My Drowning, the third novel by Jim Grimsley, is the story of Ellen Tote's retrospective search for understanding and meaning of a dream that has been with her throughout her entire life. Poverty, abuse, neglect, and possibly an attempted infanticide are serious complications Ellen faces. Ultimately, in Jim Grimsley's words: "I think the truth can be glimpsed at moments in paradoxes and contradictions, in mysteries and ambiguities, [...] like Ellen solving the mystery of her own dream, which is that the dream is a mystery and will never be solved, that the dream has always been true, and a lie, at the same time. (Guardian lit)" The relationship between Ellen and her older sister Nora is a saving grace for Ellen, as Nora provides the love and support one would generally think a parent would provide and this relationship proves to be so beneficial that Ellen emulates the same relationship with the ghost of her deceased younger sister Alma Laura.
Although Ellen and Nora are sisters their relationship is more like mother and daughter. "'Go put on some socks, Ellen,' Nora whispered, 'before you catch pneumonia,' and I nodded and skipped into the cold bedroom. None of us knew what pneumonia was, but we were all agreed it would be bad to catch (Grimsley 7)." Ellen yearned for her mother's love and affection:
Mama sat in her chair with Joe Robbie in her lap, his soft legs dangling. She smoothed his hair.
I am remembering, I am looking back. I am trying to see clearly, but I do not even know that what I am seeing is even true. How can the memory of so small a gesture be genuine? The movement of my mother's thick, blunt hand through Joe Robbie's hair repeats itself. Why have I...