The Sign for Drowning— Rachel Stolzman
In Rachel Stolzman’s debut novel, The Sign for Drowning, eight year old Anna watches from the beach as her sister Megan is swept under by a wave and never reappears. In the days, then weeks, then years, that follow, the memory haunts her, along with the belief that she could have saved her sister, if only she had gone into the water.
In the aftermath of the tragedy, struggling to deal with a family shattered by Megan’s death, Anna finds herself adrift. To cope, she learns American Sign Language, convinced that she can use this language of silence to communicate with Megan. Even as the futility of this exercise becomes apparent as she grows older, Anna clings to it as a way to feel connected to her sister and to express her feelings and thoughts in a way she cannot with words.
As an adult, Anna works for a school for deaf children, where she eventually meets, and later adopts, a young deaf girl, Adrea. As the two grow closer and embark on new challenges together, Anna begins to move past her decades-old guilt and to open herself to the people she loves, at last coming to terms with the past.
ForeWord magazine raved: “An impressive feat…Stolzman brings lyrical sensibility to an elegiac tale of a family’s heart-stopping tragedy and hard-won redemption, in which a tarnished silence can once again be made to shine through the resonate power of love.” Patty Dann, author of Mermaids, said, “Rendered in spare and original prose, The Sign for Drowning is a piercing and poignant tale of loss and love…This haunting first novel is the story of unspeakable horror and extraordinary beauty.” Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Whole World Over wrote of the book, “At a time when cool, ironic fiction is too much the rage, here is a novel written straight from the heart, a tender yet fearless portrait of a loving family crippled by grief. Rachel Stolzman reminds us what kind of stories matter, and move us, the most.”
Stolzman has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and has received a number of awards for her writing. The Sign for Drowning grew out of a short story that she wrote based on an actual experience from her own life. Stolzman studied at the American Sign Language Institute in Manhattan for two years and has worked with the deaf. She lives in Brooklyn and is currently working on her second novel.
— Caroline Patton