Backwater

( 30 )

Overview

Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares?-well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. What Ivy wants to be is a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. As in Bauer's Rules of the Road, the central story is of a journey: Ivy hikes into the wilds of the Adirondacks to find her reclusive aunt Jo-and to find her own destiny...

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Backwater

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Overview

Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares?-well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. What Ivy wants to be is a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. As in Bauer's Rules of the Road, the central story is of a journey: Ivy hikes into the wilds of the Adirondacks to find her reclusive aunt Jo-and to find her own destiny as well. Persistent, mouthy, and good, Ivy is an admirable heroine who will be familiar to Bauer fans; older female friends (including Tib, Aunt Jo, and wilderness expert Mountain Mama) are equally attractive if given to message-laden dialogue. In fact, the book could have used less preaching and more story overall, but Ivy is such a darned fine gal that readers will be glad to make her acquaintance.

While compiling a genealogy of her family of successful attorneys, sixteen-year-old history buff Ivy Breedlove treks into the mountain wilderness to interview a reclusive aunt with whom she identifies and who in turn helps her to truly know herself and her family.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
In this compelling, though ultimately uneven outing, Bauer (Rules of the Road) travels to a literal and emotional backwater, navigating the strong ties that bind-and have the potential to choke-a proud but dysfunctional family. For generations, the Breedloves have been respected lawyers in the community, and it's been expected-nearly demanded-that 16-year-old Ivy will follow in their footsteps. But Ivy feels driven to become a historian and, as her first major project, she undertakes the task of compiling the Breedlove genealogy. As the family gathers for the holidays, Ivy's time-saving Aunt Fiona (she has her own TV show, It's About Time) skims through the family history with a video camera. But Ivy determines that, to make the family tree complete, she must locate long-lost Aunt Josephine, her father's rebellious sister. Her search leads her to the Adirondacks, where she comes face-to-face with not only Josephine, but Ivy's own fears about life as a Breedlove. In the best passages, Bauer's characters crackle with eccentricity and exhibit glimmers of intense emotion. Mountaineering fans will also thrill at the wintry, rugged scenery. But in the end, readers may feel Ivy's adventure-and the extreme avenues taken by Josephine-to be too far-fetched. Ages 12-up. (May) Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
VOYA - Maura Bresnahan
Sixteen-year-old Ivy Breedlove is a square peg trying to fit into a round hole. For generations the Breedloves have had illustrious careers as lawyers, judges, and law professors. Ivy, raised by her lawyer father since her mother's death from cancer when Ivy was six, knows that her calling is the study of the past. Bauer's story opens the day after Christmas at the Breedlove family's homestead in the Adirondack Mountains in New York where the clan has gathered for the holidays. Ivy has taken over the compilation of the family history. When she learns that her father's sister, long estranged from the family, may be living a hermit-like existence high in a mountain cabin, she is determined to make contact with her aunt. With the help of Mountain Mama, a wilderness guide writing a self-help New Age novel, Ivy travels through the snow-covered terrain to her aunt's refuge. Both the journey and the time she spends with her Aunt Jo give Ivy the strength to carve out her own place in the Breedlove family and communicate more openly with her father. Bauer once again provides readers with an eminently likeable heroine with whom they will quickly identify. Ivy's quest to be herself, not what other people expect of her, is one many adolescents share. All the reader's senses are brought alive in the scenes set in the mountain wilderness. As in her other novels, Bauer brings a strong affiliation with the land to this work. The setting's geography is lovingly detailed and one cannot help but feel one is traveling to the "backwater" with Ivy in search of history, and ultimately hope. Mountain Mama's sign says it all: "You are about to embark on the adventure of a lifetime. Don't just stand there--come on in." VOYA Codes: 5Q 4P M J S Hard to imagine it being any better written; Broad general YA appeal; Middle School, defined as grades 6 to 8; Junior High, defined as grades 7 to 9; Senior High, defined as grades 10 to 12.
School Library Journal
Gr 7 UpDuring a family reunion at Plum Lake, NY, at the beginning of the foothills of the Adirondack Mountains, teenager Ivy Breedlove feels overwhelmed by the aggressive energy pouring forth from her relatives. Because she doesnt want to follow the family tradition of becoming a lawyer and prefers quiet pastimes such as reading and genealogy, they are somewhat contemptuous of her, remarking that she reminds them of crazy, mysterious Aunt Josephine, who disappeared years ago. Upset that Aunt Fiona thinks that family history can be suitably reported on a quickly produced videotape and totally leaving out Josephine, Ivy embarks on a search for the missing woman. Following this quest into the mountains leads Ivy to engage the climbing talents of the physically powerful, worldly wise, and somehow engaging Mountain Mama. Through blisters, storms, collapsed shelter, and shifting lake ice, Ivy struggles to reunite her family and secure her own place within it. Bauer brings together seemingly disparate plot elements and makes them work beautifully. Readers will feel an immediate rapport with Ivy, and they will come to understand, admire, and learn from Mountain Mama and Josephine. Rich with engaging characters, a light love interest, and dramatic tension in a well-paced plot, this is another great read from Bauer.Cindy Darling Codell, Clark Middle School, Winchester, KY Copyright 1999 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Bauer (Rules of the Road, 1998, etc.) catalogs the benefits of staying connected to the past in this exuberant, melodramatic tale of self-discovery. Although many of her relatives are lawyers, and her father has repeatedly and emphatically asserted that the Breedloves are, have always been, and always will be lawyers, Ivy discovers a notable exception: Aunt Josephine is a strange, reclusive duck who hasn't been seen in years. Determined to get Jo's story for a family history she is compiling for a great-aunt's 80th birthday, Ivy ventures out to the remote Adirondacks cabin where her aunt lives in solitude, surrounded by books, woodcarvings, and songbirds that perch on her shoulders. Interviewing Jo, Ivy not only gets some surprising news about her Type-A father, but finds validation for her own maverick yen to be a historian. The visit turns into an adventure when, in the midst of a winter storm, a falling tree shatters both the cabin and Jo's leg, leading to a wild, desperate run for help, followed by a funny, touching family reunion. Bauer tucks a budding romance between Ivy and a ranger-in-training into the triumphant finale, and in the contentious, gregarious Breedloves celebrates the similarities and differences that bind families. If it's all just a little larger than life, that only adds to the entertainment. (Fiction. 11-15)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780142404348
  • Publisher: Penguin Young Readers Group
  • Publication date: 6/2/2005
  • Series: l
  • Edition description: Revised
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 253,155
  • Age range: 12 - 17 Years
  • Lexile: 810L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.53 (w) x 8.19 (h) x 0.47 (d)

Reading Group Guide

BACKWATER

Ivy doesn't want to be a lawyer. Who cares?-well, her father, for starters, who expects his daughter to take up the Breedlove family profession with dedication and enthusiasm. What Ivy wants to be is a historian, a vocation that's getting quite a workout as she prepares a family history in honor of her beloved great-aunt Tib's eightieth birthday. As in Bauer's Rules of the Road, the central story is of a journey: Ivy hikes into the wilds of the Adirondacks to find her reclusive aunt Jo-and to find her own destiny as well. Persistent, mouthy, and good, Ivy is an admirable heroine who will be familiar to Bauer fans; older female friends (including Tib, Aunt Jo, and wilderness expert Mountain Mama) are equally attractive if given to message-laden dialogue. In fact, the book could have used less preaching and more story overall, but Ivy is such a darned fine gal that readers will be glad to make her acquaintance.

ABOUT JOAN BAUER

Joan Bauer was born in River Forest, Illinois, the eldest of three sisters. Her mother was a schoolteacher with a great comic sense; her father, a salesman that no one could say no to. Her maternal grandmother had been a famous storyteller and had a striking effect on Bauer's early years. "She would tell me stories with five different voices and as many dialects. I would sit on her enormous lap transfixed at how she could teach me about life and make me laugh through her stories. She taught me the significance of humor and how it intersects our daily lives."

Bauer managed an eclectic list of jobs from assistant typing teacher at age twelve to high school waitress. In her early twenties, she was a successful advertising and marketing salesperson. Professional writing for magazines and newspapers followed, then screenwriting, which was cut short by a serious car accident. She regrouped and wroteSquashed, which won the Delacorte Prize for a First Young Adult Novel. Five novels for young adult readers have followed:Thwonk, Sticks, Rules of the Road, Backwater and Hope was Here (Newbery Honor Medal).

Joan lives in Darien, CT with her husband and daughter.

Praise

"Ivy Breedlove is another strong and quirky heroine who addresses serious issues head on."—The New York Times Book Review

"A fast and funny tale of one big-boned (and big-hearted) gal's summer of discovery on the road."—The Los Angeles Times Book Review

Recommended Reading and Sites

If you enjoyed the works of Joan Bauer, we have some other titles to suggest. In some cases, the recommended books contain good humor, sometimes the related books feature young men facing obstacles in their lives. Finally, some of these books feature heroic females as main characters.

Books to Make You Laugh:

KEEPING THE MOON by Sarah Dessen
Viking Children's Books
HC: 0-670-88549-5, $15.99 ($22.99 CAN)
PB: 0-14-131007-3, $5.99 ($8.99 CAN)

GYPSY RIZKA by Lloyd Alexander
Dutton Children's Books
HC: 0-525-46121-3, $16.99 ($26.99 CAN)
PB: 0-14-130980-6, $4.99 ($6.00 CAN)

Where the Boys Are:

OVER THE WALL by John H. Ritter
Philomel Books
HC: 0-399-23489-6, $17.99 ($25.99 CAN)

BOLTZMON! by William Sleator
Dutton Children's Books
HC: 0-525-46131-0, $15.99 ($24.99 CAN)

Strong Women:

THE OTHER ONES by Jean Thesman
Viking Children's Books
HC: 0-670-88594-0, $15.99 ($22.99 CAN)

CHRISTMAS IN HEAVEN by Carol Lynch Williams
G. P. Putnam's Sons
HC: 0-399-23449-7, $16.99 ($23.99 CAN)

DESTINY by Vicki Grove
G. P. Putnam's Sons
HC: 0-399-23449-7, $16.99 ($23.99 CAN)

THE GIRLS by Amy Goldman Koss
Dial Books for Young Readers
HC: 0-8037-2494-2, $16.99 ($25.99 CAN)

Internet Sites of Interest:

Joan Bauer website

www.joanbauer.com

The official website of the author.

Virginia Tech Digital Library

http://borg.lib.vt.edu/ejournals/ALAN/winter96/bauer.htm

Here is an article written by Joan Bauer on writing books with humor entitled "Humor, Seriously."

New York State Library

www.nysl.nysed.gov

This will link you to the New York State Library, where you can discover lots of interesting information about the Adirondack Mountains, site of much of the novel, Backwater.

Wisonsin Directory of Attractions

www.wistravel.com

Lots of details about Wisconsin, the setting of Hope Was Here.

Finally, type in the word "shoes" into a search engine and see where the road leads you! Rules of the Road is about finding your own way, after all.

AN INTERVIEW WITH JOAN BAUER

Why is humor so vital to your writing?

Because humor is so vital in my life. When I utilize humor in my writing, I'm connecting to a deep place in myself that says, "no matter how bad things get, there is hope." I believe that with all of my heart. That's what I love about humor—at least the kind that makes us look at life's difficulties differently—laughing in the midst of pain says to me that we are already on the road moving away from it. We're going to make it. I'd like to think that readers connect to that sentiment, too. We need to laugh for so many reasons. It brings perspective; it brings healing; it builds relationships; it brings release. People have asked me if I would ever write a "totally serious book." I have to say that I do write totally serious books that use laughter against the storm of life.

Your novels do deal with serious subjects. How hard is it to walk the fine line between laughter and tragedy?

It's brutal sometimes. I agonize over words, motives. I do not want anyone to think I am making fun of alcoholism, Alzheimer's disease, death, divorce, being overweight. But here's the thing: my first drafts are rarely funny and I am grimly sober while writing them. But I am getting down to the serious underpinnings of the story. Then I do look and see where the funny voice can break through. I see where comic relief can cushion a hard scene. I ask myself constantly, where can the humor break forth here and make a point?

How are you like Hope?

I'm hopeful like she is, and I've had to fight to stay that way. It isn't my natural state. I work at hopefulness. I don't expect life to be easy. Like her, I am an over-comer. I had a deep need as a teen to have a healthy father—mine was an alcoholic. I was a waitress as a teen and a good one. I love food; it is a passion for me. I have also had to work on my anger over the years. Hope and I are very alike.

But here is where we are different. I never moved from place to place. I lived with my mom, grandmother, and two sisters in the same house. Hope has a good sense of herself, what she is good at and what she's not. I didn't have that much when I was a teenager.

She is more patient than I and better able to absorb the quirkiness of people around her. One of the things I like bear about her is the fact she has great faith that her father is going to find her and she keeps these scrapbooks for him so that when he finally shows up she'll be ready to tell him about her life. I would have never done that.

What is a typical day at the "office" like for you?

I try to clear my mind for the work ahead. I try to remember what Ernest Hemingway said about writing: Stop for the day when you've written something you feel good about. That makes it easier to get back to it the next morning. I don't wait for inspiration; I just go to work. More and more I read things out loud to check for authenticity of voice. I did that a great deal forHope was Here. One of the big words in my life is "revision." It's kind of like labor and delivery. The baby is coming out and you don't have a lot to say about it.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS

  1. Titles always hold special significance to the story. For example, how does the title Hope Was Here focus your attention as a reader? Other than the literal reference, what else does the title suggest about the book? Does it tell you the truth? What about the titles of Backwater and Rules of the Road? How does each indicate the literal and symbolic natures of the stories?
     
  2. Hope's name is pivotal to the development of her character and to the development of the story. How do the various definitions of the word "hope" add to the story? See, for example, the reference made on page 22.
     
  3. There are other important symbols in this story. What roles do each of the following play in terms of developing character, advancing the plot, or serving as foreshadowing? Are there other symbols essential to the story? If so, what are they?

    · Day lily (page 85)

    · Welcome stairways (page 14)

  4. In each of Bauer's works, it is important to the main character that she provide some sense of comfort to the people she encounters. For Jenna in Rules of the Road, comfort comes in the form of the perfect show for each customer. How does Hope provide that measure of comfort? What does this tell you about her character? How about Ivy Breedlove in Backwater?
     
  5. Fathers are a central concern to the characters in Hope Was Here, Backwater, and Rules of the Road. Discuss the similarities and differences among the fathers of Hope, Ivy, and Jenna.
     
  6. Ultimately, all characters leave their mark on us as readers. How does Hope leave her mark literally and figuratively? How do Ivy and Jenna leave their marks?
     
  7. Why is humor such an essential ingredient in each of Joan Bauer's books? How would the stories change if they were somehow more "serious" in tone? How would your response to the story be affected?
     
  8. Occasionally, we are swayed to purchase a book because the title is intriguing, Bauer used the title Welcome Stairways as she wrote Hope Was Here. The title changed after the story was completed. What reaction do you have to the working title? Might the working title affect your reaction to the book? What alternative titles might you suggest forRules of the Road and Backwater?
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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 30 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(18)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(0)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 31 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2014

    Amazing

    Best book ever

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 22, 2014

    REALLLY GOOD BOOK!!!!

    This is an amazing book for anybody of any age. It has good lessons, AMAZING characters, and the storyline is so good that its hard to put down. Definitely read this boook! Im serious!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 28, 2014

    Frick

    Awesome i loved it. it made me cry because i really felt connected to ivy and jo. BUY THIS BOOK IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE!

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  • Posted May 22, 2012

    The Main character in Backwater, Ivy Breedlove is on a mission t

    The Main character in Backwater, Ivy Breedlove is on a mission to find information on her family tree. In order for her to complete this she needs to find her aunt Josephine, who left the family years before. For Ivy to find her aunt she needs to go on a hike in the woods to Josephine’s cabin. When her and the tourist guide get to Josephine’s cabin Ivy convinces her to let her stay for two days so she can ask her questions about her life. On the night before Ivy’s last day with aunt Josephine, a bad winter storm comes and causes a tragedy to happen to Ivy and Aunt Josephine.

    I would recommend Backwater because of the way it grabs your attention from the very beginning of the story. The moral of the story is to be who you want to be, and not what other people are influencing you to be. The suspense in the book will keep you reading until you finish the book.

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  • Posted October 15, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Backwater

    This book is one that I will always read over and over. It has great characters and a wonderful plot. Deffinetly one to help find yourself with. Joan Bauer's books are incredible. Read it! Read it!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 30, 2007

    Not quite there...

    I first picked this up in the bookstore, and for the first 30 pages, I was hooked. This portion contained several great quotes without being too preachy. I found myself drawn into the story of a teenage girl who doesn't fit in with her family. In particular, I felt that the relationship between strong-minded Mr. Breedlove and the quietly convicted Ivy was well-drawn. Around the time of Ivy's journey, however, the novel weakened. I found myself unable to suspend my disbelief that a woman could tame wild birds and build a cabin all on her own. Also, as much as I liked the character of Mountain Mama, she seemed to just spout platitudes all the time, and she never made one mistake. A flaw in character or judgement would've made her more human. Even worse, several aspects of Ivy's story were abandoned. I wanted to see more interaction between her and her father and Egan, as these were two of her strongest relationships. Excerpts of her history project would've made the plot seem more real. I think Ivy could've experienced her revelation in other more, believable ways. For example, what if she had caught her aunt bringing the wreaths to the cemetery? While this novel began with great potential, several relationships were not fully developped in the book. A little editing and revision could've gone a long way...

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2007

    Make way for the best in the business

    This book was heart warming in every way. The emotional parts were very sad and ....the book was awesome.I recommend this book to every one who is into mild adventure and standing up to people.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2006

    Oh my...

    I think this is an awesome book. Actually, that's mostly because of how well I relate to it. I love to be alone and it's nice to read about someone else like that. If you don't like it, I think it's because you just don't get it. But when you understand, Backwater is an awesome book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2006

    Backwater

    This book was a good light read. It kept me interested in what was about to happen and the secrets that Aunt Josephine held. I would recommend this book to anyone who is interested in something riveting yet not too emotional. I've become a Joan Bauer fan by reading this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 1, 2005

    Not So Good!

    I don't think that this book had a good story line or ended well. It sort of seemed as if the snow storm and the cabin damage was like Bauer's way to attempt to save the story....better luck next time, Joan!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 30, 2005

    This was a great book

    I really liked this book, not only because it had a good and captivating plot, but also because of many great quotes and hidden messages. It's a really great book about finding the missing piece, dealing with your surroundings, and finding inner strength. Backwater is a great book and I can't wait to read more of this author's books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2004

    Cool Book

    I loved this book. It's really neat. Ivy is really smart and brave and Aunt Jo is cool. I like birds too, but Jo overdoes it a bit.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 3, 2004

    So good!

    This book is such a well put together book that it takes up in and you can't get out until the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 6, 2003

    Awesome story, great book- Love the author!

    I read this book for my summer reading. I absolutely loved it, it took my less than 2 days to read. I connected to the main character Ivy right away. If your family every drives you crazy or you've ever wished to be understood then look no farther than this book- it's perfect for you. I would recommend this book to everyone I know. Joan Bauer writes awesome books, and I'm reading more of her books now. Once you read Backwater there's no turning back, you'll be hooked on Joan Bauer's books.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2003

    All families hide secrets about eachother

    I found this to be a good book but not the best i've ever read. It is all bout a mysterious missing aunt of Ivy Breedlove. Overall it was well put together but a little shacky at some parts.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2003

    This is my favorite book

    This book is a wonderful book for everyone. I read it in two days. I loved it so much I just had to order all the other books by her.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2002

    I thaught this book was radical

    this book had thrill and excitement I highly recommend it

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 3, 2002

    This book was Great!

    I loved this book the author really has a way that makes you feel like you are in the main character's place. I could not put it down. I would recommend this book to anyone.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 18, 2001

    A Must-Read! I guarantee you'll love it!!!

    I am a twelve-year old girl, and I absolutely loved this book! I think this book was great because the main character, Ivy, finds her aunt at the same time as she finds pieces to herself. No one in her family believes that she will find her hermit-aunt, but she is confident in herself. I think she is a great example for all girls! You should read this book!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 8, 2001

    Backwater

    A refreshing escape from our everyday routines, the novel ¿Backwater¿, is a classic read, destined to endure through many generations. It will never lose its allure. This is the kind of book you could enjoy rereading and passing down to your children and grandchildren. Backwater will be historically memorable for its contribution in demonstrating contemporary family life with the press modern generations feel in creating educationally rich environments and vocational direction for their prodigy. ¿He helps me with my homework whenever I need it. He comes to career day at my school and talks about the joys of lawyering. . . . . He has long lists of what he has to do and follows them to the letter. He makes long lists of what I have to do, which I keep losing. On lists with more than ten action items he pens, I¿m doing this for your own good¿Love, Dad, to shield the blow.¿ pp. 11-12 As a coming of age novel, narrated by the main character, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a lawyer father, we find interpersonal relationships dealt with with a tone of honesty and humor. ¿I¿ve tried to explain my feelings to Dad. He just looks at me blankly and asks if my homework is finished.¿ p. 8 ¿I could be on drugs, Dad. I could be smoking three packs of cigarettes a day. I could be¿¿ ¿Getting ready to study the law!¿ I could almost mouth the words. ¿When I was sixteen, Ivy, I had already read every piece of literature there was to read concerning America¿s great law institutions where fine men and women learned to love the law, learned to defend it to the death, learned to not take no for an answer.¿ ¿Learned to bill by the hour,¿ I added, and Dad said that as God was his witness, a law education was the cornerstone of a successful, fulfilled life.¿ p.9 The author of Backwater writes with insight about the common thread that everyone, anywhere in time has, the struggles of family relationships. Ivy Breedlove, the story¿s protagonist, a budding and self-proclaimed historian, traces her family¿s history, showing both a variety and continuity in the personalities. This novel provokes an understanding and acceptance of those in our own families who initially are neither fully understood nor fully accepted with their differences, while concurrently giving the reader the sense of roots which families have. Ivy¿s historical account of her family provides the reader with multiple renderings of these classic themes. Even if you are not searching for your long lost hermit aunt or writing a complete family history tree, two intriguing events which unfold within the 185 pages of Backwater, you will relate to the characters in a powerful way. The novel only takes a few hours to read. It is written in a simple dialogue form, the tone is refreshing and peaceful, honest, and simple, yet, in-depth, and thought provoking. It is a read you are sure to enjoy!

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