MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Castle of Water

A Novel

by Dane Huckelbridge

Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge X
Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge
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    Apr 2017, 288 pages


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Two paths, white and shimmering as a summer day in her native Toulouse, appeared before her. Amid Sophie's immense terror, depthless loss, and visceral sadness, a clear choice took shape. Suddenly her life was a fork in the road, a binary system both horrific and beautiful in its simplicity. One path was as follows: She could close her eyes, cease her struggle, and let her body go limp. Slowly, placid as a dream, she would sink into the dark water, enjoying a final moment of numb serenity before the ghost left her and the sharks did their work. A quick and relatively painless surrender, followed by a reunion with her husband in the beckoning deep.

Or she could swim like hell and get that putain de merde orange box.

Sophie Ducel chose the latter. With the walls of the narrow cockpit closing down upon her, she lunged for the box, which was underwater but still visible from the surface. She worked one buckle loose but felt her treasure sinking, moving steadily downward. She took a quick swallow of air and went down with it, her fingers struggling valiantly with the last canvas strap, her aching cheeks blistered with air. They were going down, everything, she knew that, and if she didn't get it soon …

And then it came. The buckle gave and the box sprang loose. With the very last of the plane descending in slow, disastrous, Hindenburg-like motion around her, she pursued the opposite vector, kicking and thrashing her body toward the life-giving sky and away from the cheated black hole that waited below.

She broke through the surface in a flesh-toned geyser and drank in the light. Smoke and steam abounded, but anything was better than the alternative. The orange box popped open rather easily, spilling out a nylon duffel bag, itself containing a package both rubberized and densely packed. An imperative black arrow pointed to a cord attached to a handle, not unlike the starter on a lawn mower, and Sophie subjected it to a vigorous tug. Something snapped, a python hiss of gas was released, and the orange vinyl bundle came buoyantly to life, transforming into a compact and functional life raft. Sophie clambered over its side while it was only half-inflated—a few curious sharks had begun nuzzling her knees—and sprawled across its bottom, gasping for oxygen. The little vessel continued to take shape around her, growing sturdier by the second, until the gaseous hiss eventually stopped, leaving Sophie to bob alone in silence and smoke.

The sky above her was a jarring cobalt; the wind tasted of petrol and doom. Sophie shivered from shock, and she wept profusely. She wailed and wondered, both to herself and out loud, how a honeymoon to French Polynesia had degenerated into this. For the time being, she cared little about rescue. She was indifferent to the possibility of escape. She thought only of Étienne, with whom she had made love that very morning, following a breakfast of fresh papaya and pain perdu, directly beneath her, being chewed up by sharks and swallowed by darkness. And after some hours of delirious weeping, she, just like Barry in his bower, fell asleep.

Sophie drifted all night in her little raft. She was still drifting when she awoke in the morning, to a parched throat, sore muscles, a mild sunburn, and the sickening realization of the predicament she was in. She drifted right through the afternoon, beneath a sky that yielded no trace of rescue but plenty of rain, and right on into a second night, until the drifting stopped with an abrupt and gritty halt. Nudged back to reality, Sophie raised her head. Baffled, she looked around her, at low, hoary dunes and palms that quivered and silvered in the moonlight. She climbed over the side of the raft, vomited bile, moaned once more toward the god(s) she, too, assumed had forsaken her, and collapsed forward onto the sand.

And so it came to pass that two utterly disparate lives happened to overlap: a young architect from Paris's tenth arrondissement, prematurely widowed at age twenty-eight, and a relatively young banker from Manhattan's Upper East Side, prematurely retired at age thirty-four, bound together on an uninhabited island some 2,359 miles from Hawaii, 4,622 miles from Chile, and 533 miles from the nearest living soul.

Excerpted from Castle of Water by Dane Huckelbridge. Copyright © 2017 by Dane Huckelbridge. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Dunne Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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