SWEET WATER by Christina Baker Kline


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 An ambitious but somewhat undercooked southern gothic psychological thriller from first-time author Kline. Cassie Simon is 27, a sculptor living in N.Y.C., working in an art gallery, having an affair with the gallery's owner, a womanizer, when her maternal grandfather dies and inexplicably leaves the Clyde family house and land in Sweet Water, Tennessee, to her. Although Cassie hasn't seen any of the Clydes since she was three--when her mother, Ellen, was killed in a car accident caused by the grandfather, who was drunk behind the wheel--Cassie decides to move down to Sweet Water and get to know her mother's family while she pursues her art. However, the family--Ellen's mother, called Clyde, and a sister named Elaine and a brother Horace--isn't especially glad to see Cassie; they think she's here to resurrect the scandals surrounding her mother's death and the earlier mysterious drowning of a townswoman named Bryce Davies. Naturally, Cassie becomes curious--just as her grandfather hoped she would when he left her the house, which she searches from attic to basement, discovering letters filled with family secrets. In alternating first-person narratives, she and grandmother Clyde, at first archenemies, eventually both come to terms with the fact Cassie's grandfather was not only a drunk but also a womanizer; that Clyde, who for a quarter-century has been suspected of murdering her husband's mistress Bryce, can now be forgiven for having simply rejoiced when Bryce died accidentally; and that Cassie's grandfather, although weak, did not murder his own daughter in revenge for the death of his mistress. Trouble is, the reader already knows all of this long before it's revealed, often awkwardly, in stormy late-night scenes. Meanwhile, Cassie has fallen for her aunt Elaine's adopted son Troy, who in the end takes her away from it all, to live with him in Atlanta. Deus ex machina. Unfortunately, the plot often creaks.

Pub Date: June 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-06-019033-7
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 1st, 1993

Kirkus Interview
Christina Baker Kline
author of ORPHAN TRAIN
May 12, 2014

Novelist Christina Baker Kline shares with Kirkus TV why she thinks readers have connected so well with her runaway bestseller, Orphan Train, and why it was surprising to her that more people don't know about the lost American history of the 20th century she reveals in the novel. View video >


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