Grief, Love, and Second Chances in Words in Deep Blue

Rachel and Henry are best friends. Henry’s family owns a secondhand bookshop, Howling Books, where they spend a lot of their time together. Once they reach early high school, though, Rachel realizes she has feelings stronger than just friendship for Henry. So, the day before her family moves away from their small Australian city to a coastal town, she leaves Henry a love letter in his favorite book, hoping he returns those romantic feelings. He never mentions the letter to her. So, she moves on with her life. She gets a boyfriend, she dreams of a career involving the ocean, and is generally happy.

But then her younger brother, Cal, drowned and everything changed.

Now, several years after she left, Rachel returns to her hometown at the urging of her grandmother and aunt. They want to get Rachel out of the depression she’s been in for the past year and get her back on track for college and life. Her aunt secures her a job at Howling Books which Rachel begrudgingly takes. Henry and his family members are going through their own troubles as various romantic and familial relationships shift, some of which require selling the shop. Not sharing the news about Cal with anyone, Rachel must reconcile her past and future with Henry, her other friends, her family, and herself.

Told in the changing perspectives of Rachel and Henry, Words in Deep Blue is beautiful story about dealing with grief in all forms. Whether it’s grief from the death of a loved one to grief over a changing relationship, the reader goes along on a journey through grief. As with every journey, there are stages, too, so learning to enjoy life and learning to be vulnerable by loving others is also something that Words in Deep Blue explores. Aside from their alternating perspectives where readers get inside their heads, Henry and Rachel learn how to communicate with each other again through notes left in the pages of books. It is through the written word that healing actually begins. The power of words is another wonderful thread that connects everyone in the story:

“Words do matter. They’re not pointless. If they were pointless then they couldn’t start revolutions and they wouldn’t change history and they wouldn’t be the things that you think about every night before you go to sleep. If they were just words we wouldn’t listen to songs, we wouldn’t beg to be read to when we’re kids. If they were just words, then they’d have no meaning and stories wouldn’t have been around since before humans could write. We wouldn’t have learned to write. If they were just words then people wouldn’t fall in love because of them, feel bad because of them, ache because of them, stop aching because of them, have sex, quite a lot of the time, because of them.”

Cath Crowley is able to capture universal emotions in her vibrant characters which make the reader experience everything with them. And, quite simply, Crowley’s writing is beautiful. One of my favorite lines doesn’t need flowery language or lengthy descriptions: “He said the seconds were pouring off people, tiny glowing dots pouring from their skins, only no one could see them”

You’ll be so engrossed in Words in Deep Blue, that once you start reading it, you won’t put it down until you finish. When you do, you’ll see all the little things around you and be reminded that life is an achingly lovely privilege just as Rachel is reminded of that when she says, “It’s like he’s picking up parts of the world and showing them to me, saying, See? It’s beautiful.”


Taraneh has been happily living in NYC for over a decade, but originally hails from the Midwest. Enamored with books at a young age, she grew up making stories, playing make believe, and loving the musical and performing arts. She is great at binge-watching TV shows. Some current favorites: Schitt's Creek, A Court of Mist & Fury, Prince Harry, and The Magicians.

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