THE FORMS OF WATER by Andrea Barrett


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 Barrett (The Middle Kingdom, 1991, etc.) returns with her specialty--a story about the tangled web of a family told in prose that's spun smooth as silk. Years ago, when a chunk of western Massachusetts was taken by eminent domain and flooded to make a reservoir to provide drinking water for Boston, the Auberon family lost their home, their town, their very core. Now, Brendan Auberon--80 years old, crippled, and confined to a wheelchair--knows he doesn't have much time left. His dearest wish is to journey to that reservoir, just to be near the place where he was once so happy. To act on this wish, he enlists the help of his hapless nephew Henry. The two men take off in a van that belongs to Brendan's nursing home, and they unwittingly start up a veritable parade of Auberon descendants who--motivated by greed, fear, and their own skewed version of love--also take off for Massachusetts. What ensues is their own Midsummer Night's Dream, complete with mysterious herbal potions, star-crossed lovers, and lost youths roaming the forest. Unfortunately, when the dust settles, it turns out not to have been fairy dust--and not too many dreams come true here. The strength this time around lies in Barrett's fine writing and the haunting power of the water, rising to fill that reservoir. It was a real event, but like the best of fiction writers, Barrett makes it more than real. We feel the loss of all those flooded towns, all those drowned dreams. Surprisingly, though, the Auberons, with the exception of Brendan, seem to miss the point. There's no baptism or renewal for this leaden bunch-- they do their best to sink their own story. Strong currents, clear writing, but a crew of characters that misses the boat.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-671-79521-X
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Pocket
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993


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