A Watershed Year
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A Watershed Year

3.69 of 5 stars 3.69  ·  rating details  ·  852 ratings  ·  116 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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Amara Campbell
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...more
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.
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
Sara Strand
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...more
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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
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...more
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
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 emails...it was like getting to know another gr...more
Erica Smith
A watershed year means a period when everything changes and it can be a difficult change. Lucy, a Professor of Religion and student of anything dealing with the saints- is about to lose her good friend Harlan to cancer. Eventually he passes away and his passing leaves her with questions about their relationship. Questions of why she's thirty-eight and never been married.

Questions about our own mortality.

Not long after Harlan's death, Lucy begins to receive his emails. Each one poignant, pertine...more
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-dimensial (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 eight...more

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...more
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.
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...more
Frank Drury
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
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...more
Lydia Presley
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...more
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...more
I loved this book right up to the end, when a 4 year old somehow manages to hit the right keys on a keyboard to ask his mom if she wants to delete an email program that had been delivering emails from a dead friend. Excuse me, but does one install an email program with the hopes of receiving email from a dead friend? No, the dead friend, before he dies, sends emails to her email account on a predetermined schedule. Otherwise a good book, but it list something for me here.
Susan Jorgenson
Don't miss opportunities to express your feelings

Lucy's story makes you realize you should not miss opportunities to speak from your heart. She allowed herself to be talked into something she was unsure of, but she found her strength to move forward, love beyond herself and realize her family stood beside her.

I did find the story hard to read, but simply don't think I enjoyed the author's way of writing. Slow to get into, but not a bad read.
Kathy Lovasik
.Very relatable

I am a mother of an adopted son. I felt Lucy's anxiety during the adoption process. I became a single parent when my son was eighteen months old, and was sole provider as my ex relinquished his right to be a part of our lives. Lucy's Harlan was my younger sister who I adored. She like Harlan die d at a young age. This was a beautifully written book. I look forward to her next one.
Sherry H
Susan Schoenberger plays my emotions like a fiddle.

She presents the story of a woman who loses a dear friend, a man to whom she never admitted she was in love. After his death, she pursues the adoption of a small child from Russia, while attempting to regain her footing in her life and career.

In telling this small story, Schoenberger moves effortlessly forward and backward through time. She also moves through an incredible range of emotions, and takes the reader along for the ride. In a stroke...more
Jean V. Naggar Literary
“A well-told tale of life and death and the way, when we least expect it, love can encompass us roundabout...[Schoenberger] has created a vivid and continuous dream of what it means to create a kind of family, for better and worse. This is a brave and moving novel.” --Bret Lott, bestselling author of the Oprah Book Club selection JEWEL

“Schoenberger takes us to the softer places of the heart where love—in all its forms and glory—transforms grief into grace.” --Patti Callahan Henry, New York Times...more
Tear struck

Tear struck

Wonderful. I was so into this book that I couldn't put it down. Lucy touched my heart the ups and down of her life and the lives she touched. Great book to read. The tough lesson she had to learn going through the loss of her friend and the adoption of her son made me feel like I was living her life.
This story is touching and real. The characters are compelling, particularly the main character Lucy. It was hard to put the book down. As an adoptive mom and professor , many elements of the story rang true for me. A couple times I had to laugh at the inaccurate portrayal of professor's jobs though, and also Lucy's cluelessness about adopting an older child bordered on silly, thus the four stars. Still this book is a new favorite.
amanda mayfield
A story of strength and longing

This book is so moving. I slept only three hours one night had been up reading and woke up to finish. I couldn't put it down. Tears rolled much of the time. I felt Lucy's pain and confusion. highly recommended especially for those trying to find themselves and dealing with the why's of the world.
Sam M
Great story that kept me reading. Highly recommend to anyone over 30, as you will most likely have at least one watershed year coming up soon. The characters, every minor and the major ones, are believable. You can feel the emotions, sense the scenes in Russia and Baltimore. If every had a 4 year old boy, you get what this new adoptive mother is going through.
mable rhodes
Well worth the read

This is a well written book of not only a story of deep. felt love for someone who has cancer, but the lessons life teaches us if we only listen.This also is a wonderful story of dealing with adoption and what it's blessings can be.patience is very rewarding when we take time to help others.


I wasn't sure what to think about this book and I certainly didn't think I'd love it as much as I did. As a cancer survivor I often find most portrayals of people who are sick is over dramatic. but n out this book the struggle from giving and living your life is real and I found this book moving and wonderful.
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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. Naggar Literary Agency and n...more
More about Susan Schoenberger...
The Virtues of Oxygen

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“ignore all the aggravation that life throws your way, because none of it means anything in the end.” 1 likes
“He had been the strong one, in accepting her help, in allowing her to see him as vulnerable. She had always been glad he hadn’t pushed her away” 0 likes
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