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The Sweetness of Water

by Nathan Harris

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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2361190,247 (4.23)1 / 34

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» See also 34 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Extraordinary book recommended by Barack Obama. ( )
  bookczuk | Nov 19, 2021 |
Two of the worst stereotypes gay men face is either being a sniveling coward or a demented psychopath. Cheers to Mr. Harris for including them both in the same novel. ( )
  mayonine | Oct 27, 2021 |
The town of Old Ox, Georgia is reckoning with the aftermath of the American Civil War. Landowners are forced to manage without enslaved labor. Formerly enslaved people are cautiously trying to forge a new, independent life. And George Walker and his wife, Isabelle, are reeling from news that their son Caleb was killed in action. When George, who did not own slaves, comes across two brothers in the woods, he offers them shelter and paid work on his farm, a move that angers many townspeople. Prentiss and Landry become surrogates for the boy he’s lost until Caleb reappears, injured but very much alive.

The family begins rebuilding their lives, but they find themselves socially ostracized because of their employment practices. And they are further tested when there’s a murder, and Caleb is completely betrayed by his closest friend. These two incidents set off a cascade of consequences that push the family to their limits.

I enjoyed most of this book, particularly the character development, the exploration of racism during this period in history, and a well-crafted plot. The end fell a bit short of my expectations, as debut author Nathan Harris seemed determined to tie in a few themes that were not fully developed earlier in the novel. But for the most part, this was an interesting story, well told. ( )
  lauralkeet | Oct 19, 2021 |
45. The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris
reader: William DeMeritt
published: 2021
format: 12:08 audible audiobook (368 pages in hardcover)
acquired: September 10
listened: Sep 10-24
rating: 4
locations: late Civil-War Georgia (the US state, this time)
about the author: born 1992, raised in Oregon, lives in Austin, TX

My second from the 2021 Booker longlist. This is a novel on the immediate aftermath of Civil War, beginning days after surrender. It takes looks at a small town in rural Georgia adjusting to defeat and the presence of controlling union soldiers, and full of recently freed slaves and recently returned soldiers.

Strange is the wrong word, but I thought this book had some oddities. The extensive dialogue is colorful and quietly dynamic, except when it's not. The prose in contrast is straight-forward and plain and clean. The contrast, exaggerated on audio, is endearing, and it seemed to me to become a distinct thing, unique, the likable aspects inseparable from its flaws. Anyway, I enjoyed this.

https://www.librarything.com/topic/333774#7612235 ( )
1 vote dchaikin | Sep 25, 2021 |
I had hesitated reading this novel, passing it by. Then, I was seeing it mentioned over and over. I went back and claimed my ‘read now’ privilege, late to the party.

The writing is wonderful. It is set after the end of the Civil War, just before Federal troops arrive to reconstruct the South. Freedmen have fled the plantations and their previous owners can’t accept they no longer own them. In the town of Old Ox, sons are returning from the war, even a son who was believed to have died.

George Walker holds dear the memory of his childhood friend who was sold away to a man bent on misusing the girl. George has never amounted to much, preferring books to farming. At night, he walks the woods searching for the monster who haunted him since childhood.

One night, lost and exhausted, he is found by two freedmen who have been living in the woods. They help him home. He offers them a remarkable chance: help him plant a field of peanuts, and he will pay them a white man’s wages. Prentiss understands this mean the money for traveling North and a new life for him and his brother Landry, brutally deformed from when he was the scapegoat for his fellow slaves. George’s wife accepts the boys as well, forging a special bond with the silent Landry.

Unexpectedly, son Caleb comes home. He had gone to war to follow his boyhood friend and love, the son of a wealthy and powerful man. They have a secret life which is observed by Landry, resulting in tragedy. And from here, the story spirals and pulls the reader along.

The book drew me in and kept my interest. As it unfolded, I understood George’s motivation. I also felt the story was a wish fulfillment fantasy, with poetic justice dealt. And, I find myself thinking that George’s wife had the best parts and was the real hero of the story. George suffered horribly for his beliefs and acts. But it was Isabell who had the strength to fulfill his legacy. She allows herself to turn to women in town for insight and support in some of the most satisfyingly scenes.

There is violence in the book–no surprise because of its subject matter and time setting. But it is the acceptance and love and bravery that remains in my mind. The courage of people who follow their better angels.

Although Prentiss is a strong and brave character, I wish he had been given a bigger presence in the novel. Landry is short-lived in the story, his character almost more a symbol than real, but who is never forgotten by Isabell.

I can understand why this novel has garnered so much attention. It is an engrossing, emotional read. The white people are inspirational characters who risk everything for their convictions. We can trace the depicted racism to today’s headlines. I expect great things to come from this young author.

I received a free egalley from the publisher thought NetGalley. My review is fair and unbiased. ( )
1 vote nancyadair | Sep 11, 2021 |
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» Add other authors

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Harris, Nathanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
DeMerritt, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Little, Brown & CompanyPublishersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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