Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese: A Sneak Preview

The Covenant of Water, by Abraham Verghese. Coming May 2023 from Grove Atlantic.

So I was lucky enough to get my hands on an early copy of the latest novel by the author of the smashing Cutting for Stone, Abraham Verghese. As soon as I heard about this I started putting out feelers; I felt like there was no way I could wait, Verghese Super Fan that I am. I have now read all four books he's published. The other three are:

My Own Country, A Doctor's Story, published 1995, which details his work as a doctor treating patients with HIV/AIDS in the American South at a time when the virus was new and relatively little was known. Of course we still don't have a cure and it still kills people. This book tells us about the early days of the epidemic and the toll it took.

The Tennis Partner, his 1999 memoir about his friend and protege, lost to addiction. This book is sad and moving, luminous and beautifully written,

Cutting for Stone, his first novel published in 2009, a doorstopper and showstopper about medicine, brotherhood, love and loyalty. This was the first book of his I read and the one that cemented him as a favorite for me.

So here we are at his latest, The Covenant of Water. I don't want to go into too much detail but I do want to give you a taste. This novel, another chunkster, details the lives of three generations of a Kerala family. It opens with a little girl getting married to a widower- a girl of 12 marrying a man in his mid-forties. If that sounds salacious, trust me that it is not. The girl, who grows into a woman known as Big Ammachi, is tough and full of love for the people in her life, her family both chosen and given. She has a son, Philippose, and a daughter, Baby Mol; soon she has a daughter in law and a finally a grandchild. All of these people (and more) are beautifully, vividly drawn characters and Verghese's writing sweeps you along through the stories of their lives. There's another story running concurrently to Big Ammachi's, that of a Scottish doctor named Digby. It takes a while for the streams to connect but when they do it will break your heart and stitch it back up again.

More than that I won't tell you, but I will encourage you to preorder this soon-to-be-classic from your independent bookseller today.

If you want to order from you can do so here:

FTC Disclosure: That's my affiliate link and I would receive a small commission on sales. I received my copy of the book for review from Grove Atlantic.

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