cover image The Water Cure

The Water Cure

Sophie Mackintosh. Doubleday, $26.95 (288p) ISBN 978-0-385-54387-3

Mackintosh’s intense, ambitious debut, longlisted for the Man Booker, evokes a feminist dystopia where three sisters live in isolation meant to protect them from a toxic world that has become particularly dangerous for women. At an unspecified time in the future, global warming and pollution have poisoned the planet, making men more violent and women vulnerable. One couple, King and Mother, choose to raise their three daughters surrounded by sea and barbwire; their only visitors are women seeking therapies like the water cure (near-drowning to fortify against toxins and fear). Mother teaches her daughters—caustic 20-something Grace, touch-hungry teenage Lia, and their youngest, Sky—to suppress emotions, love only each other, and prepare for the worst. Then King disappears, and two men and a boy wash ashore. Mother shows her daughters how to use a pistol before she too disappears. Grace, Lia, and Sky are left to fend for themselves as the men grow impatient, proprietary, and threatening. The sisters’ impressionistic narratives, presented solo and in chorus, show Lia’s self-mutilation in close-up while the world disorder is described indirectly through its aftereffects. Mackintosh’s gripping novel is vicious in its depiction of victimhood, vibrant when victims transform into warriors, and full of outrage at patriarchal power, environmental devastation, and the dehumanization of women. [em](Jan.) [/em]