cover image Life Without Water

Life Without Water

Nancy Peacock. Longstreet Press, $16.95 (182pp) ISBN 978-1-56352-337-3

The different role that memory plays in the lives of a mother and daughter forms the theme of this tender, evocative debut novel. ""You know, if Jimmie hadn't died, you might not have ever been born,"" Sara Russel tells her young daughter, Cedar. Cedar has heard this statement so many times that it has become legend to her. There are stories that always accompany mention of her Uncle Jimmie, who was killed in Vietnam: about the letter her mother received from Jimmie three weeks after his death and how she could never bring herself to open it; about how Sara met Cedar's father soon after Jimmie's death and probably wouldn't have found him so fascinating if Jimmie wasn't dead. The recitation of all these circumstances that led up to her birth has become part of the texture of Cedar's life, indelibly linked with her own memories of growing up in the 1970s in Chatham County, N.C., in a ramshackle three-story farmhouse without running water. In plainspoken, disarmingly pure tones, Cedar tells the story of a quirky, often troubled, yet oddly idyllic childhood. To her young, pretty mother, however, retelling memories is an ongoing attempt to make sense of her life. As she is revealed through the stories and anecdotes she has passed down to her daughter, Sara comes across as a strong-willed, passionate woman plagued by doubts and regrets. The result is a rich narrative. (Oct.)