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Cool Water [Paperback]

Dianne Warren
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
List Price: CDN$ 19.99
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Book Description

Nov. 22 2010

Juliet, Saskatchewan, is a blink-of-an-eye kind of town -- the welcome sign announces a population of 1,011 people -- and it’s easy to imagine that nothing happens on its hot and dusty streets. Situated on the edge of the Little Snake sand hills, Juliet and its inhabitants are caught in limbo between a century -- old promise of prosperity and whatever lies ahead.

But the heart of the town beats in the rich and overlapping stories of its people: the foundling who now owns the farm his adoptive family left him; the pregnant teenager and her mother, planning a fairytale wedding; a shy couple, well beyond middle age, struggling with the recognition of their feelings for one another; a camel named Antoinette; and the ubiquitous wind and sand that forever shift the landscape. Their stories bring the prairie desert and the town of Juliet to vivid and enduring life.

This wonderfully entertaining, witty and deeply felt novel brims with forgiveness as its flawed people stumble towards the future.

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Product Description

Quill & Quire

The publicity bumpf for Dianne Warren’s first novel compares it to the work of Carol Shields and Miriam Toews, but Thornton Wilder’s Our Town is its true kindred spirit. Set in the fictional prairie hamlet of Juliet, Saskatchewan, Cool Water takes place over the course of a single day. Naturally, the day is anything but ordinary: secrets are revealed, marriages tested, and a life ended.

The novel takes up the stories of a dozen of the town’s inhabitants. Particularly well-drawn are the portraits of Norval Birch, Juliet’s bank manager, and Vicki Dolson, a struggling mother of six. Although the two never meet over the course of the novel, their lives are inextricably connected, in the manner of folks who live in a small town. Birch is aware of Vicki’s situation and empathizes with her; thoughts of her and her family consume him throughout his day. Vicki, meanwhile, moves through the novel, herding her kids and demonstrating her sweet, clueless-yet-knowing nature with every word she utters. The two characters are simply and truthfully drawn, and Warren avoids the kind of cloying “just folks” attitude that could so easily overwhelm such portrayals.

The bit players are often kept too far in the background, only to appear, chorus-like, to witness the last hour of a man’s life or to offer up a long-lost box of letters before vanishing entirely from the scene. Would that such story elements were handled with the same grace Warren demonstrates when she describes a new widow cleaning up the chopsticks used by her husband for what would be his last supper. The stunning, crushing sense of loss in this scene feels like the reader’s own.

Warren’s treatment of the town’s sand dunes as a metaphor for the lives of its inhabitants is problematic. The novel’s penultimate sentence reads, “The surface slowly changing shape.” The implication here is that the surface of the dune changes but the essentials remain the same, which seems to contradict the experience of the townspeople, whose surfaces never change although their depths roil with emotion and incident. It’s a puzzling way to leave these characters, who nevertheless remain in the reader’s mind, along with the town in which they live.

--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


?Warren demonstrates a finely tuned understanding of the importance of everyday life that is reminiscent of Carol Shields' abilities to transform the quotidian into something meaningful.?
- Winnipeg Free Press ()

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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
28 of 29 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy addition to the Can Lit genre March 25 2010
By BookChick TOP 500 REVIEWER
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.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars More Bookish Thoughts... May 30 2011
By Reader Writer Runner TOP 50 REVIEWER
Cool Water bears all the telltale signs of a Governor General's Award winner: a remote Canadian setting, eloquent prose, contemplative characters and a slow-moving plot. Warren recounts a 24-hour period in the lives of various townsfolk. A couple prepares for their teenaged daughter's upcoming (and doomed) wedding, parents of six young children struggle to make ends meet and a young man, abandoned as a baby, searches for answers about his purpose in the world. Although certainly not a page-turner, this book becomes engrossing as it progresses and highlights the extraordinary in the quotidian.
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Captivating April 27 2010
By Luanne Ollivier #1 HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Often I will sit and peruse the cover of a book before opening it and starting to read, wondering what connection the cover has to the story inside. I love the feel of diners and those postcards promised a good story....

Cool Water takes place in tiny Juliet, Saskatchewan over the course of two days. In rotating chapters we follow the lives of a few of the inhabitants.

Lee was a foundling, taken in by the Torgesons. They've passed on and he's now alone on the farm they've left him, unsure of himself and his place in life. Blaine and Vicki Dolson have six children - and a truckload of debt. Local banker Norval Birch has always followed the rules, but begins to question what he's really accomplished in life. Willard and his brother's widow Marian have shared the same house for nine years. They are unable to identify and act on the fact that they love one another. Lynn questions her husband's faithfullness when she finds a woman's phone number in his pocket.

None of these scenarios are earth shattering, but that is the genius behind Cool Water. There's nothing special about the characters - they're just everyday people trying to do the best they can. We become privy to the happenings behind closed doors, the feelings, emotions and memories of the characters.

Dianne Warren's prose are simple, yet eloquent and aching. The inhabitants and the town of Juliet are so clearly drawn, I had very defined mental images of both. Warren has captured the feel of small town perfectly. Living near a town of the same size, I found myself walking down Main Street the other day, looking at those I met on the sidewalk just a little bit differently.

Tying many of these stories together was a horse, both present and from the past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A cool drink of water Oct. 5 2011
Take a drink of Cool Water with Dianne Warren's wonderful book set in the sand dunes of Southern Saskatchewan. Her novel, in the form of interconnected stories, paints a complex picture of a place in time and the people who live there.
The opening chapter, or prologue describes a long-distance horse race that took place in the district many years earlier. Starting at the buffalo rubbing stone just to the north of what was then the settlement of Juliet, two cowboys proceeded 25 miles north, then west, south, and east, finally returning to the stone, outlining a 100-mile perimeter around the Little Snake Hills. The path of the race sets the parameters for the rest of the story.
Lee Torgenson awakens in the middle of the night to the sound of hoofbeats. Assuming they are the phantom hoofbeats that plague him most nights, he thinks nothing of it, until he finally gets up and discovers a real horse in his yard. The horse does not protest when Lee saddles him, and so, with the moon shining down on them, they begin their 24-hour adventure together. Lee inadvertently starts out on the same path as the historic horse race. Learning about the race at the half-way point, he decides to continue on the same route.
Although Lee's adventure starts the action, and literally draws a boundary around the story, there are many other tales that unfold and each of the stories is connected in some way to one or another. As Lee travels throughout the day, he sees or visits different farms and homesteads and we get a glimpse of the people who live there and see how their lives crisscross and intertwine. We witness interactions between a cowboy and a rebellious teenager, a bank manager and a father at the end of his rope.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Gorgeous imagery and characterization
A beautiful look at everyday lives. I couldn't put it down, In fact I read it in just 24 hours.
Published 13 months ago by Julie Topp
2.0 out of 5 stars Not Gripping
This was a book club choice and not gripping enough to finish. It would be interesting to know who the Govenor General Award review panel was and why they choice this book. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Etobicoke Book Clubbette
1.0 out of 5 stars Poured cold water on my expectations
I received this book as a Christmas present, and was looking forward to reading it after noticing the Governor General Literary Awards sticker prominently displayed on the cover. Read more
Published 23 months ago by M. Yakiwchuk
5.0 out of 5 stars Sorry to reach the last page
A wonderful book. Who knew that the relatively mundane lives of Canadians in small- town Saskatchewan could capture a reader's attention and hold it to this extent?! Read more
Published on Sept. 18 2011 by Sandra
1.0 out of 5 stars how did it win a GG?
This book was a major disappointment and I wonder at the selection of it as a GG award winner. It was passed on to me by my book buddy who feels exactly as I do - not a book we... Read more
Published on July 25 2011 by Matilda
4.0 out of 5 stars Life Under the Surface
The modern Canadian writer Dianne Warren has written a very powerful novel about life on the Canadian prairies in the twenty-first century. Read more
Published on May 13 2011 by Ian Gordon Malcomson
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
This is a wonderful book. I loved the characters and felt drawn in to their stories. I thought about them long after the book was finished... that's a sign of a great book, to me! Read more
Published on Jan. 30 2011 by Jessica
2.0 out of 5 stars Boring!
Okay, try as I might, I just couldn't get into this book at all. I found it quite boring and lacking flow, the characters were boring and not very well developed, the story moved... Read more
Published on Jan. 25 2011 by Louise Jolly
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