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The Safety of Deeper Water

Tim Poland
February 2009
PB  978-1-933202-32-7
PDF  978-1-933202-81-5


When Sandy Holston is on dry land, she’s nothing special: a nurse who wears her hair in a ponytail and prefers a fishing lure as an earring. But once she dons waders, picks up a fly rod, and steps into a river, she becomes a remarkable, elegant fisherwoman who’s at peace with the world. After surviving her marriage to Vernon—her violent, incarcerated ex-husband—peace is just what Sandy needs. So she moves to Damascus, a small town on the Ripshin River, where she plans to enjoy the fishing and the solitude. Finally she is on the brink of a life she desires in a place she loves. But as the Ripshin’s trout mysteriously die off, and as Sandy grows closer to a reclusive neighbor who has a propensity for fishing naked, her plans are put in jeopardy. Will Sandy be able to find peace—in the river or out—once Vernon is released from prison and fulfills his promise to hunt her down?


  1. Prologue: A Fish Like That
  2. The Watershed
  3. Where a Woman Just Goddamned Wasn't Supposed to Be
  4. Penance
  5. As Long as the River's Here
  6. Epilogue: And Become Undisguised and Naked
  7. About Tim Poland


Tim Poland grew up in Ohio and now lives and works in the New River Valley near the Blue Ridge Mountains in Southwestern Virginia. He is the author of Escapee, a collection of short fiction, and Other Stories, a chapbook of poems. His fiction, poetry, and essays have appeared widely in various literary journals. He is the recipient of a Plattner/Appalachian Heritage Award. His work has been included in the Best of the Net anthology and has also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He is a professor of English at Radford University in Radford, Virginia.

Read More about Tim Poland.


"This quietly briliant novel by Tim Poland balances plot and lyricism, mystery and romance, while evoking characters that find they belong beside-and especially in-the rare wilderness of an Appalachian river. . . .Like the river, this novel does not flash its poetic qualities, but almost hides them, carrying the reader with strong, smooth, invisible currents."
Laura Longsong, Appalachian Heritage

"The genius of The Safety of Deeper Water is its ability to make fishing appealing, even irresistible, to non-anglers. . . .Poland's tale is unusual and unique, especially in its cast of characters and use of metaphor and language"
Rege Behe, The Pittsburgh Tribune

"Tim Poland's The Safety of Deeper Water is more of a novel with suspense than a suspense novel. In fact, it's a fishing novel with suspense—and a first-rate writing job."
Dick Cady, ForeWord Magazine

"From the social consciousness of Wendell Berry, the cosmic awareness of Walt Whitman, and the psychology of grotesqueness of Sherwood Anderson, The Safety of Deeper Water distills a wonderfully integrated spirit of belonging. Very few regional novels have so clearly shown how to shed the burden of a destructive egotism and achieve a transcendence that partakes of a particular terrain's personality."
Don Secreast, author The Rat Becomes Light and White Trash, Red Velvet

"Poland has executed a glimpse into the world just under the rushing waters, the quieter deeper waters where the larger, wiser fish lurk. The Safety of Deeper Water is a well written short novel that tells the tale of the deep change people are capable of and the beauty found in the sport of fly fishing."
Heather Froeschl, The Back Cover

"Tim Poland weaves many characters, recurrent troubles, aspiring hopes, and community life into an organic and ecological whole..."
Thomas F. Fehr, Nantahala: A Review of Writing and Photography in Appalachia


Watch Tim Poland reading this novel: Part One | Part Two | Part Three
Read some of Tim Poland's poetry here.
Tim Poland recently interviewed with Studio Virginia at WVTF. Listen to the full interview here.