• Literary Guild Alternate selection • Barnes and Noble Discover Award finalist • Readers Digest Condensed Book • Highly Recommended, Library Journal
“Kline keeps us glued to the page.”
“A compelling psychological study of bitterness, guilt and fear.”
– Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Cassie Simon, an artist living in New York City, is willed a house a sixty acres of land in Sweetwater, Tennessee, by her grandfather, Amory Clyde – a man she never knew, and the last man to see her mother alive. Impulsively, Cassie decides to move to the town where her mother, Ellen, died tragically when Cassie was only three. As soon as she arrives in Sweetwater, Cassie begins to discover the artist within herself and uncover a tangle of family secrets that have been kept for nearly twenty five years.
Described as both a Southern literary saga and a psychological thriller, this beautifully wrought novel unfolding a daughter’s search for the truth about her mother’s death marks the debut of an extraordinary writer. A mysterious bequest, a mother’s terrible death, and a daughter’s search for the truth about the past yields taut suspense in this powerful first novel. Told in the alternating voices of Cassie, an artist, and Clyde, her Southern grandmother, Kline vividly captures the cultural differences between the North and the South, as well as the generation gap between the two women.
Cassie Simon, a young sculptor living in New York, is tired of the city. When her grandfather, Amory, dies and leaves her his house in Sweetwater, Tennessee, she takes it as a sign and decides to move to the little town where her mother, Ellen, was born – and where she died tragically when Cassie was three. So begins a spiritual and emotional quest of rare power, as Cassie attempts to unravel the Clyde family myths about the accident that shattered their lives. As Cassie delves into the thicket of mystery that surrounds her mother’s death, Clyde determines to keep the truth – or what she thinks is the truth – from her granddaughter. The closer Cassie gets to unraveling the family myths, the more the reader understands the internal battles each woman fights as she comes to terms with Ellen’s untimely death.
Each discovery propels more questions. Why did Ellen let her father drive her into town that night when she knew he was drunk? Why does Clyde seem so withdrawn and nervous as Cassie settles into the house? Is it just a coincidence that Clyde’s best friend, Bryce Davies, drowned only a few weeks before Ellen’s death? And why did Amory leave Cassie this house in the first place?
The climax of Sweet Water (HarperCollins, 1993) reveals the desperate measures the human heart is capable of, the damage that unresolved guilt and buried secrets can inflict, and the redemptive power of memory and forgiveness.
”Kline’s first novel is a captivating read. In alternating sections told from their respective points of view, Cassie and her about the tragedy that marks both of their lives. Kline perfectly renders each woman’s voice: Cassie’s, probing and often uncertain, propels the narrative and creates an appropriate level of psychological suspense; the grandmother’s quavers with the weight of memory as Cassie’s search forces her beyond family myth to a painful and perhaps dangerous truth. The result is a powerful, immensely readable tale of loyalty and betrayal, family and memory, made fresh by Kline’s often beautiful and always lucid prose.”
– Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Kline blends satisfying storytelling skills with psychological chills. This book is filled with secrets – as well as love, hate, revenge, and guilt. Highly recommended.”
– Library Journal (Named “One of the Most Promising New Novelists of the Year”)
“The family arena, so rich in emotions and dramatic possibilities, is the setting, and Sweet Water, with its dark secrets and charged atmosphere, could easily have gone over the top. But Kline skirts the pitfalls of her material nicely. Cassie’s natural voice sets the tone. A thoughtful, humorous, believable woman, she holds our attention until the end.”
– Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Sweet Water is one of those books that is a discovery. I started it because it’s set in Sweetwater, Tennessee. I read it through because it sings … The novel shifts back and forth between the voices of Cassie and her grandmother Clyde, and Clyde’s voice flows like music … A story of the small-town South that rings with poetry and truth.”
– Knoxville News Sentinel
“An impressive first novel.”
– Orlando Sentinel
“What makes Christina Baker Kline’s first novel, Sweet Water, go is Cassie’s persistent uncovering of family secrets … Kline’s use of Cassie and Clyde as alternating narrators give the story added dimension, the young woman’s eager pursuit of the facts juxtaposed nicely against the old woman’s bitter retrospectives. Kline keeps us glued to the page.”
– Boston Globe
– New York Times Book Review