The Covenant Of Water by Abraham Verghese

Here it is, the eagerly awaited new novel by one of the best literary writers living today! Dive into THE COVENANT OF WATER quietly and make sure to savor the reading experience. I promise you that you will come away from this important piece of literature knowing you are in the midst of greatness.

Kerala, South India, is brought vividly to life through the lyrical writing of Abraham Verghese. In a framework of lush surroundings, right from the onset of the story, we are introduced to our young protagonist, who will later become Big Ammachi, as she floats through strange canals in a boat, being taken to meet her husband-to-be. She is twelve years old to his forty. He is a widower with a young son. It is even sadder than the saddest day of her life, when her beloved father died, recently.

THE COVENANT OF WATER takes place between 1900 and 1970. Three generations of her new family suffer from a strange and unknown affliction that they have named “The Condition.” In each generation at least one person dies from drowning. Through heartbreak and then progress you will find yourself opening your mind and experiencing hope as the determination of these people carry them through both tragedy and the secrets they keep.

I adored following Ammachi as she blossoms into the wife and mother she becomes. I found myself totally immersed in this world of Southern India on the Malabar Coast. Verghese has brought this part of India sparklingly to life. I absolutely feel as if I know this land and these people like family. Only a brilliant author can manage this. And I treasure the addition of the elephant named Damo who makes several visits to the family home at Parambil.

The condition wasn’t known to Ammachi until the first tragedy. And then we see a family tree filled with the names who drowned over the generations. And we are invited into the secret life of Ammachi’s husband. Fear of water at all costs. Later in this novel one of the characters, Mariamma, becomes a neurosurgeon in order to figure out the origins of the mysterious affliction.

In Abraham’s capable hands, talk of medicine and even in- depth surgeries, become amazing to read. There are plenty of medical issues going on in THE COVENANT OF WATER. I would say anything to do with leprosy or small pox would be severe issues. These are covered and then some. In one scene, a Scottish doctor, new to India, is plunged into performing a surgery he was not ready for. Digby was living the recurring nightmare of every surgeon when he found himself in the midst of the procedure, the patient is opened up, but the anatomy is not recognizable. OMG!

This story is very much the story of how medicine changed over the years. Often going from the stark reality of the unknown to the more modern day findings. Even though some of this story is harsh, one gains a feeling of hope. And there are wonderful sentences filled with wit that will have you smiling.

I’m in the process of listening to THE COVENANT OF WATER through an early audio copy. Abraham is reading the story. It’s his voice shining through. It’s perfection. Those of you who might be feeling a little standoffish because of the length of the book, well, the audio is amazing. Abraham spent two and a half weeks recording the novel. He said it was like performing the book. Not easy but very rewarding. All that work paid off. Also, it will be available in digital form so you can read on your device. Not as hard on the wrists. You know. ..

Anyone who follows my blog knows that I’ve long been a fan of Abraham Verghese. His amazing first novel, CUTTING FOR STONE, will always be a favorite of mine. I have been talking a blue streak about this new novel and Abraham for months now. I was so fortunate to receive a bound copy of the manuscript, early on. I could immediately feel that I was in the presence of greatness. I decided to add this little video about the audio book complete with some atmospheric music to help get you in the mood.

So much about this amazing novel comes from Abraham’s background. For instance, he remembers his five-year-old niece asking his mother what it was like when she was a girl. She didn’t just answer that question. She wrote a manuscript detailing her life. Abraham was able to use some of this in THE COVENANT OF WATER. It actually brings so much more to the table when you know this. Bravo.

Abraham Verghese was born in Ethiopia, to Indian parents. He began studying medicine in Ethiopia, and completed studies at Madras Medical College in India. He’s a graduate of Iowa Writers’ Workshop. He was awarded the National Humanities Medal in 2016, has received five honorary degrees, and is an elected member of the National Academy of Medicine and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He currently lives in Southern California where he is Provostial Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Medicine at the Stanford University School of Medicine.

My physical review copy and manuscript of THE COVENANT OF WATER were so generously provided by the publisher, Grove/Atlantic in exchange for an honest review. It’s absolutely brilliant! My review audio book was provided by Recorded Books. I kindly thank them for this.

One thought on “The Covenant Of Water by Abraham Verghese

  1. This definitely sounds like a “must read” novel!  Trying to decide if I want to read it or listen to it.

    Sent from my iPad


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