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A Watershed Year

3.73  ·  Rating Details ·  2,475 Ratings  ·  228 Reviews
Two months after the death of her best friend Harlan, Lucy remains haunted by the things she never told him including her deep love for him. Then she begins receiving emails he'd arranged to be sent after his death, emails that will change the course of her life. One email in particular haunts her -- he tells her he is certain she is destined for motherhood. Thus begins he ...more
Paperback, 375 pages
Published March 1st 2011 by GuidepostsBooks
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Nov 17, 2012 Susan rated it did not like it
Shelves: adoption, fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amara Campbell
Oct 28, 2011 Amara Campbell rated it it was amazing
Every sentence of this book is lyrical and evocative, wrapping grief in a padding of beautifully crafted sentences that allow you to follow the journey with your heart involved but intact. This story is equal parts melancholic, wise, challenging and funny. It seems impossible that this is Susan's first novel, the tenderness and love poured into rounding out each character and allowing them to interact organically seems more likely the work of a seasoned author.

This is not a heavy read, but not a
Aug 10, 2012 Tanya rated it it was ok
I am probably being a little harsh with my 2 star rating but i was disappointed buy this book. I just loved the concept of the main character recieving emails from the grave after a friend dies and think the entire book could have centered around that.

There was about 10 pages in the book that i enjoyed reading and the rest was just average. I thought the main character seemed to jump into her quest to have a child and then seemed to make stupid decisions in her quest to adopt.

I think there is a
Sara Strand
Jul 14, 2012 Sara Strand rated it liked it
Before I get into my review I will tell you that I liked the book. Is this a book I would grab off my shelf and re-read? Probably not, but mostly because I feel like I understood all aspects of the book enough that re-reading it wouldn't help me understand anything any better.

I kind of loved Harlan's character and wished he had more time in the book. I realized he dies almost right away and that is what kicks off the rest of the novel, but I felt like he could have been used more, if that makes
Feb 25, 2012 Carol rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction, adoption, loss
What a great story! I was hooked after reading the first chapter. It's the story of Lucy (30 single something) who is in transition after losing Harlan (her dearest & closest friend to cancer) decides to make some major changes in her life -- such as adopting a 4 year old boy from Russia. Interesting and touching surprises throughout. Brought tears to my eyes.
Mar 16, 2012 Polly rated it really liked it
This is a great story. It shows how people who are under duress can freak out, panic, and still make decisions that move them forward in a positive way. Reading this made me remember some watershed years in my life when, in the space of 12 months or less, my entire life changed. I'd definitely recommend this book.
Linda Bouley
I was charmed by Susan Schoenberger's first novel - the writing is lovely and the story is unique and captivating. Most of us have had one or more watershed years, a year when our perspectives shift, the reality of our lives change by chance or effort and the road going forward looks different than we thought it would. As the book opens, Lucy's best friend, Harlen, has just died of cancer at age 33, and she is grieving not just the loss of him, but the truth that she was in love with him and nev ...more
Diane D White
A Good Author's Heartfelt But Insubstantial Early Work

Had I not previously read another very well done and touching later novel by this author, I might not have felt the lack of compelling emotional depth in this one so much. The story elements are, after all, built upon the deepest emotions most of us can feel. Yet I consistently felt only an intellectual engagement with this book's themes of imperfect relationships, yearnings for love, grief, healing, and stubborn hope for better. It was a goo
Andrea Cox
by Andrea Renee Cox

How would you manage the grief and blessings of a watershed year?

A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger is an exquisite tale of heart-wrenching grief and the joy that blossoms in the midst of the deepest pain. The author's voice was unique. I particularly enjoyed her perspective (the things she chose to point out in any given scene), analogies (fresh; not cliche), and how she drew on emotions with each new twist of the storyline.

Since I listened to the audio version, I would b
May 25, 2014 Kathy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A Watershed Year was a recommended book here by a friends on Goodreads. I really enjoyed this wonderful story of a thirty-something professor named Lucy and the story starts off with the loss of her best friend Harlan. This is a book that takes you through the healing process but in that transition time, Lucy adopts a four year old boy from Russia becoming another journey in itself…..This is a touching story, a life changing one for Lucy, but also helps you look at what you can do in your own st ...more
Dec 05, 2014 Allison rated it liked it
Shelves: 2014
Interesting and everything, but felt a bit amateurish. It read like something I could write, to be honest, which is not really a compliment. Some of the characters seemed a bit flat, a bit two-dimensional (Harlan in particular), so it was hard to have the kind of sympathy for them that I think I was supposed to have. Some of it seemed sort of heavy-handed, or maybe just lacking in nuance, in subtlety: the perfect example of this is that she mentions Lucy's "watershed year" at least seven or eigh ...more
Pam Arneth
Sep 28, 2014 Pam Arneth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very good book

Gave this book five stars because I couldn't put it down. I highly recommend this book. I loved the emails she received from her friend after he died. it showed I think how much he loved her.

Christine Lowe
Jun 14, 2016 Christine Lowe rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Great Read

I know a good writer when I read one and Susan Schoenberger is a really good writer. The themes in her book are definitely complex and not a word was wasted. I went through many emotions as I was disappointed, encouraged and laughed with the characters.

I like Lucy, the protagonist of the story. She doesn't want to hurt anybody with her actions which is sometimes annoying but her love for her friends and family is strong. Her friend Harlan becomes sick but she refuses to sit back and wa
Aug 26, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it
I gobbled this up just as I did Schoenberger's latest novel, The Virtues of Oxygen. Her writing challenges my intellect and warms my heart. With A Watershed Year, there were several key relationships the main character, Lucy, was involved in, but the one that was so emotionally wrenching and vivid was the one with her newly adopted four year old son from Russia. From the first moment when she decided to go this route, I was unable to stop reading. Then she goes to Russia to get him and I'm screa ...more
May 19, 2015 Nenette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Just very recently, I had the not-too-pleasant task of making funeral arrangements for my parents-in-law who died within thirty-nine days of each other...Now that they're gone, there is some form of comfort on the thought that they still wanted to be together even in the after-life, sort of picking up from the fifty-two years they were married here on earth. Just wow!

Not that it is related, and though death was a major part of this story, I have the same reaction: Just wow! My parents-in-law wer
Mar 27, 2014 Katelyn rated it it was amazing
Shelves: heavy, parenting
I really enjoyed this book. Having never heard of the book or the author, I read a summary and a few reviews, and decided to take the risk. Worst case scenario, I didn't like it...but it actually turned out to be a very well written novel, with a great story line. I wasn't sure about it at first; I thought that it started a bit slow. But as soon as Schoenberger set the stage for what was to come, the story really picked up. I loved reading Harlan's was like getting to know another gr ...more
Feb 02, 2016 Dido rated it really liked it
The story of 38-year old Lucy McVie's life, starting with the death of the man she loves (but with whom she has not had a romantic relatioship, only a deep friendship, since his cancer diagnosis came just at the time the two realized their mutual attraction) and follows her in the year after his death. As a former academic, I enjoyed the fact that the story was set with an academic backdrop, though that plays only a minor role in the story: Lucy's decisions that change the course of her life are ...more
Oct 09, 2015 Cass rated it really liked it
It's clear that this author is a skilled writer, as it shows in the wonderful prose and well-constructed plot. I have deducted 1 star for various aspects of a believability--I love a good fiction book, but I do expect a certain level of plausibility from a writer who is clearly talented and intelligent, and some things fall below the mark, especially with respect to the academic portion and the bit with Mat's father.

I will, however, be likely to reread this. Its style was similar to my own and
Jan 31, 2015 Becky rated it it was ok
Shelves: women-s-fiction
I rated this 2.5 stars.

This book was confused as to what it was trying to be. Was it a story about grief? Was it a romance story? Was it a story about adoption? Was it about religion? I would answer yes to all those questions. This book was trying to be too much and it didn't work. Perhaps if the author had just focused on Lucy's relationship with Harlan and how she tried to move on with life, the book may have been better. Or the author could have focused on Lucy's adoption and left the rest of
Nina Beeler
Dec 25, 2014 Nina Beeler rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Uniquely-told story

Many stories have been written about love, death, teaching - even adoption, but the interweaving of these topics in this book is unique, creative, finely tuned. An absorbing story told in snippets that somehow become cohesive as the various facets of Lucy's life co-mingle and color the journey she makes in one impacting, soul-wrenching, revelatory, horrifying, stretching, gratifying year. I would put the story down only to return within the hour to check on Lucy as she battled
Kathe Coleman
Jan 12, 2015 Kathe Coleman rated it really liked it
A Watershed Year by Susan Schoenberger
Lucy a thirtysomething university professor is mourning the loss of her best friend Harlan. Two months after Harlan’s death, Lucy begins receiving emails from him that he had prearranged to have sent. With the encouragement from him to follow her dreams, Lucy finds a Russian women named Yulia who can arrange for an adoption. As she navigates the political and economic intricacies of foreign adoption, she realizes how emotionally and physically unprepared she
Melissa Storm
Sep 18, 2014 Melissa Storm rated it it was amazing
By now, you all probably know what a harsh reviewer I can sometimes be, but I've gotta say: Lately I've been on a roll. I hardly ever rate books 5 stars, but this is the third one in a row!

The prose was gorgeous, the story line engaging, original, and honest. The academic in me loved it; the mother in me loved it. This is a great uplifting story that doesn't skirt around how hard the best things in our lives can sometimes be. I also loved learning about the saints.

Highly recommended to fans of
Feb 24, 2014 TERRI DURAN rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

I was overwhelmed at times with emotion while reading this book. The story grabbed my attention and never let go. I "raised" 4 children and sometimes feel like I never received any acknowledgement of that feat. I think we all seek some affirmation of our accomplishments. The description of this child's father saying goodbye was particularly touching. I cannot imagine ever letting go of my children. I think all mothers could relate to this woman who adopted a child and the fear of losi
Mar 06, 2014 Melissa rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Showed promise but felt disjointed

I wish the story of Harlan and Lucy had been started sooner in their relationship. His character left before I really connected with him which made the email and flashback sequences feel contrived. I loved the burgeoning mother and son relationship between Lucy and Matt,but didn't really see the necessity of the Louis storyline. The novel showed a lot of promise that could have been realized more effectively if it had been pared down from so many storylines.
Aug 15, 2015 Christi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a really lovely book. It took a while to get into the flow of the story but then I couldn't put it down. I just loved Harlan. I was rooting for Lucy to work through her grief and start her life. I liked the sub plot of Lucy's brother and sister-in-law as well.

It's interesting that this is the second in as many books that has had a 9/11 theme running through it. I guess this is the new literary trend replacing "grandma remembers WWII preferably in flashbacks" or "discovered object ties
Jan 12, 2014 Lisa rated it really liked it
Shelves: adoption
The author has a beautiful, descriptive writing style that I really enjoyed.

I loved the story of Lucy's relationship with the man she loves, who dies in the first chapter of the book. Through her reflections, and as she remembers their times together before he died, we get to travel with Lucy through a relationship challenged by a terminal illness and experience how she deals with her grief.

I enjoyed how the author made some great points through this story line, including not to take for grante
Frank Drury
Oct 14, 2011 Frank Drury rated it it was amazing
As I began reading this novel, I was immediately pulled into the story about Lucy and her best friend Harlan, not just by the moving story of Harlan's battle with cancer and Lucy's pending adoption of a 4 year old Russian orphan, but more so by the wonderful prose. I usually read the first chapter of any new Kindle fiction release. Very few grab me like this one did. Halfway through the story I sent a message to the author telling her that her work reminded me somewhat of Anne Tyler, particularl ...more
Nov 29, 2011 Laura rated it it was amazing
Some novels grab you and don’t let you go until you have finished a marathon reading session. Even afterwards, you find yourself thinking about the novel and wondering about various characters and plot points. A Watershed Year is just such a novel.

I will admit that I initially wanted to read A Watershed Year because of its very cool title. I am a dorky water resources engineer, and one item I do in my job is to draw watershed maps to determine where rainfall will drain once it hits the earth. A
Lydia Presley
Dec 01, 2011 Lydia Presley rated it it was amazing
Original review posted here

People, this is not a little book. It’s 320 pages long. I started reading it at 9:30pm thinking I’d get a few chapters in. Next thing I knew I was closing the book and looking at my clock where the time of 4:30am was looking at me with accusation. I haven’t stayed up like that to read a book in one setting, or I should say, to read an adult book in one setting, in… never.

I was simply blown away by this story. Susan Schoenberger flawlessly moves between the past and pre
Apr 21, 2012 Sandie rated it really liked it
If you are a birder or know someone interested in birds, this is a bird you must have for your collection. The author is a renowned birder and photographer and has combined these interests into a stunning book that will be the premiere reference guide for those who love birds.

The most striking feature of the book are the 640 scenes of birds in their native habitats. These scenes were created from over ten thousand photographs the author has taken and show the birds from near and far. There is a
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Thanks for reading my profile!

I'm a native of Newburgh, NY, and a graduate of Newburgh Free Academy and Dartmouth College (BA, 1984).

My first published novel,"A Watershed Year," won the 2006 gold medal for novel in the William Faulkner William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. I spent the year after that looking for an agent, and was fortunate enough to secure Jessica Regel, then of the Jean V
More about Susan Schoenberger...

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“ignore all the aggravation that life throws your way, because none of it means anything in the end.” 1 likes
“There were times when Lucy felt almost transparent, insubstantial, as though her body would offer no resistance if the wind chose to lift her into the sky. At such times, she wished she had a small brick house to call her own, something earthbound and solid that could keep her from getting swept away like the seeds of a dandelion.” 0 likes
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