LIFE WITHOUT WATER by Nancy Peacock

LIFE WITHOUT WATER

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

 First-novelist Peacock offers a canny child's-eye view of a euphoric but ultimately fragile experiment in communal living. The narrator, Cedar, was born in 1969 in North Carolina. Her mother Sara, devastated at the time by the recent death of her brother Jimmie in Vietnam, had succumbed to the seductions of bandana-wearing Sol and had moved with him into an abandoned house without plumbing, where the two lived off the proceeds of Sol's dope dealing. Sol draws on the walls and paints the floor like a rainbow, and when Cedar is born, he has 60 friends over to celebrate. When Cedar is four, Sara puts her mattress in the van and she and Cedar leave--the house is cold and Sol passes out too often. Heading into Taos, the van breaks down, and handsome Daniel gives Sara and Cedar a lift. He has a girlfriend but falls for Sara anyway, and soon the trio is headed back to North Carolina, to the house that they're sure Sol couldn't have kept up on his own. Acquaintances Woody and Elaine and their two kids move in, too. Elaine bakes, Woody makes pots, and the children become best friends, and Sara is pregnant with Daniel's baby. Then Woody invites griping, unpleasant Topaz to stay, and suddenly Daniel is reading poetry to her, and then he's moved into her bedroom. Sara takes to her own bed, where she's nursed by Cedar; Daniel skulks in Topaz's room, sneaking down at night to steal food. And then Topaz is pregnant. She departs, and Daniel wants back into the family, but the house burns down and everyone's idyll is over. College-age Cedar's recollections are both wise and forgiving and add up to a complex blend of undiluted nostalgia for those anarchic days with the warmth of her extended family, and a clear-eyed view of the complexities within that edenic world. In an accomplished debut, a dead-on rendition of the idealism and the emotional flux of an untraditional household.

Pub Date: Oct. 3rd, 1996
ISBN: 1-56352-337-X
Page count: 176pp
Publisher: Longstreet
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996