David Cross can't tell Ed or Lucy that he is in some ways happier now that their mother is dead; to his own mind he is more himself than he has been for nearly forty years. When Nancy was alive, he had secrets that he kept from her. Now that she is dead he has a secret that he must keep from his children: he is not unhappy.
To Heaven by Water is a touching and hilarious portrait of the Cross family trying in their own way to come to terms with their lives after the mother has died. David misses his wife, but is not unhappy, although he spends a worrying amount of time in the gym. His son Ed's marriage to the lovely Rosalie, a ballet dancer, is suffering strains, and daughter Lucy is being stalked by her ex-boyfriend. Both children worry that their father will soon be finding a new partner.
The book opens as David is taking time out with his brother in the Kalahari Desert, reliving his disturbing and uplifting memories of Rome where he worked on a film with Richard Burton. Back home in London, Ed is trying to balance his affair with a young woman in his office, with his real love for his wife, who is unable to conceive the child she longs for, and Lucy, who has just been voted in at No 6 in The Evening News section, What's Hot and What's Not, is falling in love again. She is a young woman in pursuit of her true self.
A story of friendship, of forgiveness and of love that come from unexpected directions, it is an exploration of what we might hope for from this life, particularly the possibility of transcendence.
Into the beautifully observed, subtly woven texture of this tale of middle-class London life, Justin Cartwright weaves sudden shocks that tear it apart and expose its frailty, moments of sex and revenge and violence that appear from a cloudless sky to take the reader's breath away.