and our desire for connection with a sharp, unyielding insight. Add in the clarity of the writing, its supple lyricism and wry humor, and spread the news: Shawn Nocher is a writer to watch.” —Elise Levine, author of This Wicked Tongue
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 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 Lacey’s daughter, 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?
A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is a deeply felt narrative about mothers and daughters, the legacy of secrets, the way we make a family, and the love of those who walk us through our deepest pain. It is about the way we are tethered to one another and how we choose to wear those bindings. These are characters you won’t soon forget and, more so, won’t want to leave behind when you turn the last page.
“A gorgeous…debut novel by Shawn Nocher…Tender and piercing, A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is about secrets, shame, love, and what makes a family.” —Kim Magowan, author of The Light Source
“Shawn Nocher’s vivid, quietly beautiful prose lures you into the world of this accomplished debut novel. Her rich landscapes and complicated characters are evoked with a rare combination of tenderness and urgency. A Hand to Hold in Deep Water is an immersive novel that’s so deeply felt, you don’t just read it, you inhabit it and then emerge from it as if from a dream.” —Stephen McCauley, author of My Ex-Life
“A rich and resonant family story, a meditative, lyrical, and deeply emotional exploration of heritage, loss, and the profundity of parental love.” —Claire Lombardo, New York Times bestselling author
“There’s a wonderful sense of place in A Hand to Hold in Deep Water…[An] impressive debut…The literary world could use more tales of places other than New York City.” —New York Journal of Books
Shawn Nocher’s compelling short stories have appeared in numerous literary magazines, including SmokeLong Quarterly, Pithead Chapel, Eunoia Review, and MoonPark Review, and she has been long-listed 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.