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29 of 30 people found the following review helpful
TOP 500 REVIEWERon March 25, 2010
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.
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on October 8, 2015
This is a beautifully written story encapsulating the lives of many in a small town and how each in interwoven with the other. It's as I imagine some town life to be... Highly recommended, I look forward to her next book - I'm a fan.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The modern Canadian writer Dianne Warren has written a very powerful novel about life on the Canadian prairies in the twenty-first century. Her focus is the tiny, anonymous farming community of Juliet, lost somewhere in the sand hills of the southern Canadian prairies. Everything about this arid little town is dreary, depressing and somewhat restrictive. Its dusty, flyblown complexion suggests that it would be the last place on earth most of us would want to settle down and raise a family. Warren's story consists of a number of cleverly interwoven personal stories of locals who have arrived at a point in life where they realize that they are permanently trapped in this little backwater. Sure, they want to move to the big city or, at least, somewhere as far away as possible to start over again, but time, familial duty, the ownership of land, and debt makes that prospect very dim. Warren has a unique way of bringing the reader in touch with each of these pathetic circumstances: a self-absorbed wife who only catches on to her husband's infidelity by accident, a single mother who is left to fend for her brood of six children, a foundling who has been left a farm that he doesn't know what to do with, a young couple getting married under dubious circumstances and a bank manager who is privy to all that goes on in the community because he controls its life blood. It is these many existential perspectives that add up to produce a very captivating and, at times, humorous picture about the future of community life in rural Canada. While it is not pretty at the best of times, there continues to be a desire to hang in there and cherish those relics and memories of a by-gone era even when they no longer mean anything: parents, horse races across the open prairies, old buildings serving as social landmarks, and the lingering dreams of a yet-to-be-fulfilled prosperity. Everything in this novel is fragile and could be gone at a moment's whim but for that intangible greater purpose in life that connects the individual to the land. The reader should be aware of the metaphoric power of nature at work in the novel: wind, sand, death, water, land, and sky. These are some of the mysterious forces, in Warren's view, that continue to keep us clinging to community regardless of an ever present desire to leave.
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