I Wish the Ocean Was Warm, I Feel Like Drowning: Drowning Instinct by Ilsa J. Bick
What I knew about Drowning Instinct before reading it: Nothing. I loved the cover. I occasionally talk to Ilsa Bick on Twitter about challah and rugelach. I might have read a synopsis at one point, but by the time I read the book, I’d forgotten what it said.
What you should know about Drowning Instinct before reading it: Almost nothing. Drowning Instinct is a book that reveals its secrets slowly. You know how rollercoasters you ride in the dark are always scarier than the ones where you can see the twists and turns up ahead? Drowning Instinct is a rollercoaster ride best taken in the dark. So I’m not going to tell you much about the plot. If you’re one of those people that feels the need to know those sorts of details ahead of time, there are plenty of others who will be happy to share them, I’m sure.
Here is what I will tell you about Drowning Instinct: It is BRILLIANT.
Drowning Instinct explores the ways in which people suffer silently, drowning on the inside, while looking perfectly fine to an outsider. Like the characters in Drowning Instinct, this book has a lot going on beneath the surface. Bick takes some big, bold risks, and they pay off. With a multitude of subplots woven together by conversational (and perhaps unreliable) narration, I never quite knew where the story was going, how it would find its way full circle, or how much I could believe. Bick kept me on edge from beginning to end. This is a one-sitting read; I could not put it down. To put it bluntly, Drowning Instinct is a total mindfuck.
You should not read Drowning Instinct if you are not comfortable floating within gray areas. The characters are not clearly good or evil, predator or prey. They are flawed and they are vulnerable, but ultimately they are only trying to do what is right for themselves. Ambiguity is abundant and it makes the novel simultaneously frustrating and thrilling. Outside of Dexter, I have never rooted so hard for something that felt so wrong. Drowning Instinct will call your morals into question. It is thought-provoking in the best kind of way: It grabbed hold of me and would not let go. Bick’s latest novel begs to be discussed.