Soft Water

Soft Water

by Robert Olmstead

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
The author of the short-story collection River Dogs revisits rural New England in this incessantly tense first novel. After he is orphaned, Asel is raised by a brutal German immigrant on a work farm for foster children, and then runs away to join his older brother Averell as a hunting guide in the Maine backwoods. Illiterate and ignorant of the world, Asel becomes a recluse after Averell's disappearance. But, lured by photographs of nudes in girlie magazines, he rejoins civilization to find a woman for himself. Asel eventually falls in love with Phoebe, who invites him to live with her in New Hampshire. He goes, but only after (unbeknownst to Phoebe) avenging the death of his friend Beecher at the hands of two hunters who had left a mysterious cache of weapons for safekeeping with Averell. Some details of plot and characterization are too vague, and the story's abrupt, violent climaxwith retribution coming at the hands of the Irish Republican Armyis strained and unrealistic within the context of Olmstead's insular small-town world. Nevertheless, this is an engrossing, fine piece of writing, with quirky, distinct characters and authentic dialogue. (April)
Library Journal - Library Journal
Olmstead's first novel combines romance, murder, and revenge in a dark and violent view of New England's rural life. The uneducated and alienated protagonist and hunter's guide Asel flees from murder in the woods to the city and Phoebe, the young school teacher he learns to love. During his odyssey he encounters sinister and criminal characters. The tangled themes of blood revenge and retribution present a stronger, more compelling story than does the romanticized, somewhat improbable love story. A good addition to serious fiction collections. Elizabeth Guiney Sandvick, North Hennepin Community Coll., Minneapolis

Product Details

Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
Vintage Contemporaries Series
Edition description:
First Edition

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