Body Surfing by Anita Shreve

Is it read-worth? Yes. Shreve’s sparse and clean writing style is what gives this book its simplistic beauty. A great, easy read with easy-to-connect-to characters and a heartbreaking break in what should have been the typical happy family. It’s a beautiful, well-written page turner and comes with some of my highest recommendations.

Summary (Spoilers!)

Twice-married, Sydney is lost in her own life after being once divorced and once widowed. As a result, she takes a seasonal job as a tutor for a young woman, Julie Edwards, who is spending her summer with her family at the New Hampshire home. Although Sydney seems to have no direction, she falls in love with the family.

She’s captivated by the family’s intricate relationships and struggles to make sense of them throughout the book. She likes Julie and her father, Mr. Edwards, and there is a mutual dislike between her and Mrs. Edwards. 

However, when Sydney meets Julie’s two older brothers, Ben and Jeff, the plot seems to thicken almost immediately. She is undeniably attracted to 31-year old Jeff who comes to the home with his gorgeous girlfriend. But she’s uncomfortable around Ben, who she thinks groped her when she went body surfing with the two brothers. 

When Julie’s late coming home one night, Jeff and Sydney go looking for a develop an emotional connection. They later go on to make love on the same night Julie happens to run away with a lesbian lover she had never mentioned to anyone. 

Later on in the story, Jeff proposes to Sydney to the dismay of his brother, Ben. For a good while, it seems to all like Sydney might finally get her happy ending. She’s in love with Jeff and excitedly prepares for the wedding.

Until she’s left at the altar and finds out that Jeff was only interested in her because Ben was. And Jeff was the one who sabotaged her relationship with Ben, her very ability to like being around Ben, by making her think it was Ben who touched her so intimately while body surfing even though it was him the whole time. 

And, then, Sydney is left to remake her life a third time. Once divorced, once widowed, and once left behind.

Why I Love It…

I always love books that make me look a little bit deeper into human emotions and this book really is a psychological study on the human emotion of jealousy. Even right from the beginning, Mrs. Edward’s jealousy and open dislike for Sydney was huge. But the most important example was the relationship between the two Edwards brothers… and how that impacted Sydney. 

For his entire life, Jeff felt like he was in Ben’s shadow. Ben was the family’s golden boy whereas Jeff just failed to live up to those expectations. But Jeff was better at one thing: seducing women. And he proved that to Ben time and time again by essentially stealing the affection of the women Ben introduced to the family or showed any level of interest in. 

The girlfriend that Jeff brought to the first family get-together? She was Ben’s ex-girlfriend. Getting engaged to Sydney? Ben had showed a slight bit of interest in Sydney and Jeff sabotaged her view of Ben and then proceeded to romance her. He even went as far as to propose to her and didn’t pull out of his game plan until the day of the wedding where he left her alone at the altar.

Be still my broken heart! Sydney never did ANYTHING to deserve that and the fact that it happened (and stuff like this does happen in real life) was shocking! How could anyone be so cruel? 


I definitely recommend this book to anyone who wants to read it. It’s interesting, that plot twist is crazy, and if you want to discuss it with me- send me a message. I always have more to say about a truly amazing book.

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