Review: SWEET WATER by Christina Baker Kline

Several weeks ago I noticed that SWEETWATER was on major sale for kindle. Since I had really enjoy Ms. Kline’s ORPHAN TRAIN novel, I purchased this novel.

SWEETWATER, which was Kline’s first novel, tells the story of Cassie Simon, a New York artist who is surprised to find that she has been left a house by her grandfather. She leaves the big city (and a dead relationship) to head to Sweet Water, Tennessee, where she meets the extensive brood of her deceased mother’s side of the family. Cassie’s mother, Ellen, had been killed in a car accident when Cassie was three, and her grandmother never fully recovered from the shock of losing her. But this family is hiding a lot of secrets, and Cassie’s arrival stirs the pot of remembrance and brings a lot of old events into the light, causing her grandmother to face some harsh realities. Added to this is the mysterious drowning death of a woman, her grandfather’s mistress, many years before and a new love interest, who turns out to be a (non-blood) relative. Cassie seeks to understand and learn about her mother, while coming to know her family and creating a new life for herself in Sweetwater.

I enjoyed this story, as I did with ORPHAN TRAIN. Kline’s style of writing is very fluid and I thought her character development was strong. I also liked how some of the chapters were short excerpts told in her grandmother’s voice and filling in back story. I have to confess, though, I was a little taken about by how Cassie went off from a bar with a stranger and slept with him – then discovered he was her (non-blood related) cousin. Yikes! Overall, though, I liked how the story felt like it was partly mystery and partly Cassie’s story of changing her life.

While this story was completely different from ORPHAN TRAIN, if you like Kline’s writing, you will probably like SWEETWATER. I met her actually at BEA (I got a signed copy of ORPHAN TRAIN) and she was quite gracious and kind.

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