Finished: July 26, 2010
First Published: May 11, 2010
Publisher: Henry Holt
Genre: YA, historical fiction
Jake was known as the dowser.
Acquired: Received a review copy from Macmillan.
Reason for Reading: I love frontier life western historical fiction and the dowsing aspect caught my eye.
It seems strange to call a book with just over 300 pages an epic story but that really is the best way to describe "The Water Seeker". It is the story of a family starting with the meeting of the mother and father and ending with their child married, with his own youngster. The main character is a boy who we meet at birth and he grows to manhood, but for the most part of the book he is a young teen and in a way this is his coming of age story. But even though the boy may be considered the protagonist, his father shares that position equally, plus the story is just as much about the adults who surround the boy and their lives that I often forgot I was reading a YA book. Which makes me recommend the book as much to adults as to teens.
Amos Kincaid's father, Jake, is a dowser but he hates the "gift" that was passed down to him from his father and only does it when times are hard. Otherwise he is a trapper and loves the life. Amos' mother died at his birth and he was sent to be raised by his Uncle and Aunt, with his father coming to visit each year for a few months when the trapping season is over. Eventually, the boy grows and the father comes back, with a wife, and they set off with a group going along the Oregon Trail. The story deals with very real life and death. Death much more so and Amos experiences guilt, jealousy, anger, joy, happiness and ultimately love before the journey west is complete.
I loved this book, one of the best I've read this month. All the characters are so real. Some are filled with the pioneer spirit and others are bitter over the hardships dealt them in this life. We see how tragedy can break a man to nothing but a shell of his former self and we see how the same tragedy can make another pick herself up and continue on because of her love for life. The book is filled with tragedies, heartbreak, illness and despair. Pioneer life was tough no matter how much spirit you had. But we follow a family made up of unique individuals who rise above each hardship creating a magnificent epic novel. I'd love to see "The Water Seeker" up for some awards this year; it's truly worthy. A great historical.