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.

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Reader Reviews

Praise

“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, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Bridge of Sighs
“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, author of the national bestseller The House of Broken Angels
"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, National Book Award finalist and author of Bowlaway
"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, author of the international bestseller Remember Me Like This
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