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Literary Friday: The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris

Friday, October 29, 2021


Happy Literary Friday, My Lovelies!  Today I'm sharing my review of our October Book Club Selection, The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris.

According to Goodreads:

In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, a profound debut about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever.

In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.

With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.

My Review:

Nathan Harris is a very young man with a mature competency for writing.  He is a true wordsmith: His language, his word choices are beautiful.  I actually found myself distracted from the story by it, but that's okay because throughout the book I'd read a beautiful sentence and literally sigh.  The suspension of disbelief was well worth it.

Another strength of his is that he can write women well, too.  George's wife Isabelle is beautifully drawn, and there is a bridal tea scene that all women can relate to because we've all been there.  Isabelle's story arc as she becomes more involved in her community is both interesting and up-lifting.

Brothers Prentiss and Landry are compelling characters as well: One is definitely a natural-born leader, yet the other one has strength, dignity, and exhibits great courage at the worst possible moment.  Each character in the book is attempting to navigate a new world after the tragedy of war and barbarity of slavery.  The plot is engrossing, although several members of our book club felt that the story was slow in developing.  I disagree, but the pace does pick-up halfway through.

I look forward to reading more from Nathan Harris, and it's hard to believe that this is his debut novel.  This is the perfect book club selection because there's so much to discuss, and it's an era of history not often found in novels.  It won the 2021 Booker Prize, the leading literary award in the English speaking world.

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Until next time...

Happy reading!
Ricki Jill


  1. I've heard of this book, but haven't had a chance to read it yet. Sounds good!!

  2. I love to read a book that's well written. Not sure about the story in this one but I'll keep it in mind! Enjoy your day!

  3. I love the title. And you're right -- a well written book is such a pleasure to read.

  4. You have me fascinated by his writing style!

  5. The book and the author’s writing style sounds intriguing, Ricki Jill.


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I'm Ricki Jill. Welcome! I'm honored that you're reading my blog. I enjoy sharing my creative lifestyle @ The Bookish Dilettante. For more information about my blog, please read the Start Here page. Thank-you for stopping by, and I hope you'll consider following me via email.

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