In the small town of Juliet, Saskatchewan you may imagine that not much goes on. But you would be wrong. Surrounded by the Little Snake sand hills, the residents of Juliet go about their daily lives, caught up in the hills and valleys that life often brings. Lila prepares for her pregnant teenaged daughter's upcoming wedding, even though she knows that the union is doomed to fail. Vicki and Blaine Dolson, the parents of six young children and in dire financial straits, struggle just to get by. Lee, who was abandonded as a baby and raised by his "aunt" and "uncle", tries to carry on the family legacy after his aunt and uncle pass away. The foundation of Hank and Lynn Trass' marriage is threatened by one tiny piece of paper. Willard and his sister-in-law Marian continue to live under the same roof and run the local drive-in theatre despite the fact that Marian's husband, Ed, has passed away, and the two are heavily denying their growing feelings for one another. All of these characters, as well as more secondary ones, come to life under Dianne Warren's hand in the engrossing "Cool Water".
It surprised me how much I enjoyed this book. Once all of the characters and their stories were introduced, I became caught up in their various lives and problems and had a hard time putting the book down. The writing itself is understated which fit perfectly with the laid-back vibe of the small town of Juliet. For me these aspects combined (the low-key writing, the small town, the fact that the entire book takes place only over the course of about 24 hours) to convey the message that small towns are not filled with small people, but rather with people who may seem simple yet are incredibly complicated. This book worked so well with a small town as the setting, and would not have worked as well if it had taken place in a large city. In Juliet, all of the character's lives were intertwined, even if it was in a small way.
Vicki and Blaine Dolson and their six children emerged as early character favourites for me. They are struggling financially, and they are also struggling with the difference between how their parents did things and how they are doing things. Vicki's focus is on her young children and you can tell that she would do anything to make them happy. You can also tell that she is a really good mom, and that housekeeping and chores can come backseat to that, because her kids are her priorities in life. She's almost unapologetic about the fact that she is nothing like her mother-in-law, nor will she strive to be like her. She is a whole new generation. I enjoyed the stories of all of the characters, but the story of the Dolson's remains my favourite.
Cool Water is Dianne Warren's first full- length novel, and one that I highly recommend picking up. It does the Canadian Literature genre proud.