Excerpt from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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

My Heart Underwater

by Laurel Fantauzzo

My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo X
My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Published:
    Oct 2020, 320 pages


  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Catherine M Andronik
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

"Rocking that knowledge and memory," Ms. Holden says, and nods at me, a nod that means I should sit down. Some of my classmates clap a little.

So I sit. I feel like I've been running; I wish I could bend at the waist and breathe hard. I feel magical for a moment, capable of any victory. I hardly hear Rika's and Melissa's muttering.

Ms. Holden grins at me again, stands behind her podium, and rests her hands on its surface.

Her hands. All my desire comes back. My own hands sweat. I sit on them.

Later, Mary gazes down at me, interrupting my walk home.

I heard that students in the past used to put underwear on her head, so the faculty moved her higher and threatened students with expulsion if anyone did it again.

I wonder what she would look like with a bra on her head. I wonder if Ms. Holden put a bra on Mary's head when she was a student here.

I wonder about Ms. Holden in just a bra.

I press my palms against my eyes.

When I look up, some teachers walking by give me warm nods. They like when students contemplate the Mary statue.


I unlock the front door to our townhome. I do it quietly, not knowing who's here yet. I sidestep one of the open cardboard boxes always partly blocking the entryway, halfway filled with corned beef and clearance clothes from Ross.

I tug off my sneakers and slip my feet into flip-flops. My mom sits at our old wood table, penciling and erasing in a dollar-store Sudoku book. She hasn't changed out of her slacks and button-down shirt yet. I wonder if something annoying happened at work; she usually plays Sudoku to relax. Numbers calm her. One of the many ways my mom and I are super different.

A classical music station is set low on our old FM radio.

Behind her, on the kitchen counter, is a wooden statue of Jesus's head, his suffering eyes looking heavenward, toward magnet memorial photographs of my parents' moms. His head is a mess of thorns, but his neck bears the necklace of fresh white flowers my dad places there every week.
I can hear my dad too, upstairs in their bedroom. He's speaking Tagalog, and tinny voices respond through his laptop speaker.

Near Jesus are piles of my parents' bills and work invoices. My mom sorts them out every day, noting purchases on budget spreadsheets on our secondhand laptop, since, being a coder (I don't think I'll ever understand exactly what my mom does, her superbrain is an eternal mystery to me), she's the only one in our thousand-square-foot radius who excels at Excel.

Besides the portion of my crazy-high tuition not covered by scholarships, our food, and some money they send back home, there aren't too many other purchases to record. Sometimes they'll buy a ninety-nine-cent DVD from the drugstore discount bins—ridiculous action movies and sci-fi that makes my dad giggle his high-pitched giggle. Buying an old DVD every few weeks is still cheaper than a subscription.

At night I always think about how I can shove that 3.2 grade point average closer to the golden 4.0. It's the least I could do for all my parents' crappy workdays and budgeting on my behalf. But there always seems to be something. That hard unit in chemistry, angle degrees, sentence mapping, the back of Ms. Holden's neck.

I'm steeped in shame. I'm sure that somewhere, there's a better version of the daughter my parents could have had—a violinist/aspiring scientist/freelance model like my cousin Bea, maybe—and then my mom glances up.

"Oh, why are you standing there? Come here. Gutom ka ba?" I think she's going to go into the fridge to feed me something, but she looks back down at the grid and sets her pencil to it again, seeing another pattern.

"Ma, I thought I should show you," I say.

She looks up over the rims of her reading glasses, suspicion wrinkling her forehead. In early elementary school, I'd bring home notes about when I wouldn't stop crying over being left out, or when I stomped on boys' toes and made them cry. I haven't brought home much since high school started. Now I hand her the quiz.

Excerpted from My Heart Underwater by Laurel Fantauzzo. Copyright © 2020 by Laurel Fantauzzo. Excerpted by permission of Quill Tree Books. 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" articles
  • 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 $45 for 12 months or $15 for 3 months.
  • More about membership!

Join BookBrowse

For a year of great reading
about exceptional books!

Find out more

Top Picks

  • Book Jacket
    Loved and Missed
    by Susie Boyt
    London-based author and theater director Susie Boyt has written seven novels and the PEN Ackerley ...
  • Book Jacket: Beyond the Door of No Return
    Beyond the Door of No Return
    by David Diop
    In early 19th-century France, Aglaé's father Michel Adanson dies of old age. Sitting at ...
  • Book Jacket: Crossings
    by Ben Goldfarb
    We've all seen it—a dead animal carcass on the side of the road, clearly mowed down by a car. ...
  • Book Jacket: Wifedom
    by Anna Funder
    When life became overwhelming for writer, wife, and mother Anna Funder in the summer of 2017, she ...

Book Club Discussion

Book Jacket
Fair Rosaline
by Natasha Solomons
A subversive, powerful untelling of Romeo and Juliet by New York Times bestselling author Natasha Solomons.

Members Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    This Is Salvaged
    by Vauhini Vara

    Stories of uncanny originality from Vauhini Vara, a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in Fiction.

  • Book Jacket

    Devil Makes Three
    by Ben Fountain

    A brilliant and propulsive novel set in Haiti from the award-winning, bestselling author of Billy Lynn's Long Halftime Walk.

Win This Book
Win Moscow X

25 Copies to Give Away!

A daring CIA operation threatens chaos in the Kremlin. But can Langley trust the Russian at its center?



Solve this clue:

A M I A Terrible T T W

and be entered to win..

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.