Sara Gruen's 'At the Water's Edge' sells well despite mixed reviews

The book by the 'Water for Elephants' writer has held steady on bestseller lists, though some critics gave the book negative reviews.

'At the Water's Edge' is by Sara Gruen.

“At the Water’s Edge,” the newest novel by “Water for Elephants” writer Sara Gruen, continues to sell well, though it received mixed reviews.

“Water” came out at the end of March and debuted at number five on the IndieBound hardcover nonfiction list. For the most recent list, which was for the week of April 30, “Water” is at number five again. Meanwhile, it’s at number 10 on The New York Times hardcover fiction list for the week of May 10. 

The book has received mixed reviews. Publishers Weekly found the book to be “riveting… A slow start gives way to mystery upon mystery, building to a gripping climax. Though some aspects, particularly an ambiguous brush with the supernatural, are a little pedestrian, Gruen’s beautiful setting and deeply sympathetic characters ensure a memorable read for new and returning fans alike.”

But USA Today critic Patty Rhule wrote that the husband of protagonist Maddie is “a cartoonishly self-absorbed villain…. Maddie is a sympathetic character … yet inn workers Meg and Anna … are far more compelling…. Gruen's depiction of life during wartime is powerfully evocative…. But despite the presence of a mythical beast, this doesn't quite add up to a legendary love story.”

Washington Post critic Bethanne Patrick agreed, writing that the book’s “characters come straight from ‘The Big Book of Gaelic Bodice Rippers’….  Gruen does have deeper themes in mind, and occasionally they break through…. While fans of Diana Gabaldon’s 'Outlander' novels may adore the Scottish hunk who tempts the girl, many readers will find the story’s ultimate mystery cloudier than Loch Ness, and they’ll be even more disappointed that it has nothing to do with an aquatic monster." 

And Kirkus Reviews found the book to be “silly." 

“Gruen's handling of air raids, food rations, sad telegrams and reports from the front makes the thinness of the story's premise all the more awkward,” KR wrote. “At heart, this is an unlikely romance novel. A little too unlikely.”

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