Review

High Water

by Lynn Hightower



In a departure from her Sonora Blair books, author Lynn Hightower
pens the beautiful but tragic story of Georgie Smallwood, a
Southern unwed mother in her early 30s. We come into Georgie's life
the day her mother dies.

Fielding Smallwood, the patriarch of the family, is an unhappy man,
married but close to divorce, disappointed in his children, and the
subject of disdain in the small picturesque town of Beaufort, South
Carolina. When her mother dies, Georgie, to her utter horror,
begins to suspect her father of having a hand in the death and
tries to convince her younger brother and sister that their father
murdered their mother. But, when he dies shortly thereafter from a
questionable trauma, suspicion shifts to the children.

Georgie has many reasons to resent her father, not the least of
which being his callous remark two years earlier to her runaway son
that, having fled, he should not come home again. When wayward son
Hank returns, on the day of his grandmother's death, he becomes
another male for Georgie to deal with. Her relationships with the
opposite sex are conflicted, at best. But a fierce bond of loyalty
holds Fielding Smallwood's children together. Ashby, Georgie's gay
brother, is a gentle presence but is distressed and sometimes
secretive for unexplained reasons. Her divorced sister Claire turns
heads with her beauty and sweetness but leans toward heedless
naivete. Much of what Georgie does is meant to ease life for her
brother and sister. Then, one of them is arrested for their
father's murder. To complicate matters, one love interest enters
the picture as another departs.

When Georgie unearths some old information from her father's past,
a past that contained the unnecessary loss of several platoon
members, a loss that Drill Instructor Smallwood could have averted,
she tries to figure out how this knowledge ties into her search for
the truth surrounding her mother's supposed suicide and her
father's alleged murder.

Multiple subplots enrich the story, filling it out like a plump
lime pie. Nearly overshadowing the mystery, however, is the
family's ruinous dysfunction. The three siblings bear individual
burdens that seem extraordinary. There are ups and downs in the
heroine's days, but very little happiness comes --- and stays ---
in her life, or that of her brother and sister. The Tragedies of
Georgie Smallwood could be the subtitle.

Ms. Hightower fashions a wonderful novel full of dulcet prose,
tragic characters, and titillating twists. HIGH WATER elicits
powerful emotions left raw. There is a sad poignancy in the
Southern voice of the heroine. Each character carries personal
eccentricities that give them depth and intensity; they mercilessly
pull out our sympathies. Ms. Hightower's descriptions are big and
rich, rounding Beaufort into a unique yet familiar town. You will
mop your brow from the humidity, smell the morning coffee, taste
the beignets, and feel the rumble as Georgie speeds along the
streets in "Big Mama."

The last few pages, in true suspense form, will blindside you with
the shocking windup. Don't expect to figure out whodunit
beforehand.

Reviewed by Kate Ayers on January 22, 2011

High Water
by Lynn Hightower

  • Publication Date: July 2, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction, Mystery
  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
  • ISBN-10: 0805067566
  • ISBN-13: 9780805067569