web site hit counter The Sweetness of Water - Ebooks PDF Online
Hot Best Seller

The Sweetness of Water

Availability: Ready to download

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 a 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.


Compare

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 a 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.

30 review for The Sweetness of Water

  1. 4 out of 5

    Liz

    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 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.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    This is a heartbreaking but hopeful novel .. written so beautifully.. and this is one that I went into blind.. and enjoyed it so much, so I’m not going to say much about it. I will say that this author did an outstanding job on character development. I especially loved George and Isabelle Walker.. the white land owners who employ two brothers who are emancipated slaves to work their land. This is set in a town in Georgia, just as the Civil War is ending and just after the Emancipation. So many topic This is a heartbreaking but hopeful novel .. written so beautifully.. and this is one that I went into blind.. and enjoyed it so much, so I’m not going to say much about it. I will say that this author did an outstanding job on character development. I especially loved George and Isabelle Walker.. the white land owners who employ two brothers who are emancipated slaves to work their land. This is set in a town in Georgia, just as the Civil War is ending and just after the Emancipation. So many topics in this book… an emotionally distant marriage, race relations and tension, murder, a gay romance. Just read this! 😊

  3. 5 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    Audiobook….read by William DeMeritt, who was outstanding!!! … 12 hours and 8 minutes Magnificent…. an instant classic! Really extraordinary! …Engrossing storytelling … …Heartbreaking cruelty, loss, grief, racial and sexual bigotry…. yet also full of promise, courage, and humanity. …Many underline themes - with surprise turns throughout. …Incredible debut! As the story deepens (after first hooking the reader from the start), it becomes clear that the lives of the characters are caught in tumultuous Audiobook….read by William DeMeritt, who was outstanding!!! … 12 hours and 8 minutes Magnificent…. an instant classic! Really extraordinary! …Engrossing storytelling … …Heartbreaking cruelty, loss, grief, racial and sexual bigotry…. yet also full of promise, courage, and humanity. …Many underline themes - with surprise turns throughout. …Incredible debut! As the story deepens (after first hooking the reader from the start), it becomes clear that the lives of the characters are caught in tumultuous swirls in very unexpected ways… ….truth emerges — and we wonder are secrets best staying hidden or not? Very powerful! Oprah got it right..picking this book for her ‘July’ read. Huge congrats to Nathan Harris. Hard to believe the author of this complex sophisticated well written novel is only twenty-nine years old.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ron Charles

    “The Sweetness of Water” — the latest Oprah Book Club pick — unfolds in Georgia during the murky twilight of the Civil War. Union soldiers have marched through the state telling enslaved Black people they’re free, but that freedom exists in the ruins of a White society seething with resentment, determined to maintain its superiority. That this powerful book is Nathan Harris’s debut novel is remarkable; that he’s only 29 is miraculous. His prose is burnished with an antique patina that evokes the “The Sweetness of Water” — the latest Oprah Book Club pick — unfolds in Georgia during the murky twilight of the Civil War. Union soldiers have marched through the state telling enslaved Black people they’re free, but that freedom exists in the ruins of a White society seething with resentment, determined to maintain its superiority. That this powerful book is Nathan Harris’s debut novel is remarkable; that he’s only 29 is miraculous. His prose is burnished with an antique patina that evokes the mid-19th century. And he explores this liminal moment in our history with extraordinary sensitivity to the range of responses from Black and White Americans contending with a revolutionary ideal of personhood. The story opens in a fugue of mourning. George Walker is wandering through his 200-acre wood. A Northerner brought to Georgia decades ago as a child, George never developed any sympathy for the Southern cause. But the end of the War Between the States brings him no joy. He’s just received word that his only son, who enlisted with the Confederacy, was killed in the final weeks of battle. He reportedly died in. . . . To read the rest of this review, go to The Washington Post: https://www.washingtonpost.com/entert...

  5. 4 out of 5

    Faith

    “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 d “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.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Cheri

    Set in the fictional village of Old Ox in Georgia, this story begins after the surrender of the Confederacy and the Reconstruction era that followed. Families whose sons had not yet returned from the war, and were left waiting for word, but already grieving the loss. Among them are the Walkers, George and Isabelle who live just outside of Old Ox on their family homestead. Their grief is palpable, as their son has not returned, leaving them to believe the worst, and their silence with each other Set in the fictional village of Old Ox in Georgia, this story begins after the surrender of the Confederacy and the Reconstruction era that followed. Families whose sons had not yet returned from the war, and were left waiting for word, but already grieving the loss. Among them are the Walkers, George and Isabelle who live just outside of Old Ox on their family homestead. Their grief is palpable, as their son has not returned, leaving them to believe the worst, and their silence with each other enshrouds them. When George Walker encounters Prentiss and Landry, two recently freed brothers - one the same age as his son Caleb - who have managed to end up on his property in their search for their mother. Rather than tell them to get off his property, he asks if they have any water to share, and if they will help him get back to his home, as his hip is acting up. He tells them he will make it worth their while, along with another offer - if they will help him with his crop, he will pay them so they will have the money to continue their search. With few options for income, they accept. ’They walked as one through the trees with Landry trailing them. Though George needed the stars for guidance, it was all he could do to keep his sight straight ahead to stop himself from falling over, from giving in to the pain. He placed his head in the nook where Prentiss’s chest met his shoulder and allowed the man to balance him.’ ’For the slightest moment, before going inside, he peered back at the forest, silent and void of life in the darkness. Like there was nothing there at all.’ When Caleb does return home, it’s clear that he’s survived some brutal moments, but he doesn’t share his story with his parents, more out of shame that it would reveal too much about him. He was a deserter. Not only was he a traitor and a runaway from his duties as a soldier, he deserted the one he loved. His best friend and lover, secretly of course, August. A man who has also returned, and is about to be married. But that doesn’t discourage Caleb from wanting to continue their secret affair. Their lives, along with everyone else’s, have changed. As the days pass, George’s health declines, Isabelle seems to find a way to navigate this new life with a believable mix of feelings, but also a resolve to find a way to navigate this new life. Instead of bitterness or despair, there is a sense of grace that goes beyond mere acceptance or this new life, there is a sense of welcoming the change. A debut novel of unexpected relationships and acceptance, with a focus on the personal feelings of these people, and navigating uncertain times. Published: 15 Jun 2021 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Little, Brown and Company #TheSweetnessofWater #NetGalley

  7. 4 out of 5

    Lyn❤Loves❤Listening #AUDIOBOOKADDICT

    Audio - 5 +++ Stars Story - 2.5 Stars The narrator's performance as well as the author's writing were STELLAR. Unfortunately, I found the story to be long winded, and I struggled to finish it. Audio - 5 +++ Stars Story - 2.5 Stars The narrator's performance as well as the author's writing were STELLAR. Unfortunately, I found the story to be long winded, and I struggled to finish it.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jasmine from How Useful It Is

    A fantastic read! Loved the characters and their individual story so much! The story as a whole was excellent. I’m not sure who I loved more: Isabelle, Prentiss, Landry, George or Caleb. Each of their stories just moved my heart and I couldn’t stop reading about them. I loved how Isabelle told off those women. She really knew how to stand up to bullies with her words. George was brave for doing things against the tide. I liked how he treated colored people with respect at a time where colored pe A fantastic read! Loved the characters and their individual story so much! The story as a whole was excellent. I’m not sure who I loved more: Isabelle, Prentiss, Landry, George or Caleb. Each of their stories just moved my heart and I couldn’t stop reading about them. I loved how Isabelle told off those women. She really knew how to stand up to bullies with her words. George was brave for doing things against the tide. I liked how he treated colored people with respect at a time where colored people are treated as slaves. I liked both George and Isabelle’s ways with words as well as Prentiss’. I read this story a bit slower than normally because I enjoyed the author’s writing and reread many paragraphs and conversations. Loved it when the title made its way into the story. This book followed George, told in the third person point of view. He’s been out tracking an animal all day in his 200-acre wood. He lost track of time and darkness fell. He felt pain and aches in his body and sat on a log to rest. As his eyes adjusted to the dark, he saw two brothers, Landry and Prentiss sat across from him. They were recently freed slaves from his neighbor’s house. Instead of walking the streets, they went into the woods for peace and quiet and got lost in George’s land. With Prentiss’ help, George got home safely. George was out in the woods to also digest the news he received about his son who served in the Civil War. He was afraid to tell his wife Isabelle. The second view was Isabelle. She had a secret of her own so George’s silent of his day in the woods wasn’t as irritating to her as it would have been. The third view was Prentiss. He and his brother’s slavery days are over thanks to the announcement of emancipation. They have been a slave to Morton together since they were kids with their mom. They liked the woods for peace and quiet especially Landry. George’s been selling off his land to avoid working but now he’s planning to grow peanuts and he wanted to hire Prentiss and his brother. Prentiss initially rejected the idea thinking that he just rid of a master that he’s not looking to have another one. But George said he will pay wages. There’s a surprise fourth view. The Sweetness of Water was well written and developed. I’m blown away that this book was even a debut. Caleb really surprised me with his last minute plan. That twist about the fire was definitely unexpected but I do liked the turn of events. An awesome way to handle bullies. The romance was good coverage, but I wanted more. I felt heartbroken for Prentiss when he had no control over the separation from his mom and even more with his dad. I liked the brothers relationship. Isabelle surprised me in the end with her devotion to keeping up with what George had started. I just wish George told her before he left that he loved her. Still, an excellent read nonetheless and I highly recommend everyone to read this book! xoxo, Jasmine at www.howusefulitis.wordpress.com for more details Many thanks to Little, Brown for the opportunity to read and review. Please be assured that my opinions are honest.

  9. 5 out of 5

    MicheleReader

    In the fictional, rural town of Old Ox, Georgia, the Civil War has just ended. The Emancipation Proclamation has taken effect. Brothers Prentiss and Landry are free. But what happens now? They hide in the forest on the land next to the plantation they were raised in and enslaved in. Landowner George Walker finds the brothers and offers them work, a play to live and fair wages so they can save enough money to head north. George and his wife Isabelle have just learned that their son Caleb has died In the fictional, rural town of Old Ox, Georgia, the Civil War has just ended. The Emancipation Proclamation has taken effect. Brothers Prentiss and Landry are free. But what happens now? They hide in the forest on the land next to the plantation they were raised in and enslaved in. Landowner George Walker finds the brothers and offers them work, a play to live and fair wages so they can save enough money to head north. George and his wife Isabelle have just learned that their son Caleb has died in the war. George seeks new meaning and decides that together with the brothers, they will clear the land and grow peanuts. The Walkers have to deal with the impact this plan has on their community, which is struggling with the start of Reconstruction and the appearance of Union soldiers throughout the town. Their neighbors shun the Walkers as they treat the Black brothers with compassion. When the truth of Caleb’s fate is revealed, everything changes. There is so much to love in The Sweetness of Water, a remarkable debut novel by author Nathan Harris. Each of the characters are skillfully well-developed and complicated. The beautiful writing will immerse you into this heartbreaking yet hopeful book. Even while being transported to the 1860s, the parallels to today’s issues of racism cannot be ignored. We see how the scars of the past still exist today. Yet amidst the divide, there are those who rise above and see a better day that lies ahead. I started to pull out some passages that impacted me the most and I realized there were just too many. The prose is that good. You’re going to hear a lot about this book and its talented author. I hope you’ll read The Sweetness of Water. It is a slow-burn book that requires you devote the time to settle in and appreciate its nuances. I started to pull out some passages that impacted me the most and I realized there were just too many. The prose is that good. You’re going to hear a lot about this book and its talented author. I hope you’ll read The Sweetness of Water. It is a slow-burn book that requires you devote the time to settle in and appreciate its nuances. It is befitting that this book was published the week Juneteenth was declared a federal holiday in the U.S. Review posted on MicheleReader.com.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Zoe

    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 surviv 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. Thank you to HBG Canada for providing me with a copy in exchange for an honest review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Kate Southey

    I loved this novel. A slow burner to start with but once you fall in love with George Walker you are caught, like Isabelle and Clementine and Ezra were. A man who talked too much, who had some strange ideas and who never conformed to what society expected but a man who inspired a deep loyalty in his friends and family. This novel is far more than a book about slavery and the post civil war Deep South it is a tapestry of human relationships and emotions. Harris shows us imperfect marriages, imper I loved this novel. A slow burner to start with but once you fall in love with George Walker you are caught, like Isabelle and Clementine and Ezra were. A man who talked too much, who had some strange ideas and who never conformed to what society expected but a man who inspired a deep loyalty in his friends and family. This novel is far more than a book about slavery and the post civil war Deep South it is a tapestry of human relationships and emotions. Harris shows us imperfect marriages, imperfect sibling and parental relationships and yet those imperfections are, like the Japanese art of Kintsugi where broken things are fixed with gold to highlight rather than hide the cracks they are joining, beautiful for it. Prentiss and Landry wrestle with their own demons of childhood trauma and in Landry’s case torture, would Landry’s wordlessness have ceased had his older brother shared with him his dreams of their mother coming and walking him up and the crushing sadness when he woke and realised that she was still gone? Would Prentiss have found more inner peace if like Landry he had dived in a fountain, learned to love nature and learned to knit? And what of Caleb raised with all of the adoration and overprotection of being an adored only child of his mother and a semi stranger to his father? August raised with pride, expectations and an arrogance in his name and station that he dare not forget or veer away from. What life could Isabelle and George have had with other partners? How could Isabelle have coped with everything meted out to her without the deep female friendship from Mildred that later became a kind of comradeship on top of their existing friendship. Isabelle’s growth throughout the novel was authentic and compelling and I was left aching for more when I turned the last page. Many female characters written by male authors only make it feeling 95% authentic, all of Harris’ characters are the full 100%. His ability to empathise is clearly one of his major strengths as a writer. I have made up my own endings to many of the strands in the story, my favourite being Clementine and Elsy finding Prentiss again and I can see Isabelle’s fountain and feel Landry’s approval and pride in it every bit as much as he felt for the socks. Nathan Harris wins points from me for including knitting, especially my beloved sock knitting. It is a love language all of its own and it is utterly timeless and without boundary. Man or woman, black or white, living in the 19th, 21st and any other century stretching back to Ancient Egypt knitting has provided peace and meditation while also providing warmth and conveying love. Better than any debut novel has a right to be' - says Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize–winner and New York Times bestseller I couldn’t agree more and can’t wait to read more of Mr Harris’ work.

  12. 5 out of 5

    The Cookster

    Rating: 2.7/5 This debut novel from Nathan Harris, set shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War, left me with mixed feelings. The writing itself is very impressive and belies the fact that this is the author's first publication. There is a maturity and deftness of touch that would suggest it had come from the pen of a far more experienced writer. The descriptive language is incredibly evocative at times and some difficult and emotive subject matter is handled both delicately and ade Rating: 2.7/5 This debut novel from Nathan Harris, set shortly after the conclusion of the American Civil War, left me with mixed feelings. The writing itself is very impressive and belies the fact that this is the author's first publication. There is a maturity and deftness of touch that would suggest it had come from the pen of a far more experienced writer. The descriptive language is incredibly evocative at times and some difficult and emotive subject matter is handled both delicately and adeptly. On the downside, I had some issues with the pacing of the novel. This could, perhaps, be described as a "slow burner, but even making allowance for that approach, I found the first 40% of the book quite heavy going at times. Yes, the writing was still attractive, but I was crying out for some impetus to move the storyline forward. The second half of the novel makes for far more engaging reading in that respect. By setting "The Sweetness of Water" in this particular point in history, Nathan Harris is able to home in on some of the major social issues of the day - most notably, though not exclusively, racial prejudice. The concerning thing is that reading this material more than 150 years later, it is apparent these same social issues are still relevant and are far from being entirely resolved.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Ricky Schneider

    A tale of two brothers who are newly freed from slavery after the Emancipation Proclamation, The Sweetness of Water was a lavishly beautiful portrait of a small Southern town and it's colorful inhabitants as they grapple with the uncertainty of Reconstruction while still haunted by their traumatic past. Adding to the already tenuous state of the town of Old Ox is an illicit affair between two Confederate soldiers hidden within it's midst. With so many great debut novels lately, the fact that th A tale of two brothers who are newly freed from slavery after the Emancipation Proclamation, The Sweetness of Water was a lavishly beautiful portrait of a small Southern town and it's colorful inhabitants as they grapple with the uncertainty of Reconstruction while still haunted by their traumatic past. Adding to the already tenuous state of the town of Old Ox is an illicit affair between two Confederate soldiers hidden within it's midst. With so many great debut novels lately, the fact that this is Nathan Harris' first novel shouldn't be so astounding but it is. That he can write a sprawling and compelling story so intelligently, beautifully, and confidently at 29 is almost unforgivable. The deftness of his writing puts the reader immediately at ease and allows them to soak up every nuanced and emotionally charged moment. Harris manages to spin vividly authentic details into a sentence without any air of pretention while still infusing each page with rich prose to rival even the most seasoned and successful of authors. He is one to watch and I will pick up anything he puts out. The small town Southern setting is rich with realism and it's rugged landscape is rendered with graceful reverie and dreamlike serenity. Being from Georgia myself, I love to get lost in the backwoods of a small town like Old Ox and to get to know the diverse and multidimensional inhabitants that walk its roads and work its fields. Harris gives us rustic cabins to cozy up in, gorgeous depictions of nature to revel in and opulent mansions to marvel at. Every detail rings true in his vibrant vision of a historical small Southern town in all its glory and grit. Harris' characters are equally real and complex. George Walker is a flawed man but he will steal your heart and rip it out of your chest. His wife, Isabelle, is a quiet and nuanced supporter who blossoms beautifully over the course of the story. The two brothers, Landry and Prentiss, are unforgettable and wonderfully textured. Caleb, the Walkers' son, is frustratingly naïve in that bumbling boyish way but he has redeeming growth throughout the narrative. Mildred is loyal and loveable. Clementine is that enigmatic side character that demands her own novel. There are a few other nasty citizens of Old Ox but they are too dastardly to mention. Of course, Harris wouldn't let us down by simply creating a propulsive and entertaining story to enjoy without underpinning it with powerful themes and sprinkling in meaty metaphors and classic motifs. The "creature" that stalks the woods around the Walker's cabin is the most interesting and otherworldly element woven into the story that will mystify and menace the reader with many possible meanings and significance to interpret. The most prominent motif I noticed was the novel's titular propensity for water. All of this infuses an already stunning world with depth and heft that give the narrative an added impact that lingers long after the final page. The ending didn't quite satisfy me but I take it as a great sign when I simply cannot accept that the story is over. I want, no NEED more. I doubt there will be a sequel but I'm desperate to continue exploring Old Ox and its compelling characters! The Sweetness of Water was a perfect Juneteenth read and an unforgettable journey that completely enraptured me and stole my heart.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Meike

    Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 After A Town Called Solace, there's now also an Oprah's Book Club pick on the Booker longlist? Oh no no no... Longlisted for the Booker Prize 2021 After A Town Called Solace, there's now also an Oprah's Book Club pick on the Booker longlist? Oh no no no...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Donna Everhart

    My review, first published with the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book... My review, first published with the New York Journal of Books: https://www.nyjournalofbooks.com/book...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca

    I am brought to mind of Ta Nehesi Coates and Colson Whitehead as I read this well crafted story. Historically planted, inticrately woven, and beautifully brave and sad.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mocha Girl

    The Sweetness of Water is set in the 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 brot The Sweetness of Water is set in the 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!

  18. 4 out of 5

    Sharon Huether

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. In the early days of reconstruction, George and Isabelle Walker welcome two freed brothers, Landry and Prentiss on to their property. Landry and Prentiss helped George with the farming; lived in the barn and even ate dinner in George and Isabelle's home. After two returning soldiers had a tryst in the woods and their secret is uncovered there is a murder and chaos that takes over, involving the whole community. When Isabelle is the only one left, she has renewed strength and fortitude. She welcome In the early days of reconstruction, George and Isabelle Walker welcome two freed brothers, Landry and Prentiss on to their property. Landry and Prentiss helped George with the farming; lived in the barn and even ate dinner in George and Isabelle's home. After two returning soldiers had a tryst in the woods and their secret is uncovered there is a murder and chaos that takes over, involving the whole community. When Isabelle is the only one left, she has renewed strength and fortitude. She welcomes freed men and women to farm her acreage to make the farm beautiful once again. After two years they would own their plot of land. The writing is lyrical and has a feeling of peacefulness. Kudos to the author. this is his debut novel. I won this free book from Goodreads First reads.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Sarah-Hope

    The Sweetness of Water offers an interesting picture of the South during early Reconstruction. Slaves have been freed, but no one is paying them a living wage and many of them are still living and working where they did as slaves because of the lack of other options. George Walker, whose family comes from the North hires a pair of recently freed brothers to work on his land for $1 a day—much higher than the going rate—earning the wrath of everyone near him because he's setting up unreasonable ex The Sweetness of Water offers an interesting picture of the South during early Reconstruction. Slaves have been freed, but no one is paying them a living wage and many of them are still living and working where they did as slaves because of the lack of other options. George Walker, whose family comes from the North hires a pair of recently freed brothers to work on his land for $1 a day—much higher than the going rate—earning the wrath of everyone near him because he's setting up unreasonable expectations for Black workers. The town is nominally under Northern control, but the Union officer in charge is more interested in pleasing the town's wealthiest residents than in administering any kind of justice. I don't want to say any more about the plot than this because it would be too easy to give away something readers should discover on their own. I can say that the cast of characters is broad and interesting: George's independent-minded wife; his son who had been in an on-again, off-again gay relationship with a handsome fellow who's a bully; that bully; the two brothers George hires, who are trying to discover what "freedom" will actually mean for them; and a mix of other locals. None of these characters are window dressing or props to shine a light on a central character while having no role of their own. The reader may or may not like them, but Nathan Harris makes them real. I've read a number of underground railroad novels in the last few years. This is my first Reconstruction novel, and it's fascinating to move into that era and to "witness" how the war that was "over" continued to play out. This book is on Barak Obama's summer reading list—so if my recommendation isn't enough, bear that in mind. I received a free electronic review copy of this title from the publisher via Edelweiss; the opinions are my own.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Patience K Phillips

    Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water has a twist so unexpected. Thrust upon the plot early in this historical fiction read that it clutters the rest of the story. Lurking constantly. Though, the idea this is plausible. The outcome tragic. The story reminisces a slice in history suffering an ache we see today from a limited perspective. The book demonstrates not all southerners are alike. Many still carry reverberations experienced to this day while others quickly elected to follow the nations f Nathan Harris, The Sweetness of Water has a twist so unexpected. Thrust upon the plot early in this historical fiction read that it clutters the rest of the story. Lurking constantly. Though, the idea this is plausible. The outcome tragic. The story reminisces a slice in history suffering an ache we see today from a limited perspective. The book demonstrates not all southerners are alike. Many still carry reverberations experienced to this day while others quickly elected to follow the nations fought and won narrative. Offering support to all men are created equally in the best way they could at the onset of changes we still struggle to perfect today equitably. What I like most about the story is many of the voices of characters are unexpected and fresh. While those who are predictable are obviously the primary causation or all going a muck. Even though this setting takes place over a hundred years ago it’s very relatable today. I can understand why this was elevated to the Oprah listing. Now that I’ve finished am wondering myself how the heck is this a first time author so young. The story feels seasoned like a fine dining experience. Highly recommend the audio version. The voice dialects are a fun escape. I asked the library to purchase the audio and had no problem getting a copy as soon as I asked. Plus, bought a print copy to support the author for such incredible work. For me, this was a binge listen while enjoying yard work. I enjoyed emerging myself in the story deeply ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️💯

  21. 4 out of 5

    Jady Babin

    How could this be a debut? 👏 Major kudos to Nathan Harris for this accomplished historical fiction novel: ‘The Sweetness of Water’. Thank you, Oprah (no last name necessary) for bringing this novel to my attention. Following along with your “burning questions” and updates brought even more flavor to the book. Synopsis: In the fictional town of Old Ox, Georgia, at the birth of The Emancipation Proclamation, brothers, Prentiss and Landry are now free men. Their chance encounter with the Walker fam How could this be a debut? 👏 Major kudos to Nathan Harris for this accomplished historical fiction novel: ‘The Sweetness of Water’. Thank you, Oprah (no last name necessary) for bringing this novel to my attention. Following along with your “burning questions” and updates brought even more flavor to the book. Synopsis: In the fictional town of Old Ox, Georgia, at the birth of The Emancipation Proclamation, brothers, Prentiss and Landry are now free men. Their chance encounter with the Walker family leads to this story of loyalty, heartbreak and hope. 5 ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ and highly recommend to historical fiction fans. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

  22. 5 out of 5

    Sue Habib

    I'm so impressed that this beautiful book was written by a young debut author. I'm so impressed that this beautiful book was written by a young debut author.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Gary Branson

    Loved everything in this book, writing, characters, plot, setting. Well paced and thought provoking.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Goldson

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A profoundly moving story of slave emancipation, love, grief, and hope. George Walker thinks his son, Caleb, has died in the Civil War and wanders far from his home in the town of Old Ox in his grief. He comes across brothers Prentiss and Landry, who have been freed by a neighbouring farmer, because of the Emancipation. George gives the two brothers work on his farm and pays them a fair wage, in an attempt to assuage his grief through distraction, which soon brings him the inevitable unwelcome a A profoundly moving story of slave emancipation, love, grief, and hope. George Walker thinks his son, Caleb, has died in the Civil War and wanders far from his home in the town of Old Ox in his grief. He comes across brothers Prentiss and Landry, who have been freed by a neighbouring farmer, because of the Emancipation. George gives the two brothers work on his farm and pays them a fair wage, in an attempt to assuage his grief through distraction, which soon brings him the inevitable unwelcome attention from local landowners who feel he is denying veterans work whilst paying the brothers. George’s wife Isabelle comes to see the brothers as part of her own family, when Caleb, their son, returns from the war alive. Both Caleb and George recognise their own frailties and see themselves as essentially cowards who lack strength of character. Events soon bring the brothers, Caleb, George and Isabelle close together, and test their strength. I really identified with Isabelle and the way she has to live with the reality of what happens to her. In a lot of ways she is the bravest character in the book, as she watches her family get caught up in the fight to build an alliance that is anti-emancipation. She never loses hope. This book is really inventive. Nathan Harris has created a story that is both very modern and absolutely of its time. It has so many resonances with race issues in modern America, and is utterly profound, moving, and gripping. George is such a well drawn character: totally believable. Prentiss and Landry are too; Landry hardly speaks, but when he does, he speaks volumes. Character is very strong in this book, but the plotting is equally strong. The Sweetness of Water is such a powerful, magnificent book; I urge you to read it. The comparisons with Colson Whitehead are justified and I am looking forward to seeing what Harris writes next. Thanks to Amazon for an advance copy in exchange for an open and honest review.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Karen Mace

    This is a beautifully written, understated story that looks into the complexities of human relationships, especially at the time in America when the Civil War had just ended so many people were dealing with loss and a new way of life. It centres around 2 brothers and their relationship with George, a local man who shuns most human contact and finds it difficult to express his emotions. But the moment he finds these brothers on his land, he seems to connect with them and finds it easier to open up This is a beautifully written, understated story that looks into the complexities of human relationships, especially at the time in America when the Civil War had just ended so many people were dealing with loss and a new way of life. It centres around 2 brothers and their relationship with George, a local man who shuns most human contact and finds it difficult to express his emotions. But the moment he finds these brothers on his land, he seems to connect with them and finds it easier to open up to them than his own wife. His relationship with these 2 brothers angers many of the locals who find it strange and seems to antagonise many. With his wife on board for his vision for his land, we get to explore a number of relationships and the intricacies that come with them - friends, family, lovers.. - and it's the exploration of the male side of things that I really enjoyed reading about. How awkward someone can be with someone so close, yet so open and free with a 'stranger'. With resistance from the locals to his plans, George and his family find themselves being shunned because of their relationship with the brothers, and what followed is a story that's full of heartbreak, hope, determination and fight. The brothers share an extraordinary bond which makes their scenes even more touching, and makes some of the situations they find themselves in even more heartwrenching as things unfold. I loved the style of writing throughout, the action builds up slowly which allows you to connect more to each character and giving a number of characters their own voice allowed you to see more of the picture and understand the times. A staggering debut and a story that stays with you.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Gumble's Yard - Golden Reviewer

    Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize as well as an Oprah Book club pick – an impressive double for a debut novelist under 30. The book opens, in my view, very impressively for the first 150 pages or so – a restrained and different look at what initially seems like it is going to be a combination of say “Days Without End” and “Underground Railroad/Washington Black” and is marketed like that by its UK publishers. For this is US civil war/slave era historical fiction – a period which unfortunately se Longlisted for the 2021 Booker Prize as well as an Oprah Book club pick – an impressive double for a debut novelist under 30. The book opens, in my view, very impressively for the first 150 pages or so – a restrained and different look at what initially seems like it is going to be a combination of say “Days Without End” and “Underground Railroad/Washington Black” and is marketed like that by its UK publishers. For this is US civil war/slave era historical fiction – a period which unfortunately seems a rather unimaginative go to staple for UK literary prize juries (the 2017 Booker for example – one of the best longlists ever in terms of the literary reception and success of the books – had no fewer than three, including the winner “Lincoln in the Bardo”). The novel is set immediately after the end of the war in a small Georgian Town – Old Ox – coming to terms not just with its defeat but with the implications of the emancipation proclamation. The book opens with a landowner – George Walker – walking his fields at night and stumbling across two black men – the garrulous Prentiss and his silent slack-jawed brother Landry. For a fleeting moment he thinks they are a legendary beast his farmer father (from whom he inherited the 200 acre land) told him about and which he saw as a youngster. But rather than any confrontation or violence all of them seem rather lost in themselves. The brothers are freemen who have chosen to leave the neighbouring plantation – but have still to resolve on their future plans ,Landry in particular reluctant to rush into moving away from a familiar area. And George’s midnight walk is haunted both by news he has heard today from his son’s best friend (a well connected August Webler) that Caleb was killed in the war – news he still does not know how to break to his wife Isabelle. George, who has never been a farmer, but largely survived by selling of properties and parcels of land, decides to channel his grief into starting a peanut farm, paying Prentiss and Landry fair wages to assist him. When Caleb suddenly returns harbouring two secrets, of his own desertion and of his love for August, as well as the scars of some beatings at the hands of those who captured him – he finds that August is about to be married off by his rich father and is unwilling to acknowledge their relationship, and that rumours of his war actions are widespread. George and Isabel always had something of a distanced albeit loving marriage – both largely keeping themselves to themselves, both believing that the other is holding their true selves back. Caleb’s return and George’s scheme to involve the two freemen only seems to exacerbate this sense of distancing. He often had this same feeling in his own home, facing Isabelle: that the space, although shared, had been cordoned off, with invisible lines demarcating who belonged where. They spoke more than they had before, since the night she'd joined him at the table with Caleb and the brothers, but the cold front holding them apart was taking its time in dissipating, and meanwhile he walked around her like a child tiptoeing at night so as not to wake his mother. George’s only real consolation is a whore he pays to listen to the feelings he would feel weak if he shared with his wife. Isabel gains strong consolation in a close but non-sexual female relationship with a widow. Further both are considered something of outsiders – even Northerners – in the town and George’s decision to employ two blacks as fair-paid labourers when the town is full of out of work soldiers and other plantations (including his neighbours) are having to adjust to a sudden loss of their entire economic basis – only adds to this. Caleb is haunted both by his own cowardice and by August’s apparent rejection. We also learn more about Landry and Prentiss – their mother having been sold by the plantation slave owner, before that Landry inadvertently became for many years the literal whipping boy for all the others slaves misdemeanors, in a collective punishment devised after two of their number escape. Over time with the monthly beatings he retreated into silence – focused more on the natural world on the sound and sight of running water. For this period the novel becomes very much one of interiors – with the character’s thoughts, their pasts and their inability to communicate, much more central to the novel than their actions, the present day developments around them and their dialogue. And the book is all the better for it – and different both from what I had expected and more standard civil war/slavery novels. But then the outside world intrudes violently and disturbingly on their world – and I had something of an analogous feeling as a reader that the publisher and/or author’s need for a plot intruded on my own contemplation of the novel with a series of violent (but disappointingly cliched) acts and ideas: a brutal beating, a crooked sheriff, a bent judge, a horse theft, a jailbreak, a runaway black man and a pursuing posse, a sacrificial action, an arson attack and a friendship forged on the run. While I would not go anywhere near as far as the back-page quote from Richard Russo that “The result is better than any debut novel has a right to be” – I did think there was a lot of writing promise shown here and I will be interested to follow the writer’s career. I did also feel that this was a more measured and unusual debut than say “Real Life” by Brandon Taylor on last year’s Booker shortlist. That made the classic debut novel mistake of packing in too much of the author’s autobiographical essays and other writing ideas/exercises: this by contrast reads very much like a fully formed novel although one I wish had stuck to its initial understated intent rather than feeling the need to spiral into action. The Booker Judges citation to me implies that it was more the first part of the novel that engaged them as they said how they were incredibly impressed by the way it probes themes of trans-historical importance—about race, sexuality, violence, and grief—through meticulously-drawn characters and a patient examination of their relationships And on the characters I would say that those of George, Landry, Prentice, Caleb and particularly Isabelle are definitely meticulously drawn – those of many others (Austen’s father, the “Sheriff”, the nearby landowner) are more like borrowed caricatures or (like Austen himself) rough outline sketches. I would agree on the trans-historical importance – because ultimately this is a book about how differences need to be set aside and replaced by empathy if a nation is to be healed of racial divides – something as true for America now.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    Harris’s solid debut novel The Sweetness of Water is as good a first literary effort as you’ll find in today’s inundated publishing world. As far as an Oprah selection goes, Harris’s novel elevates above many of her choices, and comparisons of Harris’s work to Morrison’s Beloved, Jones’s The Known World, and Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad are inevitable and understandable. I’m unable to place The Sweetness of Water among the aforementioned classics, but I do see Harris’s talents as rivalin Harris’s solid debut novel The Sweetness of Water is as good a first literary effort as you’ll find in today’s inundated publishing world. As far as an Oprah selection goes, Harris’s novel elevates above many of her choices, and comparisons of Harris’s work to Morrison’s Beloved, Jones’s The Known World, and Whitehead’s The Underground Railroad are inevitable and understandable. I’m unable to place The Sweetness of Water among the aforementioned classics, but I do see Harris’s talents as rivaling the early work of Morrison, Jones, and Whitehead. The Sweetness of Water focuses on the small town of Old Ox, Georgia in the immediate days and months after the Civil War. George and Isabelle Walker are affluent Southern landowners besieged with grief over what they believe is the loss of their son in battle. With slaves now free to seek their own future, George hires two former bondmen, the brothers Prentiss and Landry, to assist him with clearing his land to plant a peanut crop. When events spiral into violence and chaos with the return of Confederate soldiers and the secrets a pair of them carry, George’s family and the freed brothers find themselves entwined in the terror that unleashes. Harris’s story takes many unexpected turns and goes in directions that I did not see coming, and his cast of well-drawn characters are uniquely complex and flawed in refreshingly original and intriguing ways. His prose is thoughtful, introspective, and often profound, although at some stretches awkward and stilted. I could not help thinking an overzealous editor kept insisting that Harris embellish his sentences to the point where sometimes their flow became muddled and the cerebral insights came off a little forced. Regardless of any shortfalls, Harris’s historical tale gripped and immersed me in the troubling atmosphere of the post-Civil War era. In addition, I greatly appreciated the hard-wrought hope he locates within the conditions and circumstances of madness he explores. The Sweetness of Water will remain prevalent in my mind due to its interesting characters and its skillfully-depicted historicity that echoes with tremendous relevance to the challenges we still face today in dealing with an acknowledgement of how the injustices of the past continue to inflict their horror on our present.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Alex Curtis

    “The Sweetness of Water” — the latest Oprah Book Club pick is a masterpiece. Nathan Harris’s debut novel is remarkable; that he’s only 29 is amazing. This book was an haunting Reconstruction era story about a community and family upended by war, scandal, and a new reality, especially at the time in America when the Civil War had just ended so many people were dealing with loss and a new way of life. Especially at the time in America when the Civil War had just ended so many people were dealing w “The Sweetness of Water” — the latest Oprah Book Club pick is a masterpiece. Nathan Harris’s debut novel is remarkable; that he’s only 29 is amazing. This book was an haunting Reconstruction era story about a community and family upended by war, scandal, and a new reality, especially at the time in America when the Civil War had just ended so many people were dealing with loss and a new way of life. Especially at the time in America when the Civil War had just ended so many people were dealing with loss and a new way of life.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dinah Moore

    I may be in the minority, but I feel completely let down by this book. Don't get me wrong, the writing was good and structurally sound, and I wouldn't believe this was a debut if I didn't know any better. But also, if I didn't know any better, I'd guess that a white person wrote this book. The story is so whitewashed I could barely stand it. I really thought this was going to be a post-antebellum story about the plight of two brothers experiencing newfound freedom. That isn't at all what I got. The I may be in the minority, but I feel completely let down by this book. Don't get me wrong, the writing was good and structurally sound, and I wouldn't believe this was a debut if I didn't know any better. But also, if I didn't know any better, I'd guess that a white person wrote this book. The story is so whitewashed I could barely stand it. I really thought this was going to be a post-antebellum story about the plight of two brothers experiencing newfound freedom. That isn't at all what I got. The blurb almost seems like a bait and switch. This isn’t Prentiss and Landry’s story. The narrative, in my opinion, seems to really focus on George and Isabelle and what they seemingly sacrificed to help two former enslaved men. Honestly, this should have been a DNF and it's a no for me. Am I the only one who has this opinion ? Did I misinterpret something ?

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Docherty

    I took a little hiatus from reading due to other commitments but how sweet it is to be back with this gorgeous, heartbreaking debut novel by Nathan Harris. Set in Georgia soon after the Emancipation Proclamation, the story of George, Isabelle, Caleb, Prentiss and Landry will take you on a journey to the Deep South, where there is forbidden love, restlessness, unlikely and unexpected friendships and in the end hope. The audiobook version was outstanding. Kudos to William DeMeritt.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...