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Sweetwaterby Roxana Robinson
Synopses & Reviews
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.
"[Robinson] broadens her canvas to introduce larger social issues....Readers may feel that Robinson wraps things up too neatly, but the novel succeeds as a moving study of a woman's emergence from a suffocating life." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Roxana Robinson's third novel and sixth book is ambitious, intelligent and gracefully written, none of which will surprise admirers of her work. She is one of our best writers, albeit not one of the best known." Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"[An] emotionally bloodless work.....Robinson takes no risks as a writer...and as a result her writing seems as constipated as her characters. A chilly, desolate work, as painful to read as diving into a frigid lake." Kirkus Reviews
"Reading Sweetwater...is a lot like watching an Olympic diver....We watch, our breath held, anticipating little errors because we've seen just how difficult such feats are to execute flawlessly." Bernadette Murphy, The Los Angeles Times
"The risks taken here don't all pay off, but Robinson writes big solid scenes, bubbling with tension, that hold the reader's interest....Sweetwater poses complex questions; Robinson has expanded her range by asking them." Alice Elliott Dark, The New York Times Book Review
"Robinson interweaves scenes of Isobel's present and previous marriages to create a rich and complex fabric of human relationships. Her characters are realistic, her story is compelling, and the resolution sudden and welcome." Library Journal
"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, Poet Laureate of the United States and author of Nine Horses
"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, author of The Great Fire
About the Author
Roxana Robinson is the author of two previous novels, a biography of Georgia O'Keeffe and two short-story collections. She has received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the MacDowell Colony. Robinson's fiction has appeared in Best American Short Stories, The Atlantic, The New Yorker, Harper's, and Vogue. She lives in New York City and Westchester County, New York.
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