The Sweetness of Water (Oprah's Book Club) - Nathan Harris

The Sweetness of Water (Oprah's Book Club)

By Nathan Harris

  • Release Date: 2021-06-15
  • Genre: Black Literature
Score: 3.5
From 1,940 Ratings


An Instant New York Times bestseller / An Oprah’s Book Club Pick

In the spirit of The Known World and The Underground Railroad, an award-winning “miraculous debut” (Washington Post) about the unlikely bond between two freedmen who are brothers and the Georgia farmer whose alliance will alter their lives, and his, forever

In the waning days of the Civil War, brothers Prentiss and Landry—freed by the Emancipation Proclamation—seek refuge on the homestead of George Walker and his wife, Isabelle. The Walkers, wracked by the loss of their only son to the war, hire the brothers to work their farm, hoping through an unexpected friendship to stanch their grief. Prentiss and Landry, meanwhile, plan to save money for the journey north and a chance to reunite with their mother, who was sold away when they were boys.

Parallel to their story runs a forbidden romance between two Confederate soldiers. The young men, recently returned from the war to the town of Old Ox, hold their trysts in the woods. But when their secret is discovered, the resulting chaos, including a murder, unleashes convulsive repercussions on the entire community. In the aftermath of so much turmoil, it is Isabelle who emerges as an unlikely leader, proffering a healing vision for the land and for the newly free citizens of Old Ox.

With candor and sympathy, debut novelist Nathan Harris creates an unforgettable cast of characters, depicting Georgia in the violent crucible of Reconstruction. Equal parts beauty and terror, as gripping as it is moving, The Sweetness of Water is an epic whose grandeur locates humanity and love amid the most harrowing circumstances.

One of President Obama's Favorite Books of 2021

Winner of the Ernest J. Gaines Award for Literary Excellence

Winner of the Willie Morris Award for Southern Fiction

Winner of the Writers’ League of Texas Book Award for Fiction

Longlisted for the Man Booker Prize

Shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize

Shortlisted for the VCU Cabell First Novelist Award

Longlisted for the 2022 Carnegie Medal for Excellence

Longlisted for the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

Longlisted for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize

A Best Book of the Year: Oprah Daily, NPR, Washington Post, Time, Boston Globe, Smithsonian, Chicago Public Library, BookBrowse, and the Oregonian

A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

A July 2021 Indie Next Pick


  • A wonder read

    By W Agyemang
    Two systems of justice can never be right. This book is a good read but disappointing to see that the real perpetrators never faced justice which seems like the norm in the history of our country.
  • A beautiful walk through the past!

    By Ms. 131685
    This was a nicely executed glimpse into the past. The Walkers were ahead of their time!
  • Brilliant

    By Handakina
    First novel by this Author? Are you kidding me. This story is incredible. So descriptive, so full of “humanness”, so beautifully written. I didn’t want the story to end. Please - Book 2 has got to follow!
  • Spectacular

    By Katswobo
    Beautifully imagined story of what must must have been the cataclysm of the post civil war era
  • Unraveling Dreams

    By Richard Bakare
    It is hard to believe that this book os Nathan Harris’ debut novel. For a first attempt he crafted a story that is concurrently as old as time and fresh in vision. A journey of varied personas interweaving and displacing each other simultaneously. The stories culminating into a single vista that shows us the unraveling of reality brought on by the outcomes and violence of war. Setting the story in the promise and disappointment of the Reconstruction period dredges up old wounds and conflicts. A fresh coat of paint is applied to this worn picture using distinct marginalized and harried voices we don’t often get to see from this time period. There is no rosy retelling of a broken past but instead a recasting of how hope springs from the ashes of heartbreak. Harris demonstrates unique talent in how his character building by way of the thoughtful clarity he gives to each voice and artful word craft. The combination presents the reader with glimpses into the power of dreams and nightmares alike. Showing us how the hopes and fears of each character motivates each towards their true self. I don’t envy Nathan Harris for the task he has now of following up this brilliant work.
  • Reflections

    By AnitaMMartina
    Excellent memories and insights into humankind from each of the story’s characters.
  • I’m always floored when I read a book like this…

    By crunch
    How a person can write so beautifully and spin such an amazing story. Didn’t want it to end.
  • It started out great

    By NinaStarbuck
    It was a great story and I thought an actual depiction of the civil war. Once he wrote in the same sex encounters between soldiers it changed. No need. Should have just stayed with the war, the free slaves etc.
  • The Sweetness Of Water

    By Angelica812
    I absolutely Loved Nathan’s precise description to detail, from beginning to end. It was not hard at all to envision each character, personality, emotion or scenery. This book is a screenplay all set for motion. A Great Read Indeed. Thank You 🙏🏽 Nathan Parker for your talents and gift.
  • Wonderful.

    By The Adams Man