Bonnie Jo Campbell visited the Today show to discuss her latest novel, The Waters, with hosts Jenna Bush Hager and Hoda Kotb.

Campbell’s novel, published earlier this month by Norton, follows a Michigan herbalist, Hermine “Herself” Zook, exploring her relationships with the people in her town and with her granddaughter, Donkey. A critic for Kirkus called the book, the #ReadWithJenna book club pick for January, “atmospheric, well written, and generally satisfying despite some overly familiar elements.”

Hager asked Campbell what kept her coming back to the novel, which took her almost 10 years to complete.

“I love these women,” Campbell replied. “I love Donkey; she’s my heart. I love the matriarch. I grew up in a family with a single mom, with five kids, and the most important work in the world was the work of the house…and keeping the family. So this book really allowed me to explore that.”

Kotb asked Campbell about the character of Donkey, who, like Campbell, is fascinated with mathematics.

“She’s adventurous, but she’s also looking around her at a chaotic world, and she wants it to make sense,” Campbell said. “And mathematics has a set of rules, and it has answers that are right or wrong. So she can take comfort in that even when events around her are swirling around and the community is in a little bit of chaos.”

Michael Schaub is a contributing writer.