An oasis in the midst of a countrywide drought sows more death than life in Chanter's intriguing debut.
At the center of Chanter's fractured narrative is The Well, a farm seemingly impervious to drought. Narrated by the farm's grudging yet reverent owner, Ruth Ardingly, the story shifts between her initial arrival from London with her husband, Mark, and her later release from prison to house arrest. The exact nature of her crime unfurls slowly and is inextricably linked to The Well. As the two timelines run parallel, we learn that Ruth and Mark left London not only to begin a new, less hectic life, but also to leave behind an allegedly unfounded child pornography complaint against Mark and reconnect with Mark's farming roots. The couple, along with their young grandson, Lucien, encounter difficulties fitting in with the close-knit community in Lenford, particularly when what began as a troubling dry spell turns into a full-fledged U.K. drought everywhere except The Well; while their neighbors' crops wither, rain continues to fall only on the Ardinglys' farm. Yet The Well does not bring only good tidings, and as word of its supposed restorative powers spreads, people flock to the farm. The Sisters of the Rose of Jericho, a bizarre religious order of nuns who take up residence on the property, play a key role and are easily the most fascinating characters.
Chanter's poetry background is evident, as the beauty of her prose often outshines the strength of the plot, but the story is compelling if not wholly gripping.