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Publisher's Summary

An Instant New York Times Best Seller / An Oprah’s Book Club Pick

President Obama’s Summer 2021 Reading List 

Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence
Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize
Longlisted for the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Excellence
Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, “a miraculous debut” (Washington Post)​ and “a towering achievement of imagination” (CBS This Morning)about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever - from “a storyteller with bountiful insight and assurance” (Kirkus)

Washington Post and Oprah Daily Best Book of the Year
New York Times Book Review Editors’ Choice
A July Indie Next Pick

In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry - freed by the Emancipation Proclamation - seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.

With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.

©2021 Nathan Harris (P)2021 Little, Brown & Company

Critic Reviews

"Harris’s debut novel is remarkable; that he’s only 29 is miraculous. His prose is burnished with an antique patina that evokes the mid-19th century. And he explores this liminal moment in our history with extraordinary sensitivity to the range of responses from Black and White Americans contending with a revolutionary ideal of personhood.... All of this is drawn with gorgeous fidelity to these cautious characters, struggling to remake the world, or at least this little patch of it.... Harris stacks the timbers of this plot deliberately, and the moment a spark alights, the whole structure begins to burn hot.... What’s most impressive about Harris’s novel is how he attends to the lives of these peculiar people while capturing the tectonic tensions at play in the American South.” (Ron Charles, Washington Post)

"Beautiful.... An instant classic.... This book is profound.” (Jenna Bush Hager, Wall Street Journal

"This debut novel astonished us as much for its wise, lyrical voice as for its dense realization of a fictional small town in the American South at a rarely written-about moment, the immediate aftermath of the Civil War. We were incredibly impressed by the way it probes themes of trans-historical importance - about race, sexuality, violence, and grief - through meticulously-drawn characters and a patient examination of their relationships.” (Booker Prize committee) 

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What listeners say about The Sweetness of Water (Oprah’s Book Club)

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  • Overall
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Masterful storytelling and an exceptional audio performance

The gritty world of Nathan Harris’s The Sweetness of Water is beautifully brought to life by William DeMeritt’s narration. One of the finest audiobook performances I have ever heard: I highly recommend spending time listening to the voices of these characters as performed in this work of audio art.

23 people found this helpful

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Metaphor OD

The author clearly took a course in the use of metaphors Sometimes it was so long that you forgot the point. It was so overdone - I would bet he used the word LIKE a thousand times. The story could have been been told in half the time. I picked because Oprah recommend it - but she has lost her way.

18 people found this helpful

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It’s really slow...

I loved the premise of the book but find it hard to get excited about. The narration is clear but I find that he doesn’t keep my interest.

18 people found this helpful

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Landry, Prentice, George, Isabel, Caleb, Clementin

it took a couple starts to begin but once I did I was mesmerized. The writing is visual.

15 people found this helpful

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Not What I Was Expecting

I bought the book thinking it was about the 2 brothers and their lives after emancipation, but they are minor characters in the story. There seemed to be more focus on Isabel and George. The book is a tad slow, but the pace does pick up. The narrator's southern accent sounds the same for most of the men, but he does keep you engaged.

13 people found this helpful

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Excellent story and presentation

What a remarkable book. The characters came to life easily and, being from Mississippi, I can vouch for the Southern accents which were dead on. The book was filled with heart-breaking truths that were undeniably realistic, as well as the hope and tenderness that underlies human relationships. Mesmerizing and intriguing the whole way through.

13 people found this helpful

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slow, slow book.

struggled to get past the first half. not worth the time or effort. I would rather spend my time on a different book.

10 people found this helpful

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One of the best books I've read in a while

I love this book. Praises to the author Nathan Harris. Thanks to Oprah for having this book as her June read. I will now read it AGAIN.

6 people found this helpful

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Broadening

Harris's work is more memorable, provocative & satisfying than any Ive heard in this active listening year . A literary pungent work set in region & time masterfully. These characters so well developed, so full, & so punctuated are achingly memorable. And how DeMerrit acted their separate agency, held their separate cadences & gave enormous life to each took my breath.. Truly a book & performance of vast understanding & sympathies.

5 people found this helpful

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My favorite book this year!

This book was amazing! Moving, heartbreaking but still hopeful. Get ready to cry so have tissues ready. And the narrator was outstanding! Bravo!

5 people found this helpful