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Sweetwater: A Novel [Kindle Edition]

Roxana Robinson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $15.00
Kindle Price: $9.99
You Save: $5.01 (33%)
Sold by: Random House LLC

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Book Description

In this brilliant, luminous novel, one of our finest realist writers gives us a story of surpassing depth and emotional power. Acclaimed for her lucid and compassionate exploration of the American family, Roxana Robinson sets her new work on familiar terrain—New York City and the Adirondacks—but with Sweetwater she transcends the particulars of the domestic sphere with a broader, more encompassing vision. In this poignant account of a young widow and her second marriage, Robinson expands her scope to include the larger natural world as well as the smaller, more intimate one of the home.

Isabel Green’s marriage to Paul Simmons, after the death of her first husband, marks her reconnection to life—a venture she’s determined will succeed. But this proves to be harder than she’d anticipated, and the challenges of starting afresh seem more complicated in adulthood. Staying at the Simmons lodge for their annual summer visit, Isabel finds herself entering into a set of familial complexities. She struggles to understand her new husband, his elderly, difficult parents and his brother, whose relationship with Paul seems oddly fraught. Furthermore, her second marriage begins to cast into sharp relief the troubling echoes of her first. Isabel’s professional life plays a part as well: a passionate environmental advocate, she is aware of the tensions within the mountain landscape itself during a summer of spectacular beauty and ominous drought.

In her cool, elegant prose, Robinson gracefully delivers a plot that is complex, surprising and ultimately wrenching in its impact. As the strands of family are woven tightly and inevitably together, and as the past painfully informs the present, the vivid backdrop of the physical world provides its own eloquent dynamic. Sweetwater is a stunning achievement by a writer at the peak of her craft.


From the Hardcover edition.


Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Critically acclaimed but not well known, Robinson will reach a broader audience with this hold-your-breath novel of loss and love. Devoted to her work for Environmental Protection Resources, Isabel is trying hard to recover from the shock of her first husband's death. She likes Paul's thoughtfulness and convinces herself that a peaceful rather than passionate second marriage is appropriate. Loving wilderness, she embarks optimistically on a vacation in the Adirondacks with Paul's parents and brother, Whitney. But rather than contentedly contemplating nature, Isabel finds herself embroiled in tricky family conflicts. Alarmed by Paul's simmering fury and dangerously attracted to Whitney, she is assailed by painful memories of her harrowing first marriage, which Robinson skillfully sets in chilling counterpoint to the increasingly heated dynamics of Isabel's present predicament. As family strife turns incendiary, forest fires erupt on the drought-afflicted landscape, and Isabel fights for her life in an emotional and literal inferno. Writing with rapturous intensity of nature both wild and human, Robinson forges a love story of unusual complexity and satisfaction. Donna Seaman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

Review

Sweetwater is a repository for all of Roxana Robinson’s writerly gifts, most notably her keen eye for the details that make up the veneer of social and familial life and her awareness of the darker psychic rivers that run below that surface. She is a master at moving from the art of description to the work of excavating the truths about ourselves.” —Billy Collins

“There is such quiet power in this fateful novel, present from the start and gathering to its culmination: a story of loss and remarriage, and of the harm done to, and by, vulnerable men and women. This is cool, intrepid writing, not a word wasted, creating a human tension that reflects our endangered world.” —Shirley Hazzard

“In four previous works of fiction, Robinson established herself as an astute and sensitive chronicler of domestic tensions, particularly among affluent families in wealthy enclaves of Manhattan and exclusive summer abodes. Here she broadens her canvas to introduce larger social issues....Sweetwater succeeds as a moving study of a woman’s emergence from a suffocating life.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)


From the Hardcover edition.

Product Details

  • File Size: 592 KB
  • Print Length: 354 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0812967348
  • Publisher: Random House (December 18, 2007)
  • Sold by: Random House LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B000XUBE2K
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #127,963 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars wonderfully written and absorbing March 31, 2005
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
This is the second book I have read by this author. She has an astounding talent for weaving a story. One thing she can do that many people can't is description. Detailing everyday events in ordinary people's lives turns tedious and boring in the hands of many writers. With this author, reading her description is like listening to a beautiful piece of music. Her plots center around tensions between people stuck together whether they like it or not (usually family members), and build to a catastrophic crescendo. The last part of this book is lived by the reader along with the characters. She also knows her subject matter. She gave a really accurate picture of what is was like for a person suffering from a major mental health disorder, and for the person's family. She made the valid point that no matter how supportive and sympathetic others may be, they can't cure the condition. She also gets across the fact that other people's behavior, good or bad, does not cause the condition (although it may help or aggravate it). The illness is no one's fault. I also liked her discussions of environmental issues, including the argument around the family dinner table (think back on it when you have finished the book). I personally will want to get my hands on everything this author publishes.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Lion in Water July 11, 2005
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Roxana Robinson, author of the unforgettable "This Is My Daughter," returns to the topic of broken families in "Sweetwater."

Isabel Green, the book's passive-aggressive protagonist (you could hardly call her its hero) has in her mid-40s drifted into her second marriage, to Paul Simmons, after the death of her first husband; and she is now visiting her inlaws--in their summer lodge in New York State's Adirondacks area. For the first time she meets her parents-in-law, Douglas and Charlotte, and her brother-in-law Whit. Against a background of drought and the possibility of forest fires, an old family feud is played out in front of Isabel--who's exactly the wrong person to be the audience. She's one of those people who can take any bad situation and make it worse.

Isabel's a mess. She works in environmental protection and has spent her entire adult life in New York, Baltimore, London, and New York again. Now she's actually seeing "the environment" for the first time; it's more than she expected. In flashbacks we learn that her first husband was bipolar and suffered from serious bouts of depression. She has an adolescent son she has no idea how to talk to (she won't discuss drugs with him because she's afraid she might learn he's taking them); and when she calls her first husband's doctor to learn how he is progressing with his latest treatments, she is curtly told he cannot discuss the case with her (implying she's the cause of his illness), and she does not even confront him.

Roxana Robinson relates all this in a lean photorealist prose style. There is no excess; but she tells you everything you need to know. Her descriptive passages are so lush, you'll probably smell the fish in the water, and the smoke and ash of an oncoming forest fire.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant exploration into the heart September 11, 2003
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
This novel caught me by surprise. I expected the writing to be good, but it's nearly perfect. Robinson has created highly believable characters and a story line that grips from beginning to end. The persona of Isabel is beautifully wrought. The reader can worry about her, get annoyed with her, understand and love her. As for her new family: I felt as if Robinson invited me to stand in a corner of that rustic retreat and observe the action. It was a great visit.
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12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
I loved this book.
Intensity of time and place similar to Stegner's Crossing to Safety.
Main character, Isabel, is a grown up woman (what a nice change!) going with her second husband to meet his family at their compound in the Adirondacks. This plot is successfully interspersed with her thoughts of her first marriage, work, and grown child.
Isabel is an environmentalist, and her sometimes lectures on the subject evoke Kingsolver.
Somewhat predictable in part, but a cliffhanger ending redeems it.
Refreshing to read about a successful adult woman dealing with themes of love, abandonment, mothering, career, identity.
Very well written, engrossing.
I will be discussing this with my bookclubs when it comes out in paperback.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my all time favorite novels!!!! May 17, 2005
Format:Paperback
I love the written word and enjoy many authors. I enjoy them so much that I forgive inaccuracies and suspend belief for the sake of the story. I also forgive just adequate writing because an author's characters and plot are well developed. But with Roxana Robinson's novel Sweetwater, none of that was necessary. All I had to do was settle in and devour what has become one of my all-time favorite novels.

Isabel Green took a vacation from life following the death of her first husband. Then she met Paul Simmons, married him because it seemed right, and attempted to reconnect again with the world.

Seven months after her marriage to Paul, he and Isabel travel to the Simmons' summer lodge in the Adirondacks. There Isabel struggles to connect with and understand her husband, his complicated parents and his brother, who appears to have a thorny relationship with Paul. Isabel's time at the lodge brings up the painful reality of her first marriage and awakens feelings that she doesn't understand - and that evoke guilt.

Everything in Robinson's book is married to the environment, reflects the delicate balance between nature and the humans that inhabit the world, and speaks of the author's deep relationship with nature.

Robinson's prose is fluid; her character's are complex, rich with flaws and deep emotions. The plot is compelling and unique. It is expertly constructed and the ending is both sad and satisfying at the same time. I can't wait to read Robinson's other works.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
2.0 out of 5 stars Sweetwater, name misleading
Sweet water has a lingering after taste unlike the book which is immediately forgettable . Shallow plot and character development.
Published 4 months ago by Nancy Gall
5.0 out of 5 stars She Memorized His Life Like a New Language
Roxana Robinson is one of the great modern American writers. Her books weave thematic threads that evolve into a rich, complete tapestry of life. Read more
Published on September 15, 2010 by Eileen Granfors
4.0 out of 5 stars largely worth the read
Robinson is a fine writer; she certainly believes her novels should tell stories. While "Cost" examined heroin addiction, "Sweetwater" centres around mental problems in young... Read more
Published on April 3, 2010 by Julian Faigan
5.0 out of 5 stars Regrets and Revision, Deep in the Catskills
...and I was right. What a tremendous book. A woman makes the terrible mistake of marrying in haste for very understandable and realistic reasons, and must repent at leisure. Read more
Published on September 26, 2009 by Pasiphae
4.0 out of 5 stars Engrossing, complex characters
This was hard to put down. Robinson dissects the fine points of the human character with wit and compassion, but delves further into the twists and turns that make up human... Read more
Published on May 18, 2009 by Ms. Captain
5.0 out of 5 stars I loved it!!!!
Roxana Robinson is fast becoming one of my favorite authors! Her skills at bringing to life her characters is unmatched. I loved "Cost"....very compelling..... Read more
Published on April 10, 2009 by Life long reader
4.0 out of 5 stars a well written novel
Sweetwater is, on the whole, a very engaging novel. Unfortunately I read it after Ms. Robinson's best yet--Cost--so I could not give Sweetwater a five-star. Read more
Published on September 7, 2008 by C. E. Selby
3.0 out of 5 stars 50/50 Review
A compelling premise about a woman who marries too soon after her first husband dies. The consequences of making a choice to be merely "content" are great for the main character,... Read more
Published on August 4, 2007 by Karen Harrington
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but not great
This was an interesting attempt to tell the story of a woman's life and loves. I thought the parts in the present, about her marriage to Paul and visit to his family, were... Read more
Published on December 10, 2005 by J. Rosenberg
5.0 out of 5 stars A Rich Read
I was truly drawn in by this novel. The evolution of the characters was fascinating and the climatic scenes made my heart pound! I loved reading this one.
Published on May 9, 2005 by Reader
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More About the Author

Roxana Robinson is the author of nine books: five novels, three story collections, and the biography of Georgia O'Keeffe. Four of these were New York Times Notable Books.
Robinson was born in Kentucky, but grew up in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. She attended Bennington College and graduated from the University of Michigan. She worked in the art world, specializing in the field of American painting, before she began writing full-time. Her most recent novel, Sparta, won the James Webb Award for Distinguished Fiction from the USMC Heritage Foundation. Her previous novel, Cost, received the Fiction Award from the Maine Publishers and Writers Association. Her work has appeared in The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper's, Tin House, Best American Short Stories, and elsewhere. She was a finalist for the NBCC Balakian Award for Criticism and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Guggenheim Foundation. She teaches at Hunter College, is a former member of the board of PEN, and is currently the President of the Authors Guild.

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