To Be Sung Underwater, a novel by Tom McNeal


a BEST BOOK OF 2011 by

Winner of the 2012 Nebraska Book Award in Fiction

"Mr. McNeal’s characters are full and knowable. His sentences are the strong, silent type: generous without being showy. And his novel is, quite simply, lovely."

--New York Times

". . . hypnotic . . . Heartbreaking, messy and incredibly sad, To Be Sung Underwater is so vividly written that it takes you to a place where all your perceptions seem dizzyingly altered.  Which is, of course, exactly like love itself."
--Caroline Leavitt, 
The Washington Post

"By far the best love story I've read for a long time . . .

If you despair of the vigor and grace of modern fiction, read this."

--Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal

". . . a novel to fall in love with."

--Bob Minzesheimer, USA Today

". . . the world of the novel is full of meaning, full of metaphor, a kind of spirituality that has no need for dogma or churches or liturgy. The landscape and culture contribute by making things easier or harder to accomplish, but the humans hack out their bit of happiness, some might say their karma."

--Susan Salter Reynolds, Los Angeles Times

"Like a grander, straighter, funnier Brokeback Mountain, this is an immensely involving love story that will make your heart race, leap and sing. "

--Melissa Katsoulis, UK Telegraph

"McNeal's study of a girl in love and of a woman trying to find her way is beautifully written . . . Judith and Willy are never less than engrossing."                                                                

--Herald Sun (Australia)

"Exquisitely heartbreaking."--Family Circle

". . . a beautiful novel that bravely examines the effect a broken relationship can have on one's life path." 
--Carrie Keyes, Seattle-Post Intelligencer

"Just delightful."

David Kipen, Southern California Public Radio

"This lovely novel is quiet and smart, drawing you so deeply into the characters that the ending might just leave you coming up for air."--O Magazine


To Be Sung Underwater takes Judith back to see the consequences of her choice, and in doing so "calls up the landscape of the Great Plains as a place where it's possible to see that it's the simple things--a secluded swimming hole, a cold beer, the laughter of the person you love--that are most valuable."
--Starred Review in Booklist

“Award-winner McNeal deftly blends flashbacks of Judith’s teen years living with her father in humdrum Rufus Sage with her crisis-filled life in fast-paced L.A.”

--Library Journal

"Whose mind doesn’t wander back? Back to the person that was just love? Not marriage, not kids, not taxes, not a mortgage, not careers? Just love. It’s never realistic, and therein lies Judith’s mistake
. . . If you have even the teeniest bone in your body that belongs to a hopeless romantic, THIS is the book you should read."


Reader Comments
Posted By:  Marla Van Hook
I am a bookseller in an indie store in northern Michigan. "To Be Sung Underwater" is my go-to novel for hand selling. Without fail, these readers return to me, wholeheartedly trusting me to pick books for them. The imagery of the storage locker, the camp, and the ailing Willy are as vivid as when I read this novel when it was first released. Thank you for an enduring story.

Posted By:  Lisa Dolson
Just finished reading To Be Sung Underwater, a friend bought for me as a gift. I could not put it down. I fell in love with the book. I felt like I knew the characters and broke my heart when they were reunited. It is such a special story that captivated my heart- thank you

Posted By:  Book Wookie
Tom McNeal expertly baited me first with the prologue, and again with the first few chapters of To Be Sung Underwater. I was hooked, and there was no getting away.

Here's my review -

Posted By:  Cathy
I just finished re-reading To Be Sung Underwater and am once again having trouble "letting go" of the book. It's like reading one long poem--so much of it about my own small-town life. Thank you for this treasure!

Posted By:  ebPiKbASTXRojeKDr
Hallelujah! I needed this--you're my savior.

Posted By:  Toni Rios
I just finished "To Be Sung Underwater" and I loved it so much......Very special.......thank you.

Posted By:  Cherie
I love reading Stegner, Russo, and Patchett, and now I'm adding McNeal to that list. "To Be Sung Underwater" is devastatingly beautiful, so perfect and intelligently and poetically written. Thank you thank you thank you.

Posted By:  Andrea
To Be Sung Underwater. It is nice to revisit the simpler things in life. I completely understood Judith's character and her yearning for a past love. I enjoyed her blindly accepting Willy for who he became because of who he was to her. I also found the story and characters very believable. The writing style and descriptions were engaging and challenging. I found myself earmarking pages to go back and reread expressions that were so poignant. Praise to the author, I'll be reading more from you.

Posted By:  Pat Machak
I have worked at a public library for 30 years, in many positions, with the perk of receiving pre-pubs. To be Sung Under Water has moved me to write (the first time ever) to you, the author. I have just finished Goodnight Nebraska, and feel overwhelmed with gratitude to you for writing the most beautiful books I have read to date. Stunning words that have touched my soul. Thank you.

Posted By:  Lenore
I finished it this morning with great sadness. . . . like where the dream fades and one wakes up to the reality of the day.

Posted By:  Barbara Wiggs
Just turned in "Sung Under Water"...told Karen(librarian) at the've just got to read this book. Had Goodnight Nebraska on hold, and sure enough there it was. I just picked it up and came home with my treasure. Whatever is going on in the book world, stay on the good side of this man. We need him out there writing.

Posted By:  Francine
To Be Sung Underwater can in no way be considered a five-star book. To do it justice you would need one star for every star in the sky above Camp Blue Moon. Truly an exquisite, powerful story, done with beauty and caring. It's as if the story seeps into your mind and your heart and just settles there. I cannot even think back far enough to the last time any book had me feeling this way. And, Willy Blunt...well, Willy Blunt will stay with me forever.

Posted By:  Barry McKenna
Thank you for one of the best novels I have ever read. It holds a place with some of my all-time favorites such as Moon Tiger, Never Let me Go, and Bel Canto.

Posted By:  Teresa
I checked out this book from my library and couldn't put it down. I just ordered my own copy. This is a book I will want to read again and again.

Posted By:  Yosan
I just finished this book and I can't stop thinking about Willy Blunt! One of the best books I've read in a very long time. My only complaint is that I wish it was longer! :)

Posted By:  Ralph Hardy
I can only say I knew them before they had become the great writers they are now, and they were (and are) a great couple.

Posted By:  Clyde
The McNeals are, without a doubt, special people and superb writers. I've read all their excellent books and the latest ones (the water ones) are magnificent. (Yes, through a weird set of coincidences I have found myself with an advance copy of To Be Sung Underwater in my Clydish old hands). The McNeals are real writers. Enough said.

Posted By:  Meggie Hunter
I love McNeal books. I wish there is a book signing. I would love to meet the McNeals. They seem like a lovely couple. I can't wait to get this read.

Posted By:  Jennifer
I love all the McNeals' books. I have all the novels they wrote and I'm planning on ordering this as soon as it comes out. I look forward to reading more from you!

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