Reviews for The Covenant Of Water

by Abraham Verghese

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Three generations of a South Indian family are marked by passions and peccadillos, conditions and ambitions, interventions both medical and divine. "Where the sea meets white beach, it thrusts fingers inland to intertwine with the rivers snaking down the green canopied slopes of the Ghats. It is a child’s fantasy world of rivulets and canals, a latticework of lakes and lagoons, a maze of backwaters and bottle-green lotus ponds; a vast circulatory system because, as her father used to say, all water is connected." Verghese's narrative mirrors the landscape it is set in, a maze of connecting storylines and biographies so complex and vast that it's almost a little crazy. But as one of the characters points out, "You can't set out to achieve your goals without a little madness." The madness begins in 1900, when a 12-year-old girl is married off to a widower with a young son. She will be known as Ammachi, "little mother," before she's even a teenager. Her life is the central stream that flows through the epic landscape of this story, in which drowning is only the most common of the disastrous fates Verghese visits on his beloved characters—burning, impaling, leprosy, opium addiction, hearing loss, smallpox, birth defects, political fanaticism, and so much more, though many will also receive outsized gifts in artistic ability, intellect, strength, and prophecy. As in the bestselling and equally weighty Cutting for Stone (2009), the fiction debut by Verghese (who's also a physician), the medical procedures and advances play a central role—scenes of hand surgery and brain surgery are narrated with the same enthusiastic detail as scenes of lovemaking. A few times along this very long journey one may briefly wonder, Is all this really necessary? What a joy to say it is, to experience the exquisite, uniquely literary delight of all the pieces falling into place in a way one really did not see coming. As Ammachi is well aware by the time she is a grandmother in the 1970s, "A good story goes beyond what a forgiving God cares to do: it reconciles families and unburdens them of secrets whose bond is stronger than blood." By God, he's done it again. Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.