Summary and book reviews of By Way of Water by Charlotte Gullick

By Way of Water

by Charlotte Gullick

By Way of Water
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  • Published:
    Aug 2002, 256 pages

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Book Summary

A heartfelt novel about the legacies of love, faith and violence, and the private rules we set for ourselves when the world seems irreconcilably misaligned.

Struggling to feed their children in an unforgiving California forest when all the logging jobs are gone, Jake and Dale Colby make personal vows that can only make matters worse. Jake will not accept help--from the government or his neighbors--and Dale won't allow him to hunt. She believes her faith will sustain them. He believes in nothing.

But one other member of the family makes a promise to herself. Seven-year-old Justy believes that she alone can hold the family together, even when Jake's violence surfaces again.

Narrated by this gentle, even wise young girl, this moving story reveals a family's most volatile emotions and private aspirations, like old-growth trees through an inland fog. With a clear insight and the deepest empathy, young Justy isolates the stark realities around her, even as she dreams with her mother of a safe world that only God can promise.

By the final pages of Charlotte Gullick's powerful debut novel, we discover--along with Justy--how to heal the lesions that appear when obligation is delivered against human nature.

Justy stood at the window, thinking about the snow, the house a fortress of shadows, and traced a river on the windowpane, a deer leaping over the jagged line of water. Anything not to feel her stomach tumble in hunger again. She tried to remember the last time the lights were on—maybe a week ago—and she wished Jake would pick up the fiddle and distract them, like he'd done every night this week. Before he'd gone into Sullivan's with the can of pennies and tried to buy food. Before Dale had broken one of her baptismal promises to Jehovah. As the silences swelled in the dark house, Justy gathered to her the sure knowledge that something was breaking; she heard it beneath the softness of the falling snow. She looked out into the night and asked Jehovah to take something from her, to help Jake and Dale find a way. She traced another river and watched it slide down the glass. Then Jake stood up from the kitchen table, his shadow raging on the wall.

"I'll do it...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

Booklist - Michele Leber

Gullick deftly touches on wider issues of environmentalism and racism, and her characters are well drawn. A heartfelt first novel.

Kirkus Reviews

An impoverished family tries to scrape by during hard times in the backwoods of northern California....Rambling and unfocused a nicely written debut tale that meanders slowly in no particular direction.

Publishers Weekly

Gullicks debut novel is a lovingly rendered story of a family and a community surrendering angrily to changing times..... few authors have paid attention to characters descended from Steinbeck's and Norris's, and its refreshing to see a novel that does justice to this forgotten pocket of the country.

Reader Reviews

sonny

Beautiful imagery, strong characters, difficult topics. All of it well done. This a book that can be ready many times over.

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