The mind is a strange thing. I realized this in the last minutes of my life. I knew I was dying; yet I was calmly amazed at the thoughts that raced through my brain. I tried to piece together all that had led to this moment and being held underwater, my body deprived of oxygen. Why? I thought. I had done nothing to deserve this. Drawing the reader in from the first few words, “Drowning Tory” is local author Sheryl Barlow’s second novel.
Set in Rochester, the novel follows young Tory Smith, a slightly awkward yet not unpopular teen whose current focus is to win the state title in high school swimming and secure a scholarship to college. Life as she knows it, however, is turned on its head when a relative Tory didn’t know she had moves to town. When Barlow began writing the novel, the setting was in Colorado. But a few chapters in, Barlow says she “kept picturing Rochester locations, so I switched it.” The familiar scenery made the story flow more easily for her. The novel includes several references to local haunts, such as Beetle’s, Canadian Honker, and Apache Mall to name a few, that make reading it even more enjoyable for Rochester residents.
“Drowning Tory” finds itself at the cross-section of a somewhat disturbing yet compelling adolescent romance and the angst familiar to teenagers of any generation but with an unexpected splash of science fiction thrown in. With relatable characters and easy readability, this book keeps the reader engaged until the very last line. “I tend to have a strong female in all my stories. The main character always has a little bit of me in her, or a little bit of how I want to be,” Barlow says.
“My characters are always based on my real friends or relatives. I enhance their character, though, for the sake of the story.” “Drowning Tory” is available for sale on Kindle or Nook or on the author’s website at sherylbarlow.com.
Sarah Oslund is a freelance writer and the director of communications and public relations at UMR.