September 21, 2023

Novel Lives

Book Publicity, Reviews, Author Interviews, and Discussion Posts by Susan Crosby

Robyn Harding’s Latest, The Drowning Woman, Is Thought Provoking And Twisted- Review

The Drowning Woman By Robyn Harding- Summary

The Drowning Woman by Robyn Harding Goodreads Summary (Review Below):

The bestselling author of The Party returns with a deliciously twisted story of friendship, retribution, and betrayal about a homeless woman fleeing a dangerous past—and the wealthy society wife she saves from drowning, who pulls her into a dark web of secrets and lies.

Lee Gulliver never thought she’d find herself living on the streets—no one ever does—but when her restaurant fails and she falls deeper into debt, she leaves her old life behind with nothing but her clothes and her Toyota Corolla. In Seattle, she parks in a secluded spot by the beach to lay low and plan her next move—until early one morning, she sees a sobbing woman throw herself into the ocean. Lee hauls the woman back to the surface, but instead of appreciation, she is met with fury. The drowning woman, Hazel, tells her that she wanted to die, that she’s trapped in a toxic, abusive marriage, and that she’s a prisoner in her own home. Lee has thwarted her one chance to escape her life.

Out of options, Hazel retreats to her gilded cage, and Lee thinks she’s seen the last of her until her unexpected return the next morning. Bonded by disparate but difficult circumstances, the women soon strike up a close and unlikely friendship. And then, one day, Hazel makes a shocking request: she wants Lee to help her disappear. It’ll be easy, Hazel assures her, but Lee soon learns that nothing is as it seems and that Hazel may not be the friend Lee thought she was.

The Drowning Woman By Robyn Harding- Review

Two things before I start this review. First, everyone knows my love for all of Robyn Harding’s books, especially The Swap (review linked). Second, I have read this book twice. First, I read it as an e-copy (in four hours flat), and then I listened to advanced audio of The Drowning Woman.

I probably sound like a broken record, but it bears repeating. Women thriller writers are hands-down the best at interweaving women’s and general social issues into twisted thrillers. Yes, some of them veer into literary drama (and I hate that). But when done right, it has a significant impact. In The Drowning Woman, Robyn Harding outdoes herself by doing so. The Drowning Woman is a twisty psychological thriller that touches on numerous social themes. They include domestic violence and homelessness. And while not easy to read, Robyn Harding deals with these themes authentically. She isn’t afraid to write what so many think. Homeless? It must be your fault. I would never end up homeless. Husband is abusing you? Get a divorce. I wouldn’t stay. So many have these thoughts, yet it is rarely discussed in the open.

…when people see someone in a bad situation, they tend to believe that individual brought it on themselves. Of course there are always external situational forces at play, but it’s human nature to think it could never happen to you.


Thank you to Grand Central Publishing and Hachette Audio for the advanced e-copy and audio arc. The Drowning Woman releases on June 13th.

Robyn Harding truly shines in The Drowning Woman because of two reasons. First, she can raise these issues without losing the psychological thriller aspect. Second, she does it in a way that makes you think. It makes you reflect on your own thoughts and unconscious/conscious biases. The answers to these issues aren’t just dropped in your lap. Instead, you must decide what you do and don’t agree with, what your beliefs are.

The gasp factor is high with The Drowning Woman. By the end of the book, I had caught flies because my mouth was open so long and wide. Robyn Harding makes it easy to put you right into the plot. You can feel each twist and turn in your gut. The dread factor for each character’s actions and the impact it has on them will keep you on the edge of your seat. When I say I read this in 4 hours, that is not an exaggeration. I simply could not put down The Drowning Woman.

Robyn Harding was kind enough to let me interview her- link here.

The Drowning Woman By Robyn Harding- Characters

Robyn Harding writes an array of characters, from morally gray to outright monstrous. And no matter where they fall on the spectrum, nobody is innocent. Even with the entanglements and deceptions that occur, Robyn Harding manages a level of sympathy for some characters.

In revisiting the idea of social issues, the main characters are both facing their share. Lee is now living in her car, while Hazel is living in a gilded cage, abused by her husband. There are numerous discussions between the two women regarding their situations. However, it is up to the reader as to what side, if any, they fall on.

Lee is exceptionally well-written. Robyn Harding could have taken the easy way out of writing a character in her situation. Instead, she consistently shows Lee’s outlook on the homeless. Her inner narrative ruminates on how her pride won’t let her ‘sink’ to certain levels. It would be easy to show Lee as a growing character, but when it comes to where she sleeps or showers, her desperation isn’t enough to garner more sympathy or do things others are forced to do.

Meanwhile, Hazel depicts a life that might be easy to scoff at. She has all the money and comforts anyone could want. That is, if their husband wasn’t abusing them. It is easy to judge one situation as a better circumstance than the other (I’m not going to say how I felt because that might spoil the story’s impact, if not take away from it). Yet, Robyn Harding lays everything out with such brutal honesty that the authenticity makes it less black and white.

Their lives collide, along with both volatile situations. And this makes for an explosive read.

The Drowning Woman By Robybookn Harding- Final Thoughts/Audio

The audiobook maintains multiple points of view very well. Each one is labeled and easy to follow. Brittany Wilkerson and Henriette Zoutomou do a fantastic job with the narration.

If the Drowning Woman isn’t on your summer TBR, put it on there now. And place it at the top.

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