Still Water Bending
By Wendy Mitman Clarke (2017; Head to Wind Publishing; $17)
Some of you may recognize Wendy Mitman Clarke’s name; she is a contributing editor for this magazine, and her byline was featured monthly for a few years while she and her family voyaged aboard their 45-foot sloop, Osprey. Full-disclosure: I was a fan of her writing way back then and I was eager to open this novel about maritime lives lived on Chesapeake Bay. Though disappointment is often a product of high expectations, Still Water Bending blew me away.
Still Water Bending is a story of a young woman and her father, both damaged and hardened, one by an unfair childhood, the other by loss and the uncompromising forces of change wrought on a fishing community. But their journey is a hopeful one, and Clarke guides us along a path rich in boats and water and fishing and, ultimately, fulfillment.
Clarke is an award-winning poet, and her sentences flow and soothe and effortlessly convey those unspoken thoughts and emotions that belong to her characters but that are familiar to every reader with a heart. Over and over, I pulled back from a sentence or paragraph to understand how Clarke had done what she’d just done.