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Sweetwater Creek

Sweetwater Creek

3.8 29
by Anne Rivers Siddons

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From bestselling author Anne Rivers Siddons comes a bittersweet and finely wrought story of friendship, family, and Charleston society.

At twelve, Emily Parmenter knows alone all too well. Left mostly to herself after her beautiful young mother disappeared and her beloved older brother died, Emily is keenly aware of yearning and loss. Rather than be


From bestselling author Anne Rivers Siddons comes a bittersweet and finely wrought story of friendship, family, and Charleston society.

At twelve, Emily Parmenter knows alone all too well. Left mostly to herself after her beautiful young mother disappeared and her beloved older brother died, Emily is keenly aware of yearning and loss. Rather than be consumed by sadness, she has built a life around the faded plantation where her remote father and hunting-obsessed brothers raise the legendary Lowcountry Boykin hunting spaniels. It is a meager, narrow, masculine world, but to Emily it has magic: the storied deep-sea dolphins who come regularly to play in Sweetwater Creek; her extraordinary bond with the beautiful dogs she trains; her almost mystic communion with her own spaniel, Elvis; the dreaming old Lowcountry itself. Emily hides from the dreaded world here. It is enough.

And then comes Lulu Foxworth, troubled daughter of a truly grand plantation, who has run away from her hectic Charleston debutante season to spend a healing summer with the quiet marshes and river, and the life-giving dogs. Where Emily's father sees their guest as an entrée to a society he thought forever out of reach, Emily is at once threatened and mystified. Lulu has a powerful enchantment of her own, and this, along with the dark, crippling secret she brings with her, will inevitably blow Emily's magical water world apart and let the real one in—but at a terrible price.

Poignant and emotionally compelling, Anne Rivers Siddons's Sweetwater Creek draws you into the luminous landscape of the Lowcountry. With characters that linger long after you've turned the last page, this engaging tale is destined to become an instant classic.

Editorial Reviews

Richmond Times-Dispatch
“Rises above…by the sheer beauty and power of its prose. A story that refuses to be put down.”
Chicago Tribune
“This is Siddons’ best work.”
Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Richly atmospheric…touching, dramatic… one of Siddons’ most impressive novels.”
Fort Worth Star-Telegram
“Few writers are better than Siddons at evoking the sweet gentility of Southern climes.”
Washington Post
“Fans of Southern novels in the vein of FRIED GREEN TOMATOES will relish this one’s rich atmosphere.”
“This story, with its haunting, lyrical prose and complex characters...will captivate any reader.”
Bangor Daily News
“Lush, lyrical prose and loving detail.”
St. Petersburg Times
“A powerful narrative that should satiate Siddons’ many fans and captivate new ones.”
USA Today
“A page-turner. The setting and the isolated life will remind readers of Sue Monk Kidd’s THE MERMAID CHAIR.”
Charlotte News & Observer
“Themes of love and loss are intertwined throughout, as the reader rides on a tide of Siddons’ lush, lyrical prose.”
Tallahassee Democrat
“A fully alive world of many dimensions.”
Protected by the sultry, natural rhythms of Sweetwater Creek, 12-year-old Emily Parmenter lives in quiet denial in the aftermath of her mother's disappearance and the death of her beloved older brother. Her tranquil incubation is snapped, however, by the arrival of Lulu Foxworth, a plantation heiress who has troubles and secrets of her own. An evocative, multi-layer Lowcountry tale.
Publishers Weekly
Veteran novelist Siddons (Islands; Nora, Nora) returns to South Carolina's low country for her latest, a capable but uninspired story of a young girl's coming-of-age on the family plantation. Emily Parmenter is a lonely 12-year-old whose life revolves around the Boykin spaniels her family raises as hunting dogs. Her mother ran off; her beloved disabled brother, Buddy, who introduced her to literature, blew his head off with a shotgun (although Emily has conversations with him in her head); and her father, Walter, withholds all praise and attention. Her solace is her dog, Elvis, and Cleta, the wise black housekeeper. When 20-year-old LuLu Foxworth of the blueblood Foxworths arrives to spend time at the Parmenter plantation and work with the dogs, Emily is reluctant to welcome her, while social-climbing Walter is thrilled, hoping LuLu can teach Emily "to be a lady." The two emotionally neglected girls bond, and Lulu confides her dirty little secret: her addiction to alcohol and the smarmy Yancey Byrd, with whom Lulu has a 9U Weeks-style love affair. The plot follows formula and the ends tie up happily for everyone but poor LuLu, the bad rich girl with the heart of gold. (Sept.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Twelve-year-old Emily Parmenter helps in the family business of raising hunting spaniels at their Charleston area plantation, Sweetwater Farm. Her only pals are her own dog, Elvis, and her deceased older brother, Buddy (who speaks to her from the grave). But her life is about to change radically with the arrival of rich, sophisticated 20-year-old Lulu Foxworth. During her visit to the plantation, she falls in love with the dogs and Emily's family before moving in. As in Siddons's Nora, Nora, we again see a strong-willed young woman enter the scene both to disturb and to enrich her environs and transform an adolescent, motherless girl. Under Lulu's tutelage, Emily leaves her child's world and enters one for which she's not quite ready. As usual, Siddons never lets you forget where you are-the essence of South Carolina's Low Country is prominently featured and intricately (albeit sometimes repetitively) described. Fans of Siddons's novels will enjoy; for all public libraries. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 5/15/05.]-Carol J. Bissett, New Braunfels P.L., TX Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
School Library Journal
Adult/High School-Siddons's strength is in describing locale, and in Sweetwater Creek she takes readers to the South Carolina Lowcountry, imbuing it with an almost magical aura. The mystical landscape of oak groves and tidal rivers where dolphins play is home to 12-year-old Emily Parmenter, daughter of a struggling plantation owner whose only claim to success is his line of legendary Boykin hunting spaniels. Emily grieves the death of her cherished older brother while also coming to terms with her mother's desertion. She forges a bond with her own spaniel and proceeds to find her place on the plantation when her innate ability to train the hunting dogs is discovered. Life is beginning to settle into a comfortable rhythm when a young debutante, Lulu Foxworth, exhausted from her whirlwind social season, takes up residence at Sweetwater Plantation for a summer of rest and retreat from the pressures of her demanding life. Lulu craves the peace of Sweetwater, and Emily, though curious, is not anxious to let the outside world in. This coming-of-age tale appeals on many levels as it explores loneliness and loss, friendship and betrayal, and the comfort of a beloved pet or favorite place in nature. Despite the sadness that pervades, there is peace, beauty, and escape in Sweetwater Creek.-Gari Plehal, Pohick Regional Library, Fairfax County, VA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Sales rank:
Product dimensions:
4.18(w) x 7.50(h) x 1.08(d)
Age Range:
14 - 18 Years

Read an Excerpt

Sweetwater Creek LP

By Anne Rivers Siddons

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Anne Rivers Siddons
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060751517

Chapter One

On a Thanksgiving eve, just before sunset, Emily and Elvis sat on the bank of a hummock where it slid down into Sweetwater Creek. Autumn in the Lowcountry of South Carolina is usually as slow and sweet as thick tawny port, and just as sleepily intoxicating. But this one had been born cold, with frosts searing late annuals in early October and chill nights so clear and still that the stars over the marshes and creeks bloomed like white chrysanthemums. Sweaters came out a full two months early, and furnaces rumbled dustily on in late September. Already Emily was shivering hard in her thin denim jacket, and had pulled Elvis closer for his body heat. In the morning, the spartina grass would be tinkling with a skin of ice and rime and the tidal creek would run as dark and clear as iced tea, the opaque, teeming strata of creek life having died out early or gone south with migratory birds. Emily missed the ribbons of birdsong you could usually hear well after Thanksgiving, but the whistle of quail and the blatting chorus of ducks and other waterfowl rang clearer, and the chuff and cough of deer come close. Emily loved the sounds of the winter animals; they said that life on the marsh would go on.

They sat on the bank overlooking the little sand beach where the river dolphins came to hurl themselves out of the water after the fish they had herded there. The dolphins were long gone to warmer seas, but at low tide the slide marks they wore into the sand were still distinct. They would not fade away until many more tides had washed them.

"There won't be any of them this late," Emily told Elvis. Elvis grinned up at her; he knew this. The dolphins were for heat and low tide. Girl and spaniel came almost every day in the summer and fall to watch them. Elvis's internal clock was better by far than the motley collection of timepieces back in the farmhouse.

They sat a while longer, as the gold and vermillion sunset dulled to gray-lavender. They would go back to the house soon, or be forced to stumble their way home in the swift, dense dark. Emily hadn't brought her flashlight. She had not thought they would be gone this long. But the prospect of the dim kitchen light and the thick smell of supper, and the even thicker silence, kept her on the marsh. This night would not be a happy one, even by Parmenter standards. Already words had been flung that could not be taken back, and furious tears shed, and the torturous wheel of Thanksgiving day loomed as large as a millstone. No, there would be silence now, each of them drowned in their own pools of it. The speaking was done. It was not the Parmenter way to go back and try to mitigate hurt and anger. By suppertime it would simply not exist anymore, except in Emily's roiling mind. Her father and brothers would be deep in their eating and drinking, and her Aunt Jenny would have gone quietly home to her own silent hearth. Tomorrow she and Emily and old Cleta would prepare the ritual dinner for the returning hunters. Weather or catastrophe, sickness or grinding grief, the Thanksgiving hunt was sacrosanct. Walter Parmenter had instituted it long before Emily's birth.

"All the big plantations have them. It's an old sporting tradition," he said often, to anyone who might be listening. "We, of all the plantation families, should have one. We have the best hunting dogs in the Lowcountry, and some of the best bird land. The other planters talk about our dogs and our land. People tell me they hear about them all the time."

That there were now very few planters left on the huge river and tidal creek plantations around Charleston was, to Walter Parmenter, beside the point. He lived far back in his head, in the glory days of the family-oriented plantations. But most of the properties now were owned by northern sportsmen or hunting clubs, with managers to oversee day-to-day life. In this new millennium, they were largely weekend plantations. It was a point of immense pride to Walter that he had lived and worked Sweetwater Plantation almost his entire life. He scorned the holiday planters.

"Not one of them knows the woods and fields and marshes and the game and birds like I do. I could show them things about these parts that would pin their ears back. I could outhunt the lot of them, too. Me and the boys and the dogs, we'll show them a thing or two about that one of these days."

Emily thought that unlikely; Walter had never been invited on the great Thanksgiving and Christmas hunts that were traditional with some of their landed neighbors. They visited only to look at and buy Sweetwater's famous Boykin spaniels. They would smile and speak admiringly of the Boykins, and usually go home with a pup or leave an order for the next litter, and then retreat to their fine old houses at the end of their long live oak allées. Her father was right about one thing, though. Sweetwater's Boykin spaniels were among the best in the Lowcountry, bred from strict breed standards and long lines of legendary hunters, and trained meticulously. If you took home a Sweetwater Boykin, whether started or broke, you had yourself a hunting dog that would be greatly admired in the field and house by every visitor who came. Elvis was one of them. Emily had trained him herself ...


Excerpted from Sweetwater Creek LP by Anne Rivers Siddons Copyright © 2005 by Anne Rivers Siddons. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Meet the Author

Anne Rivers Siddons's bestselling novels include Nora, Nora; Sweetwater Creek; Islands; and Fox's Earth. She is also the author of the nonfiction work John Chancellor Makes Me Cry. She and her husband divide their time between Charleston, South Carolina, and Brooklin, Maine.

Brief Biography

Charleston, South Carolina and a summer home in Maine overlooking Penobscot Bay
Date of Birth:
January 9, 1936
Place of Birth:
Atlanta, Georgia
B.A., Auburn University, 1958; Atlanta School of Art, 1958

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Sweetwater Creek 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 29 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
When Ms. Siddons writes about her beloved low country, I expect to be transported, and I was. By the time I emerged, I was swaddled in Spanish moss, spitting pluff mud and speaking with a southern accent. I think Anne reached a new high in her poetic descriptions - her ability to makes us feel, smell, taste and see Emily's world. I'm usually a James Patterson, full of action, move it along, kind of reader - but when I pick up Sweetwater Ranch - or any of the 'low country' books, I have to agree with the Chicago Tribune. I don't just read her books. I dwell in them. In this day and age, to be able to dwell somewhere else for a while, is a gift. A true gift!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Could not wait to read this every night and hated finishing it. As a Boykin owner, I loved reading the connections between girl, dog, and family. Hope there is a follow-up to continue the story!
mrknx More than 1 year ago
Vintage Siddens with the lush landscapes so real you can feel the winds and feel prickles on your spine as she takes us thru a rollercoaster of obssession and love. Juxtaposes mystical with harsh reality...big bad corporation polluting the pristine up creek. Loved it! Each of her books takes you somewhere enchanting..usually in the South. Highly recommend taking this journey!!
Skybird1941 More than 1 year ago
I've always loved Anne Rivers Siddon's books and thought that I had read them all. What a wonderful gift to find one that I had not yet read! I just finished this book and the story is one that is both haunting and beautiful. ARS develops her characters so well that you feel as if you know them. She is descriptive without being overly-wordy so that you get a real sense and feel of the place where the story takes place. If you like Anne Rivers Siddons, please read this book. You won't be sorry.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Siddons describes the SC setting so descripitively you feel like you have been there in Sweetwater. The characters are so loveable and very memorable that you miss them when you put the book down. For any one who loves fiction sorrounded by the Carolinas, you will love this book. Along the same lines as The Secret Life of Bees.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Huge disappointment for a story that had allot of potential. The pace of this book is so slow that it became a chore to read at times. Then, near the end, it got very fast as if the author was just ready to hurry up and close it out. That's okay, though, because I was ready for her to hurry up and close it out, too. Siddons is a better author than this. Stephanie Clanahan
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Guest More than 1 year ago
The author can tell a compelling story, despite overwrought language that has me rolling my eyes and saying, 'Oh, please,' about every three pages. But somehow, I keep going to find out what happens to these people. I did notice a few commonsensical lapses in this one--for one, we're supposed to believe that the father of a 13-year-old knows nothing of the high schools in his hometown, even their locations, even though he also has 16-year-old twins? Mrs. Siddons is a gifted storyteller, but she really needs a better editor--one, to catch commonsensical slips like the above example, and two, to pull her back from the breathless descriptions of Southern life that make even this lifelong Southerner--familiar, and even sympathetic to, our tendency to cheerlead for our eccentricities--wince.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have never read a book by this author but picked it up on a whim. It was well written and had me completely absorbed immediately. I will definitely look for others by this author. Enjoy!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was my first Anne Rivers Siddons book and while the descriptions of the south get to be a little much I still found this story to be a great read. If you¿re looking for a book that stays with you long after you read it then this is a book for you. I thoroughly enjoyed reading about Emily¿s story and while I do have to agree with other people¿s reviews about the other characters not being as developed as Emily. However, I think that it is for a reason. Since the main character of the book is Emily maybe we are supposed to see the characters through her eyes and as you read you will find out that she really doesn¿t truly know her family. They live in the same house but interactions are kept to a minimum that is until Lulu comes along¿
Guest More than 1 year ago
Because I generally enjoy Ms. Siddons writing, I purchased this book as soon as it was hot off the press. I had not had time to read it when I discovered it on CD at our local library. I enjoyed listening to it, but think that it would have been a dry read. Siddons is usually such an excellent writer, however, that I was disappointed with the lack of character development and depth in this book. The best thing about this book, is that I now have a beautiful Boykin spaniel that someone had dropped in a well. The dog swam to save her own life until she could be rescued. Siddons did show an uncanny understanding of the temperment of this breed - they are fabulous dogs. However, the fact that Elvis knew when to get help, etc. was a little far-fetched. Siddons does keep you wondering what Lulu's secret is and wondering when the shoe is going to drop. Perhaps this book is best enjoyed in the car on a long drive.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I got as far as 85 pages in this most recent novel from one of my favorite writers and just didn't feel compelled to go on. The characters were poorly developed, the story sluggish and somewhat boring and the dialogue trite and predictable. Ms. Siddons' previous novels have had rich characters, interesting stories and great endings -- this had none of that and I wouldn't recommend it to her fans.
Guest More than 1 year ago
While I never miss reading an Anne Rivers Siddon book, this one as well as her previous book have left me a little cold. Her descriptions of the south always make you feel as if you are right there, breathing and seeing the low country. But only Emily is a developed character in this book. I never got a true feel for any of the other people that were in and out of her life (with the exception of Elvis, the dog, who I wanted to take home). The essence of Lulu is never truly explained. Like her last novel, I felt as though Ms. Siddons didn't know how to end the book. My recommendation is to read Peachtree Road, Siddons at her best.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Anne Rivers Siddons is a master at describing the lush landscape of the south and in Sweetwater Creek we are swept away in the strong undercurrents of the story. This powerful, beautifully written coming-of-age novel is sure to touch your heart--and you'll want a Boykin spaniel after meeting dear Elvis!
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I have read by Siddons..I have to say it will NOT be my last. She tells a great story. I loved all the characters in the book and she made you feel like you were part of them. It was a wonderful read and cant wait to buy more book by Anne River Siddons.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am always lured into reading modern southern novels and especially enjoy reading their unique storylines. It must be the words about old southern cooking, silver, architecture, and manners that I am so completely drawn to read. I especially appreciated that the storyline maintained itself through the end of this book. I have to say that I had earlier read Siddons' The House Next Door, and it was a tad spooky to me. I found myself with the same spooky raised hair on the back of my neck feeling in this current novel. It's a non-stop read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I read this book in 2 days and all the time I was hoping to get answers for unanswered questions.In the end the book leaves me hanging.I was dissapointed.