I recently read the debut novel written by the young man pictured above, Sweetness of Water. I can only say that I hope he continues to write and to bring his thoughtful perception of character to the page.
I have often wondered what it was like for recently freed enslaved people and how it was for the people who had so recently “owned” them. Harris tackles this question subtly by immersing us in the lives of several characters in a small southern town just as the Union troops are moving in to take control. We meet two recently freed black men, two white Confederate veterans, and an aging white couple living on the outskirts of a rural town. Harris focuses on them, their interactions, their challenges, and their ways of dealing with their conflicts. Other people play a background role to the central drama surrounding these six.
With a title about sweetness, I hoped for a optimistic but realistic read. Harris delivered it honestly, not sparing real horror, but also showing glimpses of redemption. It wades into much less than sweet water on the way, but the book leaves us with a real sense of each of the people we have met, no matter what befalls them. (Some of the book is quite graphic, so if you are looking for a light read, I can’t recommend the novel.)