The Waters: A Novel (Hardcover)
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 and eccentric 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 estranged daughters. The youngest—the beautiful, inscrutable, and lazy 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. Rage simmers below the surface of this divided community, and those on both sides of the divide have closed their doors against the enemy. The only bridge across the waters is Rose Thorn.
With a “ruthless and precise eye for the details of the physical world” (Jane Smiley, 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 is the author of six works of fiction, including American Salvage, finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award, and Once Upon a River, a national bestseller. The recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, AWP’s Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, and a Pushcart Prize, she lives outside Kalamazoo, Michigan, with donkeys.
Bonnie Jo Campbell has quietly become one of our best writers. She brings news you haven’t heard before, and that’s why I read. Her new novel, The Waters, is written in prose strong and lyrical, and tells a story so deeply rooted in a specific place that the accumulation of details approaches the magical.
— Daniel Woodrell, author of Winter’s Bone
Bonnie Jo Campbell’s The Waters is a novel, a living myth, and a place.… Imagine a mash-up of Flannery O’Connor and the Brothers Grimm, of Angela Carter’s reimagined fairy tales and William Faulkner’s gothic sublime. And yet, The Waters is all Bonnie Jo. If you’ve read her, you know what I mean, how she sees and evokes us, and this land we inhabit, covered in mayapples and dogwood, cuntshells and quickmuck, with a masterful, tender objectivity. The Waters is no utopia. It is muddy and bloody; it swallows us whole and effervesces into fog. It is the magic we’d inhabit if we still believed in magic, the dream we’d have if we could sleep.
— Diane Seuss, Pulitzer Prize–winning author of Frank: Sonnets
The Waters will suck you into its muddy gut and not let go.… A powerful, fragrant, readable, almost edible novel. In The Waters, Bonnie Jo Campbell, who understands the women and men of the no-longer-prosperous rural Midwest better than anyone, dreams up a marshy Northwoods township where factual flora and fauna, soil quality and agricultural practice, demographics and religious affiliation somehow share a long, dotted, antic boundary line with Oz and The Blue Fairy Book, with märchen, folkways, and ancient myth.
— Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award–winning author of Lord of Misrule