book cover of The Sweetness of Water
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The Sweetness of Water

(2021)
A novel by

 
 
Awards
Booker Prize Best Novel (nominee)
LONGLISTED FOR THE 2021 BOOKER PRIZE AND SHORTLISTED FOR THE 2022 DYLAN THOMAS PRIZE

A TIMES BEST PAPERBACK 2022, NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER 2021, OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK AND BARACK OBAMA SELECTION


'A fine, lyrical novel, impressive in its complex interweaving of the grand and the intimate, of the personal and political' Observer

Landry and Prentiss are two brothers born into slavery, finally freed as the American Civil War draws to its bitter close. Cast into the world without a penny to their names, their only hope is to find work in a society that still views them with nothing but intolerance.

Farmer George Walker and his wife Isabelle are reeling from a loss that has shaken them to their core. After a chance encounter, they agree to employ the brothers on their land, and slowly the tentative bonds of trust begin to blossom between the strangers.

But this sanctuary survives on a knife's edge, and it isn't long before a tragedy causes the inhabitants of the nearby town to turn their suspicion onto these new friendships, with devastating consequences.

'[A] highly accomplished debut' Sunday Times

Readers have been swept away by The Sweetness of Water:

'Such a powerful, magnificent book; I urge you to read it. The comparisons with Colson Whitehead are justified' *****


'A staggering debut and a story that stays with you' *****


'Thought-provoking and moving . . . a gripping and compelling novel that exposes flaws, mixed emotions and imperfect relationships, and yet it holds on with determination and hope. It fully deserves a 5-star rating' *****


'Outstanding . . . A book that deserves widespread recognition and a wide audience' *****




Genre: Literary Fiction

Praise for this book

"The Sweetness of Water is gorgeous and deeply affecting in the tradition of James McBride and Colson Whitehead, but the book's unforgettable gift is Nathan Harris's unique voice and breathtaking vision. I cannot recall such an assured, accomplished, or extraordinarily imagined debut. Trust me, reader: Harris is a novelist of the highest order, a writer with impossibly rare talents and still rarer heart." - Bret Anthony Johnston

"Nathan Harris is, plainly, one of the most exciting new writers I've read in years. He has a profound understanding of the human soul---and of the vast variety of human souls on the earth---and writes sentences of immense beauty and strangeness. His work is funny and wrenching, brilliant and exact. The Sweetness of Water is an extraordinary book, and just the start of an extraordinary career." - Elizabeth McCracken

"What a gifted, assured writer Nathan Harris is. He does what all novelists are supposed to do—give birth to vivid characters, people worth caring about, and then get out of their way. The result is better than any debut novel has a right to be. With The Sweetness of Water, Harris has, in a sense, unwritten Gone With the Wind, detonating its phony romanticism, its unearned sympathies, its wretched racism." - Richard Russo

"To open Nathan Harris’s first novel is to enter a trance. I can’t think of any other book out there quite like it. The richness of his language and the exquisite details of the lives he creates produce a kind of waking dream, equally lyrical and threatening." - Luis Alberto Urrea


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