Troubled Waters

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Pub Date May 07 2024 | Archive Date Jun 07 2024

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In this intimate portrait of two generations, a granddaughter and a grandmother come to terms with what it means to be family, Black women, and alive in a world on fire.

The world is burning—and Corrine will do anything to put out the flames. After her brother died aboard an oil boat on the Mississippi River in 2013, Corrine awakened to the realities of climate change and its perpetrators. Now, a year later, she finds herself trapped in a lonely cycle of mourning both her brother and the very planet she stands on. She’s convinced that in order to save her future, she has to make sure that her brother’s life meant something. But in the act of honoring her brother’s spirit, she resurrects family ghosts she knows little about—ghosts her grandmother Cora knows intimately.

The world is burning—but it always has been. Cora’s ghosts have followed her from her days as a child integrating schools in 1950s Nashville to her new life as a mother, grandmother, and teacher in Mississippi. As a child of the civil rights movement, she’s done her best to keep those specters away from her granddaughter. She faced those demons, she reasons to herself, so that Corinne would never know they existed.

When Corrine’s plan to stage a dramatic act of resistance peels back the scabs of her family wounds and puts her safety in jeopardy, both grand­mother and granddaughter must bring their unspoken secrets into the light to find a path to healing. Their world hangs in the balance as past and future meet in the present moment.

In heartfelt, lyrical prose, Mary Annaïse Heglar weaves an unforgettable story of the climate crisis, Black resistance, and the enduring power of family.

  • Perfect for fans of Jesmyn Ward, Yaa Gyasi, and Tayari Jones
  • Stand-alone novel
  • Book length: 84,000 words
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs

In this intimate portrait of two generations, a granddaughter and a grandmother come to terms with what it means to be family, Black women, and alive in a world on fire.

The world is burning—and...

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ISBN 9781400248117
PRICE $17.99 (USD)

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Average rating from 9 members

Featured Reviews

I just finished reading this amazing tale and loved every minute of it.
I loved Corrinne and Cora.
Although I must say my heart went out more to Cora than Corrinne. I almost didn't like Corrinne at all.
I couldn't imagine how frightening that must've been. I admired Cora so much!
Poor Harold got caught in the middle. He was my favorite character. He's a lot like me a peace keeper in the family. A more terrifying job if there ever was one so I knew how he felt at times.
My favorite part was the ending of this book and it will break your heart into pieces.
A very powerful and emotional story that will rock your world after reading this novel. I will be looking for more by this wonderful lady who wrote this story with her heart.
5 stars for an incredible story that will leave me thinking about these characters long after this story has ended. Believe me they'll not let you put them down until it is over.
I highly recommend this book.
My thanks for a copy of this book. I was NOT required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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I enjoyed that the story was about 2 generations. It had a great overall feel and worked with making the characters realistic. I enjoyed how well everything was written and how it flowed into one story. The characters were everything that I was hoping for and they were beautifully done. It had a great message about family and I'm glad I got to read it.

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this tale spans decades exploring the history of two generations of black women in southern USA: grandmother cora, the sole black student in her elementary school, facing systemic racism as a literal 5-to-7-year-old in the 50s; and granddaughter corrine, raising awareness on climate change after losing her brother in an oil barge accident in 2013. we also get the occasional chapters from harold, cora's son and corrine's uncle.

personally i connected more with corrine, being of similar age and disposition, but i also felt for young cora and the older cora who learns to accept her past and acknowledge how the times have changed since. the past timeline felt a bit disconnected at first but it all ties up well as we get to know the relationships within the family. i thought the heaviness of the themes was balanced by the heartwarming love and care shown between the three.

this is an important work of fiction drawing inspiration from very real events. thank you to the author for writing this and kindly allowing me to read an advanced copy through netgalley.

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-Explores themes around climate change, grief, racism, sense of history, family, and what it really means to be an activist
-An own voices piece
-Multigenerational, character driven novel told from multiple perspectives
-Set predominantly in New Orleans, Nashville, and Mississippi with occasional scenes at Oberlin College in Ohio

This is a captivatingly beautiful and heartfelt piece that will stay with you long past the final page. It weaves together the tale of a family grieving a recent loss with a much longer history of loss and struggle. Told by characters from three different generations, the past comes back to haunt the present in very different ways for each and influences how they try to move forward and support each other. Even when I didn’t really agree with a character’s choices or opinions, I could still understand where they were coming from and empathize with their perspective. This book is definitely more about the characters than plot, so this might not be the book for you if you prefer a clear path that the characters follow as the story unfolds. Otherwise, this is a wonderful and important read that I would highly recommend!

**Pro: We are family**

This story is told by three characters: Corinne, her grandmother Cora, and Corinne’s uncle Harold. It starts with all three of them getting together for their first Christmas since Cameron, Corrine’s brother, passed away while working on an oil barge. I immediately felt like I was being wrapped in a warm hug as I felt the love shining through every interaction these characters had with each other. However, what I loved even more was that a great deal of tension and misunderstanding is allowed to exist between each of them and highlights their deep connection even further. The characters are so masterfully realized and interplay so beautifully that it is clear even their disagreements are born from a place of love and misunderstanding. Truly, Helgar’s brilliant character work makes this story stand apart from others.

**The Breakdown: Those college days**

Though we get a number of flashbacks to earlier moments in each character’s life, the ‘present day’ storyline mostly follows Corrine and her environmental activism. Corrine’s view towards global warming feels quite extreme and is jarring in comparison to all of the other beautiful, subtle work that has gone into everything else in this story. However, I also think this is an accurate depiction of a passionate young college student. Corrine is smart and capable, but also naive and has a ‘bulldozer-like’ approach that dismisses the nuances of the situations she is trying to navigate. There were many times Corrine made me cringe and get irritated, but I can’t really knock what feels right for this character as a whole.

This story tends to skip chunks of time, and I think that narrowing in on Corrine’s experiences more would have helped me get her a little more. For example, she goes out to interview people who were affected by Deepwater Horizon (and Katrina, to a lesser extent), but we never get to see any of these interviews or how some of the earlier ones impacted Corrine more directly. Because we don’t get any of these moments and Corrine has trouble verbalizing the driving force behind her fear/passion, it took me a lot longer to understand Corrine than the other characters. We do get there eventually, and I was able to appreciate going on the journey with Corrine in the end.

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