Flat Water Tuesday: Where to start? Let’s see. It’s a novel by Ron Irwin, a writer in residence at the University of Cape Town, a man who writes what he knows. He is a rower from New York State who attended boarding school in New England and has spent time making documentary films.
Why do I almost completely reiterate the author bio? Because, the main character in Flat Water Tuesday, Rob Carrey, is at a glance Ron Irwin. Rob is a skuller (a singles rower) from Nichol City, New York taking a fifth year of high school at Fenton Academy, a school founded for rowing greatness.
As a grown up, he is a documentary filmmaker who takes a lot of work out of Cape Town. In reading the synopsis and author bio, I was not intrigued and, as a non-rower, not excited in the least. I copied the CDs to my computer to find they were broken into fewer and longer tracks (each chapter a full track or two), a format I’ve found makes short sprints of listening while on the go more difficult. From the outset, I felt this book had everything to prove.
The beginning went much as I expected. The cocky, fish-out-of-water, Rob Carrey, was annoying in his inability to rationalize his situation of being required to row on the four-man crew rather than the singles, not to mention the sneering attitude of his competition, Connor Payne.
The book jumps from the grown up Rob struggling to maintain a relationship that is all but over to his experiences at Fenton, including a tragedy (as mentioned in the synopsis) that troubles the members of the rowing team to the present day. The story rolls out to reveal what ruined his relationship and what happened at Fenton that has preyed on Rob’s mind for the past fifteen years. Flat Water Tuesday is ultimately a story of growth, choice, and self-discovery that in the final pages leaves you smiling, nodding your head in admiration.
So I can’t say that I completely enjoyed Ron Irwin’s novel, but I can say that it is beautifully concluded and a worthwhile listen. Irwin’s passion for rowing is apparent and tangible in the heart pounding action of each race.
Holter Graham uses his voice to bring to life the arrogance of the youths, Rob and Connor, that made my skin crawl while listening, but I found myself admiring the reader for his storytelling ability.
Places where I wouldn’t have imagined a comma, Graham paused, drawing out the moment, and it felt right. The combination of the reader and author kept me afloat and moving towards the finish line. In that Flat Water Tuesday is like one of the rowing races described within it. The novel is a grueling endurance contest all for the sweet taste of victory, and this race is one that Irwin wins, as he won me over in the end.