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Sister Water

Nancy Willard

Childhood Studies, Fiction

Landscapes of Childhood Series

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Paperback
Published: August 2005
ISBN: 9780814332443
Pages: 264 Size: 5.5x8
Review

Willard's gift for seamlessly mixing the magical and the mundane puts her in the company of Anne Tyler… Here she fashions a moving story about a family in crisis and the power of love to transcend reality.

— Publishers Weekly

The widowed Jessie Woolman, now in her seventies, her two married daughters, Ellen and Martha, and two grandchildren live in Ann Arbor, where the family owns a museum that harbors a meandering stream and historical artifacts of the region bounded by the rivers. Just as Jessie’s aging mind begins to wander, Ellen’s husband dies in a car accident and the Woolman family begins a new journey led by two very different men: Harvey Mack, a developer with an eye on the Woolman property and the grieving Ellen, and Sam Theopolis, a mystic hired to care for Jessie. Sam becomes both Harvey’s rival and a healing presence for the family until a crisis descends and he, too, needs the protection of the Woolmans’ innocent belief in the saving power of love.

Combining sorrow and grief with considerable light-hearted wit and eccentric characters, Sister Water is a novel that will reach old and young readers alike. Through her lyrical prose, author Nancy Willard draws on the rich style of magical realism to create a narrative flow that is at once powerful and seductive. Important to the Landscapes of Childhood series, this novel raises significant questions about the state of childhood and how that state affects adult sensibilities.

Nancy Willard is a lecturer in English at Vassar College. She is the author of two novels, Things Invisible to See (Knopf, 1994) and Sister Water, and eleven books of poetry—the most recent of which is Swimming Lessons (Knopf, 1996). In addition to being a poet, essayist, and novelist, she is a noted writer of children’s books, including A Visit to William Blake’s Inn (Harcourt Children’s Books, 1981), which was nominated for the National Book Award and was the first poetry book to win the Newbery Medal.

Willard's gift for seamlessly mixing the magical and the mundane puts her in the company of Anne Tyler. . . . Here she fashions a moving story about a family in crisis and the power of love to transcend reality."

– Publishers Weekly

Willard's literary gifts grace this novel with a remarkable immanence. . . . Once immersed in the Woolmans' lives, the pure and magical state of being that surrounds these perfectly drawn characters surrounds the reader, as well."

– Booklist

Imagine Marc Chagall as a novelist-creating works entirely of gorgeous, sunlit water and magical, poignant creatures-and you'll have an idea what it's like to read Sister Water."

– Chicago Tribune

Willard's invention and lyricism, the splash of her wit, the glancing slyness of her dialogue, all have the fresh breath of a first-rate winner."

– New York Times Book Review

Lilting, wacky, wistful. . . Willard possesses a delightfully wry voice, but she also has an ear for whimsy. Fiction lovers who don't quite believe in wings might take a chance on this novel anyhow: Only dedicated stone hearts will get to the end without melting, just a little bit."

– Los Angeles Times

Captivating. . . . A luminous, lyrical novel about familial love and loss that almost literally hums with the power of her language."

– New York Times