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Foodie Lit
Tracy Shawn's Floating Under Water

“While writing Floating Underwater, I came to the conclusion that sometimes there isn’t any boundary between mental health and prophesy,”  author Tracy Shawn told me. In fact, the line between madness and sanity is blurred as well.  Tracy continued, “I feel, then, that there are gifts that may come with mental health conditions. The more our society explores these gifts, I believe, the more we will be able to recognize that “madness” may not be so clearly defined. That we all tread between the reality of everyday life and the mystical. That not all can be known in the here and now.” 


Main character Paloma Leary is filled with grief after her mother dies. Her hold on reality seems to be tested when she then suffers 3 miscarriages, both losses merging. Tracy analyzed these losses: “This loss ties into how one’s own motherhood often connects us with our own mothers. What they did or didn’t do for us. What we did or didn’t do for them. How we sometimes wish they could still be here to answer our questions.”

The women in this story. with and without children, have powers of perception that some would call magical, some would assess as very quirky and others would see as gifts, able to help others endure pain and sorrow, able to show a path forward.


Grief is something that Tracy understands, having suffered miscarriages herself, grieving even 30 years later. While Paloma is a bright, capable woman, her sorrow incapacitates her. At the same time, it allows her to explore the gifts she had tried to push away. But are these intuitive gifts or psychological issues? Written in a style known as magical realism, the author allows characters to live in the ordinary world while opening the plot to the extraordinary, the magical and the mysterious. We are swept along with Paloma’s journey.


A strange character, Serena, seems divorced from reality although cared for at home by her family. Paloma feels a pull towards her, similar DNA contrasting with the times others tell her to stay away from a psychotically diagnosed person who will only lead her to disaster.


The imagery and the pull of the sea is an important part of the setting in Floating Underwater. Tracy told me, “[W]hether the ocean’s surface is calm or choppy, bright blue or dark gray, there is much that lies beneath. So much mystery and beauty.… Just like Paloma learns to dive beneath people’s (including her own) protective layers to discover what lies beneath, what gems of understanding she can glean.” 

With sea so important in Floating Under Water, it was natural to look tot he sea for a recipe. Grilled Mahi Mahi with Citrus Salsa is a beautiful and bright meal that Paloma and even Serena would probably enjoy. Here’s hoping that you do too!


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