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Cool Water Paperback – Nov 30 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Phyllis Bruce Books Perennial (Nov. 22 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1554685591
  • ISBN-13: 978-1554685592
  • Product Dimensions: 15.4 x 2.2 x 22.9 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 318 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars 15 customer reviews
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #209,411 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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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.


"Cool Water evokes a Canadian west that is, like the American southwest, timeless and powerful and hauntingly beautiful. Dianne Warren's absolutely authentic characters, with all their loneliness and strength, will be new to you." -- Bonnie Burnard --Bonnie Burnard

"Reading Dianne Warren's Cool Water is like drinking from a deep well after crossing the parched sand hills of the west. Leisurely and unpretentious, her prose lifts the hardscrabble town of Juliet and its people into the realm of myth." -- Joan Clark --Joan Clark

"Reading Dianne Warren's novel, I was reminded of Carol Shields and the creation of unassuming matter- of-fact characters who are, in truth, generously complicated. The writing is understated,wry, and laconic - as it the place itself could not produce any other kind of story." -- David Bergen --David Bergen

"Warmhearted, witty, original, Cool Water maintains its steady, low-key tone, even as it pulls you into its world and doesn't let you go. It has been a long time since I loved a novel so much." -- Sharon Butala --Sharon Butala

"That two people can share a house and not know they love one another; that a note in a pocket with a woman's name on it can crack decades of trust--this is a novel about the isolation that we hold secret within ourselves; that makes us envy the true hearts of horses and dogs. This novel shivers with nervous life. It tiptoes the fine edge between joy and weeping." --Fred Stenson --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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