Sunny Solomon Book Review

Keeping marriage ‘Afloat’ at heart of novel

Sunny Solomon Book ReviewWhat I liked best about “Staying Afloat” is Judith Marshall’s pitch-perfect tone of Crystal Scott, the novel’s protagonist, a woman with a husband and two children.

The novel’s shadow protagonist is the marriage itself.

“Staying Afloat” opens as Crystal sits in her parked car, preparing to face a third job interview. This one is with a startup tech company looking for a director of corporate travel. It’s been more than a few years since Crystal has been part of the working world, not since her husband David, a well-paid CPA, convinced her that his income was sufficient for their lifestyle and their growing children needed her at home. It was not a difficult decision for Crystal. She is a devoted wife and mother, and the time spent with her parents and sister is equally important to her.

Unemployment and daytime TV

Due to a troubled economy, the firm her husband works for downsizes, introducing David to the world of unemployment and daytime TV. Time passes, David’s severance package runs out, no job offerings are on the horizon and the family’s survival on his unemployment alone is no longer tenable.

“Staying Afloat” is not the story of a bored housewife finding excitement and much more upon reentering the workforce. It is the story of a woman, who for months, walks on eggshells around her husband. Crystal hides her feelings about her husband’s unemployment from her children and does not want to accept financial help from her retired parents.

The distance between Crystal and David grows. By the time she tells him of her decision to look for work to augment their financial situation, the lack of closeness they once valued has found its way into their bedroom.

The only person Crystal confides in is her sister, Brook, an organic farmer. She sells her produce to some of the Bay Area’s best restaurants and is extremely popular at the local farmers market. Brook’s success in the face of Crystal’s difficulties adds to the empathy we feel for her.

A heroine to cheer for or just throttle

Marshall gives us a heroine to either cheer for or just throttle, and sometimes it’s both. Not only is her boss, Jeff, good looking, but he is seductively supportive. The reader sees it coming before Crystal. A new, high-end company car, travel to Hawaii and New York – and Jeff.
What makes this story different is that Jeff is as decent as Crystal. Decency plays catch up with Crystal’s sexual reawakening and self-confidence.

David, on the other hand, has discovered baking. He is good at it and getting better. He sells his baked goods with Brook at the farmers market and then to local restaurants. He, too, is now ready to reenter the workforce, but as a baker.

Crystal and David find themselves in places they never expected to be. Decisions will be made. Regrets and forgiveness weigh in heavily as to whether or not the shadow protagonist, the marriage, will – or even should – survive.

“Staying Afloat” is the Concord author’s second novel and is available on Amazon.

Sunny Solomon is a freelance writer and head of the Clayton Book Club. Visit her website at for her latest recommendations or just to ‘talk books.’