The Sweetness of Water

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The Sweetness of Water
368 pages; Little, Brown and Company
Nathan Harris' debut novel, The Sweetness of Water, is set in the fictional town of Old Ox, Ga., at the very end of the Civil War. By then, President Lincoln has issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing the enslaved. When the novel opens, brothers Prentiss and Landry are at last leaving the plantation where they've spent their entire lives, and grappling with what will come next. Through these characters—and others such as George and Isabelle Walker and their son, Caleb—novelist Harris explores the limits of "freedom" in the era that ushered in Reconstruction and Jim Crow, and spotlights some of the parallels with our current times. The novel also powerfully shows how a fellow human's single act of kindness or cruelty can reverberate for generations to come.