The National Post put me on to Cool Water by Dianne Warren in their review by Kathleen Govier. It’s a novel, but with a lyrical structure of intertwined short stories. Set in a small Saskatchewan town, it follows the lives of individuals and families over the period of a few days. As in a small town where everyone knows everyone’s business, these stories intersect. The reader is able to look down on the town and watch as the stories overlap and interconnect. We read of a mother struggling to cope with her children as the family farm is in the process of being repossessed; the bank manager who knows too much about too many people in the town; a young man, adopted by Norwegian immigrants, who has inherited their farm and is anxious about his ability to manage it; a woman passing through town who loses a horse, inadvertently causing a rift between the owner of a diner and her husband; and a man and the widow of his brother who share a home and run the town’s drive-in.
While it is true to say that many of these tales are of loneliness, it’s not a depressing book. Rather, we watch how people cope with being alone, with striving to make a life in a small town where possibilities of social intercourse are perhaps limited. The setting is rural, but the emotions of living with others but still feeling alone, or of living alone and dwelling in the past could really take place anywhere. Warren’s characters are incredibly rich and well-drawn and I felt drawn into their lives. She has created a world that, as the reader, you fell you inhabit. The dryness of blowing sand, the heat off the sidewalk, the sweat under a saddle all jump off the page. An ideal summer read.