How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz
Published by Flatiron Books
Publication date: September 13, 2022
Genres: Book Clubs, Fiction, Contemporary, Cultural, Literary
Cara Romero is one of the many unfortunate workers whose job is lost in the 2008 recession. Now, in order to receive an unemployment check she must undergo 12 sessions with a work coach to help her find other job opportunities. What unfolds in the novel How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is the transcription of these sessions that ultimately focus less on work and more on life.
Cara’s first appointment is a recitation of facts. She’s 56 years old, has a grown son named Fernando, a sister, Angela, and brother, Rafa. She came to America 27 years ago from the Dominican Republic to escape an abusive husband. She worked at the factory job 25 years and is at a loss to what she’ll do next. But she’s a hard worker and open to any kind of job anywhere in the city. She loves to cook, is great with children, works well with others, and is never sick.
It’s as How Not to Drown progresses that Cara’s personality begins to assert itself. For every second of relevant information extracted by the counselor, there are minutes of Cara’s stories, digressions, and minutia about her life. Her tempestuous relationships with her best friend, Lulu, and her sister Angela. The son she loves left 10 years ago and wants nothing to do with her. Her landlord wants to evict her so he can raise the rent on her apartment. Oh, and she can smell sickness. She diagnosed her brother’s diabetes before the doctor did. Also, Alicia the Psychic sent her a letter telling her she’ll be coming into money soon.
Despite the government worker’s efforts to keep their sessions on track with assessment tools, training classes, and going out on interviews, Cara’s personality dominates How Not to Drown. With each page, more of her armor is shed, leaving behind the tender rawness of mistakes made and the resulting loneliness. Even as it becomes clear that life has not worked out as she hoped and that often she’s brought her troubles on herself she never gives up.
As someone who’s gone through the job training element of unemployment I appreciated how author Cruz conveys both the humor and the frustration of the process. What begins as a purely transactional relationship with a set number of sessions slowly turns into an intimate look of one indomitable woman’s life and her attempts to live with dignity. How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water is bright, tender reading that provides humor infused with insight into the kind of struggles most of us have not experienced.
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*I received a free copy of this book from Flatiron in exchange for an honest review.*