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Literary Titan Book Award 2023

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Water Music

The bridge at Sagamore was closed when we got there that summer of 1956. We had to cross the canal at Buzzards Bay over the only other roadway that tethered Cape Cod to the mainland. Thus twelve-year-old Lily Grainger, while safe from ‘communists and the Pope’, finds her family suddenly adrift. 


That was the summer the Andrea Doria sank, pilot whales stranded, and Lily’s father built a house he couldn't afford. Target practice on a nearby decommissioned Liberty Ship echoed not only the rancor in her parents' marriage, a rancor stoked by Lily’s competitive uncle, but also Lily’s troubles with her sister, her cousins, and especially with her mother.  


In her increasingly desperate efforts to salvage her parents' marriage, Lily discovers betrayals beyond her understanding as well as the small ways in which people try to rescue each other. She draws on her music lessons and her love of Cape Cod—from Sagamore and Monomoy to Nauset Spit and Wellfleet Dunes, seeking safe passage from the limited world of her salt marsh to the larger, open ocean.

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"Wise, funny, and deeply moving" 
- Carol Dines

Awards & Honors


Winner - Literary Titan Book Award 2023


Finalist - American Writing Awards 2023

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Winner - HFC Highly Recommended Award 2023

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Winner - New England Book Festival 2023

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Winner - Firebird Book Award 2023

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Finalist - Feathered Quill Book Awards 2023

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Finalist - The Wishing Shelf Book Awards 2023

Praise for Water Music

In her exquisite novel, Water Music, Marcia Peck transports us to Cape Cod, where this wise, funny, and deeply moving novel unfolds over the course of a summer. The story, told in Lily’s eleven-year-old voice, recounts the growing tensions in her parents’ marriage—tensions over money and her parent’s different family backgrounds. Against the mother’s wishes, Lily’s family returns every summer to be near her father’s brother and his family,  who own a big house across the bay.  Lily loves her summers at the Cape and tries to understand her mother’s resistance to being near her father’s family.  With her older sister, Dodie, and her cousin, Nicole, adventures are plentiful and filled with humor, recounted with Peck’s amazing ability to capture that moment when the adult world penetrates the innocence of childhood.  Storms, shipwrecks, as well as her parents’ arguments, create a deeper current exposing the ruptures within both families—Uncle George’s affair with his secretary, Aunt Fanny’s depression, the lack of money in Lily’s own family that threatens the final renovations for the summer house her father has staked his savings on completing. And Lily’s own mother, a pianist, grows furious at her husband, a music teacher, for allowing his brother’s affair.  As the summer draws to close, a tragic death occurs, forcing the novel’s deeper question: Can old wounds be resolved, enough to build new dreams? Marcia Peck, a musician herself, brings her understanding of music to the elegant prose that richly describes the rhythms and sounds of the ocean, backdrop to this powerful, tender novel. It is impossible not to love Lily and see ourselves in her struggles as she bravely sheds her innocence to reckon with the adult truths that threaten to tear her family apart.  

Carol Dines, author of This Distance We Call Love and The Take-Over Friend

"It is 1956, and twelve-year-old Lily, her sister Dodie, and their parents are building a summer residence on Cape Cod. Lily is coming of age, smoking her first illicit cigarettes, holding hands with boys, and practicing her cello for a talent show, spending a summer in the Cape's watery world of ponds, creeks, shorelines, boats, clam bakes, tidal jellyfish, eel catching, and fishing off sandbars. The narrative is steeped in music: cello, piano, Stradivarius violins, Glenn Miller on the hi fi, a family chorus of voices, Beethoven, Dvorak, Debussy, ill-fated music teachers, and the song of the natural world - the 'lexicon of birds'. The grieving songs of stranded pilot whales also drift in and, in an extraordinary scene, Lily fights her mother over a stranded whale's dying body. Each chapter is headed by a Beaufort Scale number, each one becoming more 'stormy', as we wait for it to 'blow, through all the family fortunes and misfortunes, allegiances and conflicts, rivalries and rituals. When the climax arrives, it whips in on the winds of a car crash, a sinking passenger ship, a perilous boat trip, and a hurricane that symbolically destroys Lily's summer tent and threatens the building of the family house. Lily's parents fight amidst revelations about their marriage and their desire to be parents. When tragedy arrives, Lily comes to learn that 'without dissonance, music was nothing.' This evocative novel is deeply attuned to the beauty and fragility of the natural and human worlds, and is written in sensory, observant, and sensitive prose."

Andy Brown, author of The Tree Climbing Cure and Grace Notes

And Other Poems

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