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By Way of Water


By Way of Water

BY WAY OF WATER is a lyrical journey taking us back to 1977. Set in
Northern California, against the backdrop of a stagnant logging
community, Ms. Gullick tells the story of poverty seen through the
eyes of a child named Justy Colby.

Justy has never heard her parents Jake and Dale sing together.
After a night of violence, before Justy's birth, Dale promises
Jehovah two things: To use her voice only for Jehovah and to live

During the winter of 1977, Justy gives her voice to Jehovah in an
attempt to find a way to bring Jake and Dale together. "This is
when it happened. When Justy was left speechless, her quiet ways
easing her task, when she gave over her voice, swam to the bottom
of the Eel River, slipped her tongue in among the rocks and fell
into the currents of their minds."

Narrated by Justy, we are given glimpses into Jake's and Dale's
minds now that she is connected to them by her silence. Jake won't
accept help from the government or his neighbors, and Dale won't
allow Jake to hunt. As the parents war with each other, the
children go hungry.

Dale gives in and gives Jake permission to hunt, but then refuses
to eat the illegal meat. Jake and Dale have different plans on how
to make sure they don't go hungry the next winter, much as they
have different ideas on how to live life.

Dale's life revolves around the Kingdom Hall, while Jake looks for
a job and finds comfort in drinking. All the while, Justy is
searching for security in an insecure world. She finds solace in a
boy in her class. The boy, Ochre, accepts her silence and gives her
a gift of a stone, which she swirls in her mouth when the secrets
she carries become overwhelming.

For much of the book, I wanted to shake Jake and Dale, telling them
to get over their problems and think of their hungry children. Even
when Kyle, Jake's father, arrives, Jake and Dale continue to drift
apart. The only force trying to hold the family together is silent,
seven-year-old Justy, as she weaves in and out of their minds,
trying to find something to bring them back to each other.

All of this is set against the backdrop of environmentalism in the
early days, the allure of finding extra money by growing pot,
prejudice against Jake for his Native American background and Dale
for being a Jehovah's Witness, and family violence.

Charlotte Gullick is the current John Steinbeck. Her characters are
real and three dimensional, making you want to reach out and help
this family struggling to make it through to a new life.

Reviewed by Jody Pryor on January 21, 2011

By Way of Water
by Charlotte Gullick

  • Publication Date: August 5, 2002
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Blue Hen
  • ISBN-10: 0399148981
  • ISBN-13: 9780399148989