cover image The Well

The Well

Catherine Chanter. Atria, $26 (400p) ISBN 978-1-4767-7276-9

British author Chanter’s extraordinary first novel envisions the U.K. so ravaged by drought that personal and civic life fracture. At midlife, Ruth and Mark Ardingly leave London for a small farm in the west of England called the Well, where they cherish nature and long visits with their five-year-old grandson, Lucien, the child of their troubled daughter Angie. As drought deepens into national disaster, the Well remains inexplicably verdant. Under the pressure from local attacks, government interventions, and media uproar, the couple’s marriage collapses. Then the Sisters of the Rose, a tiny extremist sect, arrives, claiming that Ruth is the chosen one who helps bring rain and demanding the Well be cleared of men. Thousands start following their worship online. Ruth is drawn so deeply into their beliefs that she begins to have religious visions. Might she have committed a murder in a mystical state? Combining gripping mystery, nuanced psychological drama, and striking prose, this debut is a mesmerizing read. Agent: Rachel Mills, Peters Fraser & Dunlop (U.K.). (May)