A stunning novel of boarding school, family secrets, deep and passionate love, and the brutal pain of sports training.
Rob Carrey, the son of a working-class cabinet maker, arrives at the Fenton School with a scholarship to row and a chip on his shoulder. Generations of austere Fenton men have led the rowing team, known as the God Four, to countless victories - but none are as important or renowned as the annual Tuesday-afternoon race against their rival, Warwick.
But first Rob must complete months of preparation driven by their captain, Connor Payne's vicious competitive nature. As the race nears, the stakes rise, tempers and lusts are fueled, and no one can prevent the horrible tragedy that befalls one of them.
Fifteen years later, Rob returns home from a film shoot in Africa to end a heartbreaking relationship with his girlfriend, Carolyn. But when a phone call from one of the God Four compels him to attend the reunion at Fenton, no part of Rob's past remains sequestered for long and nothing about his future is certain.
As much about the sport of rowing as it is a novel of finding oneself, not once, but again in mid-life; Ron Irwin's Flat Water Tuesday is a testament to the pride and passion of youth, and an ode to the journey of forgiveness.
"Irwin's story on love, loss, and tragedy marks his as a distinguished new voice." - Publishers Weekly
"Starred Review. Irwin debuts with movingly rendered literary fiction about love and loss, youth and maturity, ambition and its cost...An elegy to love and loss and reconciliation." - Kirkus
The characters are well drawn and complex. Rob is a flawed but ultimately sympathetic man who habitually flees from situations that he can't handle emotionally. Rowing plays a critical element in the book, but even those who are uninterested in the sport will find themselves gripped by this compelling story of coming to terms with the past." - Booklist
"All you ever wanted to know about the world of competitive rowing is contained in the pages of Ron Irwin's new novel, whose hero is not only a prodigious oarsman but the lover of two memorably realized women." - J.M. Coetzee
"Flat Water Tuesday is the best debut novel I've read this year, a compulsively readable dark drama that weaves multiple [stories] toward one marvelous denouement. Ron Irwin writes with confidence and skill and authenticity in this exploration of identity and the poisonous fuel of ambition. It will call other books - A Separate Peace, The Art of Fielding - to mind but stands alone as an original and powerful work. I'll read anything Irwin writes after this." - Michael Koryta, New York Times bestselling author of The Prophet
"In Ron Irwin's capable hands, past and present fuse into a haunting meditation on class, guilt, and the perils of victory. You don't need to have set foot in a scull to be swept along by this affecting book. Flat Water Tuesday is the debut of a deft and talented new voice." - Eric Puchner, author of Pen/Faulkner Award-finalist, Model Home
"With echoes of A Separate Peace, Ron Irwin's wonderful Flat Water Tuesday is a masterful coming of age story about making one's place in the world, about the sacrifices love asks of us and of the rewards it may give us, about friendship and responsibility and so many other aspects of being human. It's compelling, moving and often heart-breaking - all of the things we want good novels to be." - Joe Schuster, author of The Might Have Been
"A gripping read. If you've ever marveled at the fluidity of a quadruple scull cutting through water in first light, and wondered what makes its 4-man motor work, this book will provide the answers, and then some. Irwin is adept at revealing the tricky bonds between rowers, and the way those bonds can shape - and misshape - a life." - Tom McNeal, author of To Be Sung Underwater, USA Today 2011 Best Book of the Year
"The opening scene of Ron Irwin's lovely debut novel left me breathless. Irwin writes astutely about finding one's place in the world, testing the limits of our endurance, and how we find the strength to carry on." - Amanda Eyre Ward, author of Close Your Eyes
"In taut, muscular prose Irwin details the punishing training regimen of The God Four, a crew of competitive oarsmen who commit themselves body and soul to the pain and glory of their sport. Flat Water Tuesday is a powerful consideration of the exhilarating love of competition and the high cost of victory. Ron Irwin has written a propulsive, heart-stopping story in the tradition of such sporting classics as Alan Sillitoe's The Loneliness of The Long Distance Runner, and Bernard Malamud's The Natural. Flat Water Tuesday is a world-class champion of a novel." - Amber Dermont, NY Times bestselling author of The Starboard Sea
"Ron Irwin's rowing tale - Flat Water Tuesday brings to life a rite of passage that is complex, insightful, and stirring. Inside the gunnels of the rowing shell secrets are kept. Powerful fathers produce legendary sons, and legends arise that haunt some forever. His artistry weaves heroism, rivalry, romance, tragedy, and raw life together inside the ethereal dynamics of a boarding school crew - not any crew, but "The God Four" - which, in the end, leaves all to wrestle with the reckoning that God was indeed watching. Written in the tradition of Dead Poets Society, Ron Irwin's story is a must for anyone who loves rowing, sports, or just a darn good read." - Susan Saint Sing, member of the 1993 U.S. National Rowing Team and author of The Wonder Crew
"Flat Water Tuesday is more than just a wonderful coming-of-age novel, it's a gripping and beautifully drawn portrait of a man coming to grips with his demons. His unforgettable story will take you through heartbreak and back, where resilience can teach you not just about achievement, but also about love." - Elizabeth Percer, author of An Uncommon Education
"A biting, beautiful novel about the cost of winning and the lessons of loss. In Robert Carrey, Ron Irwin has created a character of precision and depth, a man who must learn that he cannot scull through life alone." - Jennifer Miller, author of The Year of the Gadfly
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Rated of 5
Elisabeth W. (Durham, NC)
Lots of Rowing, but not much else
I enjoy a book where I learn something new. With Flat Water Tuesday, I enjoyed learning about the intricacies of rowing. I expected this book to include more about the boarding school experience, but the Fenton School was barely a backdrop, which disappointed me. At times it was hard to understand the characters' motivation (Why is Rob so competitive with Connor? Why did he run out on the frozen river?) Though I enjoyed the book, it would have been much richer for me with more presence of the boarding school and more specific insight into Rob's motivations.
Rated of 5
Cheryl B. (La Porte, TX)
A promising novel that falls short of expectations
This book focuses around a rowing group at Fenton Prep school. Upon invitation to his 15th year anniversary, the protagonist, Rob Carrey, has flashbacks between his current life and his rowing days, where something went quite wrong. Carrey is a scholarship kid, a scull rower and is used to rowing alone and not in a team environment. Parts of this book were beautifully written, but some of the scenes dragged. I especially felt Ruth, Conner, and the last person of the God Four team is so flatly developed that I can't even recall his name or any one thing that stood out about him.
Rated of 5
Kristen H. (Hagerstown, MD)
This book was so so, had a different impression when I selected this book. I did not like how it jumped back and forth. It took me a while to read it and get into it. I would have to say this last 10 chapters was better and it moved along quickly. Not a book I would recommend and I do have knowledge of crewing.
Rated of 5
Kimberly H. (Stamford, CT)
Even though the writing is overly descriptive regarding the rowing, I thoroughly enjoyed this well written saga of prep school boys, their cantankerous coach and the event that changed all of their lives. The writer obviously knows his subject matter. Well done and highly recommended.
Rated of 5
Christina C. (Powells Point, NC)
A little slow going, but worth it
I really found this book interesting because it focused on things I don't know about - rowing, and National Geographic film making. Both were fascinating to learn about. At times I really felt like I was in the sweaty exercise room, one of the team. Or I felt like I was in the studio apartment with cabin fever from hours of editing.
I did find parts kind of slow going. We didn't need to hear about every.single.stroke of an exercise, or we didn't need to know excessive details (like about the shed, for example) that weren't pertinent to the storyline. The middle of the book had the feeling of a movie that ran about 30 minutes longer than it should have, in my opinion.
I thought the beginning was brilliant. You were hooked immediately and you knew the story was going to culminate and explain this big secret that rowing team shared with a dramatic climax.
I loved learning about the team members and I loved that the storyline kept switching to keep your attention and leave you wondering. We were looking at Rob's present with Carolyn, the past with Carolyn, his past at the school, his past with his family, and eventually the present at school, with the team, and with Carolyn at once.
As tiring as parts of the middle were, I'm glad I stuck it out. It was a great book I'm glad to have finished. I finished a few days ago and find myself missing the characters and the team's practice and progress.
Rated of 5
Angela J. (Highlands Ranch, CO)
I felt like I have read a hundred books similar to this. Do we really need another coming of age book? It's the same old story about a poor kid on a scholarship getting to mingle with the rich privileged kids. I found all of the back and forth very distracting; with a lot of unnecessary detail trying to add drama and atmosphere. After all this buildup, the ending was extremely disappointing; I found I really didn't like the adult Carrey.
Ron Irwin was born and raised in Buffalo, New York, and attended boarding school and college in New England, where he was a member of a number of winning rowing crews. He is currently the writer in residence for the University of Cape Town's MA in Creative Writing program, where he has taught since 1999. Irwin holds a Masters in Literary Studies and a Masters in Creative Writing, and has worked as a freelance documentary filmmaker and journalist. He is married and has three children. Follow Irwin and Flat Water Tuesday at facebook.com/FWTNovel, or visit him at flatwatertuesday.com
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