Cover Image: The Sweetness of Water

The Sweetness of Water

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date:

Member Reviews

Wow! What a beautifully written debut novel! I fell in love with the characters as they are so authentic and so quirky! I finished reading the book and wanted to go back and read it all over again! Absolutely love it!
Was this review helpful?
Book Review: The Sweetness of Water
Author: Nathan Harris
Publisher: Little, Brown
Publication Date: June 15, 2021
Review Date: July 25, 2021

I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

From the blurb:
“AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER / AN OPRAH’S BOOK CLUB PICK
PRESIDENT OBAMA’S SUMMER 2021 READING LIST 

In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, “a miraculous debut” (Washington Post)  and “a towering achievement of imagination” (CBS This Morning)about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever—from “a storyteller with bountiful insight and assurance” (Kirkus)

A New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A July Indie Next Pick

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.”
—
Oh my goodness! What a treasure of a book. I finished it late last night, and I am just blown away. This is a work of perfection. Deep, deep characters, including the setting of time and place, Georgia in Reconstruction. Incredible plot. A very, very original story, which is rare these days. The language and imagery is stunning. I think this book could win a Pulitzer for 2021, or the National Book Award. This is really a MUST READ book those of you who love and appreciate finely crafted literary fiction. I just can’t find the words to really explain how stunned I am. And so very satisfied. 

Mr. Harris has captured the subtleties of the time and place. The cruelty. The ties to the land. The bonds between the characters. I give this 10 stars out of 5! Highly, highly recommended! Please, please, please read this book. Savor it. Let yourself be moved. 

Thank you Little, Brown for giving me access to this gem of a book, and best of luck to Mr. Harris with his continued literary career. I cannot wait to see what he creates next. 

This review will be posted on NetGalley and Goodreads.

#netgalley #thesweetnessofwater #nathanharris #littlebrown #reconstuction
Was this review helpful?
The Sweetness of Water, by Nathan Harris, takes place in a southern town, at the ending of the Civil War. Though the official civil war is over, the war among neighbors continues, driven by racism. While some new relationships are formed, others are torn apart. The whole community is almost destroyed as a result but positive change prevails. Harris introduces us to some wonderful characters in this novel and I want to know more about their future. Hoping for a sequel!
Was this review helpful?
Read if you like: The Underground Railroad and Southern USA history.
-
This book was quite complex with multiple character perspectives and more plot than I expected. There are two brothers who are now free after the civil war and they end up working on the Walker farm. The Walker’s just found out their son died in the war, so they are grappling with their grief.
-
The book shows what it was like and the unrest in the south after the war and during the Reconstruction phase. I really appreciated being able to read from the multiple perspectives; it added a lot to the story!
-
CW: war, violence, death, beating, racism, homophobia, sexual content.
Was this review helpful?
Many thanks to Little, Brown, and Company and NetGalley for the advanced copy!

An excellent and important read. Taking place in Georgie during the Reconstruction period, the story follows a landowner who finds two emancipated brothers and offers them a place to stay and work. The way Nathan Harris constructs characters is beautiful. I look forward to much more by this author!
Was this review helpful?
The Sweetness of Water takes place at the ending of the Civil War and slavery.  A landowner finds two brothers, who had been slaves nearby, and offers them work.  This landowner and his wife also believe that their only son died in the war.  Secrets, prejudices, and tragedies unfold.  The Sweetness of Water is a well written and engaging book and a very worthy read.
Was this review helpful?
A sophisticated and eloquent portrayal of life during the Recnstruction period in Georgia.  Two brothers, Prentiss and Landry, are trying to Iive in the forest near the farm they were enslaved on. They are offered a job on a local farm owned by a whitean so they can raise the funds to go North to find their other. 
The novel is well-wriiten and quickly draws you into another time and place.
A must read!
Was this review helpful?
“Instead, the spark of life that connects you to the other you cherish simply dims and then goes black entirely. The present thunders on while the past is a wound untended, unstitched, felt but never healed.”

After the end of the Civil War the people in Old Ox are trying to come to terms with Reconstruction. Many resent the presence of freedmen. George Walker and his wife Isabelle are more accepting than most, and George hires the brothers Prentiss and Landry to work on their land.  The brothers dream of heading north eventually, and maybe even finding their mother who had been sold. There is also a homosexual couple with a long-standing secret relationship. The combination of stresses on the fabric of the town leads to murder, a conflagration, hidden strengths, unexpected bravery and hope. 

I’m not a fan of Oprah and I am skeptical of her book recommendations, but I think she got it right this time. The writing in this book is clear, direct and beautiful. A woman is “…..so severe and translucent in her visage as to seem composed of pure crystal…”. All of the characters are well developed. The plot is engaging and believable and it felt like these people might actually have existed. I have nothing bad to say about this book. It certainly doesn’t seem like a first book and I look forward to what the author writes next. I listened to the audiobook and the narrator William DeMeritt also did an excellent job. 

I received a free copy of this book from the publisher.
Was this review helpful?
Evocative, moving historical fiction THE SWEETNESS OF WATER is the first work by author Nathan Harris that is incredibly polished and sophisticated writing.  Emancipated slaves, returning soldiers and presumed dead but perhaps not, only sons, populate this tale of a small Southern town at the end of the Civil War. An aging landowner decides to plant his farm in hopes of leaving a legacy and slowly a series of events begin that cannot be unwound. This is not a time in history that leaves a reader believing the events will turn out well. The pacing of the book is uneven;  the first half is slow while the second is better.  Overall this is well worth reading.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
Was this review helpful?
The Sweetness of Water is a contemporary classic about the Reconstruction period of the southern states after the Civil War.  
George is a transplanted northerner in Georgia.   Originally content to sell off his land to make ends meet, after the War, he looks to make his mark on his remaining acres.  To do so, he hires two recently freed men.  As would be expected, this doesn’t go over well with the plantation owners who have lost their slaves or the recently returned Confederate soldiers.  
His own son, Caleb, was a confederate soldier, but unlike the others, he disgraced himself on the battlefield.   He is also engaged in an illicit love affair which is a subplot of the story.  It’s obvious none of these stories are going to end well and they don’t.  
I can see why Oprah picked this for her book club.  The characters are richly drawn, and I was drawn into George’s fight to do the right thing. But it’s not just George, everyone is so developed that I could see them standing before me.  Parts of the story were so tense, I had to keep putting the book down.  
There are multiple themes in the book - equality, prejudice, love in all its various guises.   But above all, the book focuses on finding one’s courage regardless of the repercussions.   Every single one of the main characters is put in that position.  
I recommend this for fans of The Water Dancer - the same rich language, the same depth of sorrow.  But this book does end on a small note of hope.  Credit to Harris for writing such a profound book as a debut and at a fairly young age.  
My thanks to NetGalley and Little, Brown for an advance copy of this book.
Was this review helpful?
Evocative, tragic, and incredibly affecting!

The Sweetness of Water is a powerful, riveting, emotionally-charged tale that sweeps you away to Georgia at the end of the civil war and takes you into the lives of a handful of people, including a lost father, a grieving mother, a returned soldier with a lot of aggression and a secret he will protect at any cost, two brothers recently enslaved who are slowly adapting to their newfound freedom, and a myriad of other southern people struggling to survive and accept the repercussions, fallout, and new way of life caused by their recent defeat by the Union Army.

The prose is sensitive and expressive. The characters are multi-layered, resilient, and vulnerable. And the plot, set during the mid-1860s, is a profoundly moving tale about war, familial relationships, heartbreak, loss, guilt, grief, shame, suspicion, secrets, desperation, resilience, hope, courage, resentment, emancipation, unlikely friendships, and forbidden love.

Overall, The Sweetness of Water is the perfect blend of historical facts, compelling fiction, and palpable emotion. It’s a beautifully written, impactful, stunning debut by Harris that does a remarkable job of highlighting the indomitable spirit of humanity to endure, survive, conquer, forgive, and even love under even the harshest of circumstances.
Was this review helpful?
WOW. The Sweetness of Water is one of the best things I've read all year. Maybe the best? This is an intimate look at post Civil War Georgia and the ways so many lives in all walks of lives were affected. It's quiet and beautiful and haunting. Fans of Colson Whitehead should run to get this book.
Was this review helpful?
The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris is a character driven historical novel that takes place in the south at the end of the Civil War.  It begins with George and Isabel being informed that their son Caleb has died during the war.  As with much in this novel, things are not what they first appear to be.  Soon after mourning Caleb's death, he appears at their door, very much alive.  The facts surrounding Caleb's wartime service are known only by his friend August and possibly August's father.  The novel has multiple characters vying for frontage and the plot gets somewhat complicated and a little off the rails at times.  There is tragedy, melodrama, and personal angst throughout.  At times the narrative could use more editing.  However, it is worth reading because of the depth of characterization and the historical components.
Was this review helpful?
Read if you: Want a haunting Reconstruction era story about a community and family upended by war, scandal, and a new reality.

The plot is quite detailed and can get a bit too complicated to break down in a short review, but readers who want a unique post-Civil War era novel should definitely consider this. 

Definitely looking forward to more stories from Nathan Harris.

Many thanks to Litt,e Brown and Company and NetGalley for a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review.
Was this review helpful?
The Sweetness of Water is set in the antebellum South shortly after Lee’s surrender.  The residents of Old Ox are grappling with uncertainty and angst as the familial and financial losses of the Civil War become apparent.  

For some, the presence of freedman camps and Union soldiers is unsettling to their core.  However, not all are suffering. George and Isabelle Walker’s grief dissipates when their son, Caleb, returns home after they were told he was killed in action.  Prentiss and Landry, two emancipated brothers from a neighboring plantation, relish their newfound freedom and accept George’s offer to work his property with him for “honest pay” to finance their journey North.  Nonetheless, these are tenuous times.  When a single act of cowardice fueled by bitterness and hatred begets a series of devastating events, it leaves the town and its residents scarred in unimaginable ways.  

Harris created a world that showcased humanity at its best and worst. There were immersive descriptions of the Georgian landscapes including a masterful correlation to the novel’s title.  The emphasis on nature was purposeful as it highlighted the dependence on agriculture (and the manual labor required to work it) for survival as well as the central characters’ reverence for the earth and the elements.  Love and tenderness were expressed within the symbiotic nature of the interpersonal relationships formed between those least expected. The author flavored the dialogue and inner monologues with nuanced language and phasing evocative of the era.  

I thoroughly enjoyed this remarkable and memorable award-worthy debut!
Was this review helpful?
I loved this book so much! It was the first book I have read by this author and I can't wait to read more! The characters and their story stick with you long after you finish the book.
Was this review helpful?
Nathan Harris’s “The Sweetness of Water” takes place shortly after the Civil War in the fictional Georgia town of Old Ox. There are losses to be mourned, new freedom for many to be cautiously explored, relationships to be renegotiated, and between the white residents, former slaves and occupying Union soldiers, there are tensions aplenty. 

That is much as I am willing to divulge without concern of accidentally spoiling any plot. I will add however that Harris’s first novel is an extremely impressive debut. It is packed with characters who are all incredibly rich with introspection as they all try to manage themselves in a land both drastically changed but also in many ways still the same. And what jumped out to me the most was how it’s less a Reconstruction story and much more a story about bonds between the characters - both the new ones that are forged and the old ones that are altered and sometimes completely broken. “The Sweetness of Water” is a story full of tragedy, sadness, resilience, hope, and overall an absolutely beautifully written tale.
Was this review helpful?