by Bonnie Jo Campbell
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Pub Date 09 Jan 2024 | Archive Date 31 Dec 2023
A master of rural noir returns with a fierce, mesmerizing novel about exceptional women and the soul of a small town.
On an island in the Great Massasauga Swamp—an area known as “The Waters” to the residents of nearby Whiteheart, Michigan—herbalist Hermine “Herself” Zook has healed the local women of their ailments for generations. As stubborn as her tonics are powerful, Herself inspires reverence and fear in the people of Whiteheart, and even in her own three daughters. The youngest, beautiful and inscrutable Rose Thorn, has left her own daughter, eleven-year-old Dorothy “Donkey” Zook, to grow up wild. Donkey spends her days searching for truths in the lush landscape and in her math books, waiting for her wayward mother and longing for a father, unaware that family secrets, passionate love, and violent men will flood through the swamp and upend her idyllic childhood.
With a “ruthless and precise eye for the details of the physical world” (New York Times Book Review), Bonnie Jo Campbell presents an elegant antidote to the dark side of masculinity, celebrating the resilience of nature and the brutality and sweetness of rural life.
About the Author: Bonnie Jo Campbell has been a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, a Guggenheim Fellow, and the recipient of the AWP's Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction and a Pushcart Prize. Her books include: Once Upon a River; American Salvage; Q Road; and Mothers, Tell Your Daughters.
Available on NetGalley
Average rating from 11 members
In a time when American women seem to be losing their rights and power, this book was like taking a hit of pure oxygen. Women hold the ultimate power and knowledge on an island in a Michigan swamp. Local wise woman Hermine Zook, or “Herself” has cared for the women of the area for years, she’s both feared and respected by the locals and her own family of women. Left by Herself’s daughter, Rose to raise, Dorothy, or Donkey as she’s called is a true wild child. Wandering the island, Donkey wonders about her parentage while trying to understand the world’s mysteries with the help of nature and a math book. Of course, no ideal feminine world will be allowed to exist on its own, and men with bad intentions soon enter the swamp. How the women of the Great Massasauga Swamp deal with that violence left me feeling better than I have in a long time. An exhilarating read
Rural Noir! I actually did not know there was a genre called rural noir but it fits this story very well.
When we meet Hermine "Herself" Zook we learned that her healing has changed quite a bit to reflect her point of view of life. Once welcoming and open, herself is now a force to be reckoned with. Her three lovely daughters have ruled the area with their beauty. Dorothy, her grandchild who goes by Donk/ey run wild on the island and much of her coming of age takes place in this story. But like all noir tales and most rural novels, there is a sinister edge to the nature, the working men and the ways that people deal with poverty and disappointment. A beautiful and lyrical story for all rural tale lovers ! #TheWaters #BonnieJoCampbell #WWnorton
Once a month I decide I want to live on an island or a mountain or a tundra with no men. We call it cabin week.
This was a wonderful cabin week read.
I love the part about the 17 cats getting loose and them finding 18.
It is beautiful, sad, and bitter sweet.
I love the setting.
An engaging, compelling, energizing story about women and the men who surround them. Set in a rural area, the trials and tests the ladies endure are different than those in urban areas. The Waters mixes in some magical realism and several love stories for a captivating read.
Thanks to NetGalley and W. W. Norton & Company for the opportunity to read this ARC.