Excerpt from How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

How It Feels to Float

by Helena Fox

How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox X
How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    May 2019, 384 pages
    Paperback:
    May 5, 2020, 384 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Michelle Anya Anjirbag
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

Excerpt
How It Feels To Float

At three in the morning when I can't sleep, the room ticks over in the dark and all I have for company is the rush of words coming up fast like those racehorses you see on television, poor things, and when their hearts give out they are laid on the ground and shot dead behind a blue sheet.

At three a.m., I think of hearts. I think of candy hearts and carved-tree hearts and hummingbird hearts. I think of hearts in bodies and the rhythm inside us we don't get to choose.

I lay my hand over mine. There it is.

It beatbeats beatbeatbeats skipsabeatbeatbeat

beatbeatbeats.

A heart is a mystery and not a mystery. It hides under ribs, pumping blood. You can pull it out, hold it in your hand.Squeeze. It wants what it wants. It can be made of gold, glass, stone. It can stop anytime.

People scratch hearts into benches, draw them onto fogged windows, tattoo them on their skin. Believe the story they tell themselves: that hearts are somehow bigger than muscle, that we are something more than an accidental arrangement of molecules, that we are pulled by a force greater than gravity, that love is anything more than a mess of nerve and impulse—

"Biz."

A whisper.

"Biz."

In the dark.

"Biz."

In my room.

I open my eyes, and Dad's sitting on the edge of the bed.

"You need to stop," he says.

What? I squint at him. He's blurry.

"The thinking. I can hear it when you breathe."

Dad's wearing a gray sweatshirt. His hands are folded in his lap. He looks tired.

"You should sleep like you did when you were small," he says. He looks away, smiles. "Your tiny fingers, tucked under your chin. There's a photo ..." Dad trails off.

Yeah, Dad. I've seen it.

"The one of us in hospital, after you were born—"

Yeah. The one just after Mum got her new blood and you fainted and they gave you orange juice. The one where Mum's laughing up at the camera as I sleep in her arms. Yeah. I've seen it.

Dad smiles again. He reaches across to touch me, but of course he can't.

That photo has been on every fridge door in every house I've ever lived in. It sits under a plumbing company magnet and beside a clip holding year-old receipts Mum can't seem to throw away.

The photo was taken an hour after I came bulleting out of Mum so fast she had to have a transfusion. In the picture, I look like a slug and Dad looks flattened, like he's seen a car accident. But Mum's face is bright, open, happy.

All the other photos are in albums on our living room bookshelf, next to the non-working fireplace. The albums hold every picture of me Dad ever took until he died, and all the ones of me Mum took until smartphones came along and she stopped printing me onto paper. I'm now partly inside a frozen computer Mum keeps meaning to get fixed, and on an overcrowded iPhone she keeps meaning to download.

And I'm in the photos friends have taken when I've let them and the ones the twins have taken with their eyes since they were babies. I'm in the ocean I walk beside when I skip school and in the clouds where I imagine myself sometimes. And I'm in the look on my friend Grace's face, a second after I kissed her, five seconds before she said she thought of me as a friend.

I blink. Dad's gone again. The room is empty but for me, my bed, my walls, my thoughts, my things.

It's what—four in the morning?

I have a physics test at eight.

My ribs hurt. Behind them, my heart beatbeats beatbeatbeats beatskipsabeat

beatbeat beats.


My name is Elizabeth Martin Grey, but no one I love calls me that.

The Martin is for Dad's dad who died in a farm accident when he was thirty and Dad was ten.

I was seven when Dad died. Which means I had less time with Dad alive than Dad had with his.

Excerpted from How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox. Copyright © 2019 by Helena Fox. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year
  • More about membership!

Award Winners

  • Book Jacket: Becoming
    Becoming
    by Michelle Obama
    Voted 2019 Best Nonfiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    BookBrowse hosted a Book Club ...
  • Book Jacket: Butterfly Yellow
    Butterfly Yellow
    by Thanhha Lai, Daniel Suarez
    Voted 2019 Best Young Adult Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    As readers, many of us hope ...
  • Book Jacket: Olive, Again
    Olive, Again
    by Elizabeth Strout
    Voted 2019 Best Fiction Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    It's been a big year for literary ...
  • Book Jacket: Solitary
    Solitary
    by Albert Woodfox
    Voted 2019 Best Debut Author Award Winner by BookBrowse Subscribers

    According to statistics from ...

Book Club
Book Jacket
Evening in Paradise
by Lucia Berlin

"Berlin's new book is a marvel, filled with deeply touching stories about lives on the fringes."—NPR

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Seine
    by Elaine Sciolino

    "A soulful, transformative voyage along the body of water that defines the City of Light."
    —Lauren Collins
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Butterfly Yellow

BUTTERFLY YELLOW

Winner of the BookBrowse Award for Best Young Adult Novel, and the overall highest rated book of the year!

Enter

Wordplay

The Big Holiday Wordplay

Enter Now

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.