Seitz (The Spirit of Sweetgrass) manages to keep her second faith fiction novel fairly light even though it covers depression, suicide, child abuse, domestic abuse and death. Honor, in her mid-40s, escapes to St. Anne's Isle off the South Carolina coast with her life in tatters. She's unemployed and broke, and feels unworthy of love after a divorce and a failed relationship. Her attempted suicide is thwarted by a group of Gullah nannies who rescue her and love her back to health, introducing her to Duchess, a quirky woman with a penchant for nudity. Honor lives with Duchess for a while as they help each other heal, and eventually Honor reclaims her love for life and painting, and reconnects with her sister Alice. The narration switches regularly among the three women (Honor, Duchess and Alice) and the story jumps back and forth over an eight-year span, which makes the first half of the book intricate to follow. The novel is uneven: none of the serious topics is mined in depth and the writing is simple, but the plot, once understood, is compelling. Fans of inspirational fiction may feel challenged by some of the edgier content, but the story does include a near-death bedside conversion. (Mar.)Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Trouble the Waterby Nicole Seitz
Set in the South Carolina Sea Islands, Nicole Seitz's second novel follows the stories of two sisters. One is seeking to recreate her life yet again and learns to truly live from a group of Gullah nannies she meets on the island. The other thinks she's got it all together until her sister's imminent death from cancer causes her to re-examine her own life and seek
Set in the South Carolina Sea Islands, Nicole Seitz's second novel follows the stories of two sisters. One is seeking to recreate her life yet again and learns to truly live from a group of Gullah nannies she meets on the island. The other thinks she's got it all together until her sister's imminent death from cancer causes her to re-examine her own life and seek the healing and rebirth her troubled sister managed to find on St. Anne's Island.
An entrancing, unsettling story of sisterhood and sea changes, healing grace and unlikely angels. A tragic, hilarious, hope-filled novel about the art of starting over.
The South Carolina Low Country is the lush setting for this poignant novel about two middle-aged sisters' journey to self-discovery. Strong female protagonists are forced to deal with suicide, wife abuse, cancer, and grief in a realistic way that will ring true for anyone who has ever suffered great loss. Seitz's writing style recalls that of Southern authors like Kaye Gibbons, Anne Rivers Siddons, and Sue Monk Kidd, and this new novel, which the publisher compares to Kidd's The Secret Life of Bees , surely joins the ranks of strong fiction that highlights the complicated relationships between women. Highly recommended, especially for Southern libraries. This author lives in South Carolina.Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
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Read an Excerpt
Trouble the Water
By NICOLE SEITZ
Copyright © 2008 Nicole Seitz
All right reserved.
St. Anne's Isle, Two years earlier July 13, 2006
It was late in the afternoon, and I was sitting very still, listening to the crickets and frogs begin their chanting-they were telling me the time had come. The humid air was settling in around me, pressing me into the wood slats of the bench like straps to a gurney. It was going to be the perfect night for what I needed to do.
I'd been going there to the playground to paint for months. I knew which children were spoiled. I knew which ones missed their mothers during the day. And I knew their black nannies were raising them while their white mamas and daddies were off making more money. And I'd come there thinking that was the kind of life I wanted. On this day, I realized I was fooling myself again-being one of them was no better than being me. But one thing was certain. I couldn't stand being me any longer.
The playground was finally empty.
I'd set my painting down on the bench and folded my easel, laying it on the ground. The sun had ducked behind the trees, and it was turning dark quickly. I'd always loved that time of day-just before the dark comes and engulfs us all in an equalizing, masking blackness where no one can see just how beautiful or ugly we are.
"Where is it?" A shrill voice broke my silence. "Do you see it? I can't see it!"
A little girl in pigtails dragged her nanny by the wrist. What is she, a slave? I thought. Give her a break already.
"We have to find it!"
"Chile, you are gettin' too old for that thing. You ain't a baby no more."
"Hush! Hush now. Lookee-here. I got it. Baby, hush. It's right here, now come on. Your mama's gonna be home soon."
I watched the pair traipse out of the sand box with a filthy blanket in tow. I wondered, why in the world did she hold on to that thing? Get a grip, honey. Life's hard. You can't take that blanket with you forever, you know. Of course I thought that-just as I was twisting my old wedding band on my finger. Well, what the heck. Maybe you can always have your pacifier blankie, sugar. Go right ahead. Be my guest. I took the ring off and dropped it over my shoulder. It landed with a tiny thud on the ground.
I suppose it must have been the skip in that little girl's stride or maybe her blonde hair dancing in the fading light, but all of a sudden I thought of you.
Oh no. Alice. And the girls! What's this going to do to them? Will they suffer? Will they miss me?
No. They're going to be fine, I reasoned. They barely know I exist anymore. I'm out of sight, out of mind. I must have wanted it that way though, hadn't I? Deep down, I think that's really what I must have wanted-to leave you and the girls before you didn't love me anymore. Before you found out who I really was.
The color crimson caught my eye, and I glanced at my painting. It was a self-portrait. Surprise. Whoopee. They all were recently, and they were all atrocious. I'd tried different colors, different angles, oils, pastels, acrylics-me on the beach, me on a cloud, me on a park bench-I'd only get the same result. But this is the last one, I told myself. I titled it "Anonymous." I do not know this person on the canvas. I do not know the person behind my eyes. Even God won't look at me anymore.
I bent my head back and stared at the hazy sky, searching for rising stars. Oh God, I have failed. You know how badly I've failed. I am so sorry, for the last time. I cannot do anything more. I am just so tired. My eyelids pressed shut and tears began streaming. "Don't do this," I pleaded out loud. "Don't you dare cry! You don't deserve to cry. There will be no tears at your funeral, Honor Maddox. No tears! None at all!"
In my final moments, I breathed in deeply. I exhaled one last "goodbye" to no one in particular, to everyone, to you and your sweet girls, to the world. I closed my eyes. I'm getting sleepy. I'm very sleepy. I'm going. I'm coming, God. I'm so sleepy. I can't feel my toes, my fingers, my nose. I'm in oblivion. Ashes to ashes and dust to dust. Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be-
"You goin' to sleep here?" Huh? Wha-
"Missy, you're fallin' asleep. You best wake up now and go on home. You all right? You feelin' all right? It's gettin' dark."
Are you kidding me?
I cracked my eyelids and stared up. In the dim light of the moon, I saw a large round mass above me. It was one of the nannies I'd seen so many times before but had never spoken to. Her head was wrapped in a green printed cloth and tied at the front, above her brow. Her arms were thick, nearly leg-sized, and her hands, large, like a man's. She was nudging me hard in the ribs.
"Lady? Miss? You all right? You sick? You ain't sick are you? Go on and sit up now."
She pulled on my arms, and I struggled to rise. Ugh. I thought everyone was gone. I'm so tired ... enough already.
As luck would have it, when I moved to sitting, my hand hit the empty medicine bottle, causing it to roll onto the ground and smack into her foot. The woman bent down, picked it up and squinted at it, lifting her eyeglasses to try and read in the moonlight. "You ain't took them pills, did you?"
"Maybe a couple," I slurred.
"Oh Lord in heaven! Oh God Almighty! Aaaaaagh! Aaaaaagh! Lord in heaven!" The woman danced around on tiptoes like a hippo in the Nutcracker, pulling at her hair and unraveling her head wrap. Her black hair underneath was matted on one side and wild and fuzzy on the other. "Got to get help! Help! Help! Heeeeelp!" She ran back and forth with hands waving as if trying to conjure someone out of thin air.
God, I did not want all this drama. Truly. Can I just go in peace? Is that too much to ask?
I lay back down on the bench and watched the woman's dance as my eyes began to close again. This feels so good. Yes. This is right. It'll all be over soon. No more pity in their eyes. They always have pity when they look at me. They say I'm beautiful and wonderful, but they're all liars. I'm just so tired.
Is she gone? Hallelujah. Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take. Bless Mama and Daddy, and Alice and ...
"There she is! There she is! Whooooo! She still there! Is she dead? Oh Lordy Jesus, don't let that lady die! Don't let her die, don't let her die!"
My arms tingled. I heard voices. Angels? Are they coming for me?
"Oh sweet baby, don't you worry. You gonna be all right. My name's Ruby. Miss Blondell's gonna take good care o' you. Just hold on. Don't you die now." Seemed a munchkin had me now. She picked up my left foot and then the other, sliding them off the bench. "Willa, grab her right here," she said, pointing at my face. "Good. I got her down here. No, no! Hold her haid up."
"I got it!"
"You got it?"
"I got it, Ruby. Go on, now. Git! Oh, Lord Jesus in heaven, have mercy on this chile. Sweet Father in heaven, don't let this chile die in my arms. Noooooo sir. You just keep on a-living 'cause ain't no white girl gonna die in Willa's arms. No sir. You just breathe in and let go that hand o' the dead. The livin' pullin' you back here, chile. You just hold on now, 'cause we gonna pull you on back."
Oh, you've got to be kidding me. My limbs felt like I was being ripped apart as they joggled my body. Just kill me already. Please, I'm so tired.
I'm not sure how long they carried me-I lost count of how many times my feet were dropped on the ground and dragged. After a while I couldn't hear the sounds of nature anymore, the crickets and whippoorwills, or feel the dampness of night. Finally there was a hard thump on my back. Maybe they've finished me off? They did. Thank God. The crazy black women finally had pity and whacked the life right out of me.
Ow! Have mercy! They did it again.
"Not so hard, Ruby. Not so hard. You wanna kill the girl already?"
"But shouldn't it be workin' by now? How much you give her, Blondell?"
"I gib her 'nough. Sit tigh'."
"Ah Lawd have mercy, I knew this ain't good. Gawd in heaven, why we ain't took her to a hospital? Lawd, Christ!"
"Watch yo' mouth, Ruby."
Quiet. Then wailing. Then pacing. My mind was numb, my body swollen with cotton, but I could tell I was indoors by the cold, hard floor and bright light. I could hear water running in another room while my head rested on the cool edge of a toilet seat. Then I felt a sudden churning in my stomach and the vilest pain I'd ever encountered. "Aaaaaaaagh! Gaaarrrgh!"
"There, there, now. Just let it all out. Let all that poison out. Ruby's right here, so you just let it all out now. That's it. Pank! Them pills was pank, Blondell. Aw no. Aw no. That ain't blood, is it? Aaaaaw Lawd have mercy, have mercy, sweet Jesus!"
The little one who'd been stroking my hair peeled away and fainted dead on the floor next to me. My stomach belched one final blast of liquid and bile and then ... I waited ... I waited ... nothing. I rested my head on my arm, sweating. I stunk. The toilet stunk. I heard it flush and watched as my latest attempt to kill myself swirled down the drain along with every ounce of desire for living and any sense of accomplishment for actually going through with it this time.
I don't want to live. Why is that so hard? God, I would like to come up to heaven now, so I would appreciate it if You'd just get me out of this crazy black lady's house and hit me hard and fast with a speeding vehicle as I leave. Okay? Can You do that please? Is that too much to ask?
I was too tired to cry. I would have if I could have, but I was just too tired. There was vomit in my nostrils. My stomach muscles were sore. With everything I had in me, I rolled over and propped myself up in the corner next to the toilet. The white tiles beneath me were cracked and the grout mildewed. The wallpaper must have been from 1947. It was faded and peeling back in long flimsy strips.
There was a black woman in front of me, wiping my face with a wet washcloth. Oh, that feels good. Mother used to do that. I opened my eyes again. It wasn't Mama. It was the woman with lopsided hair and man-sized features. Her dark eyes were puffy from crying behind her glasses.
"You all right now, baby. Willa here now. God knew to turn me back to the park tonight. Ain't sure what I was goin' for, but I know it now. I come for you, chile." Her hand brushed my cheek. "Yessir. He brung you to the right place is what He done. You need healin', chile. By the grace of God, He brung you to the right place. Miss Blondell always know what she doin'. Ruby, get on off the flo' and grab me a glass o' water, hear?"
Cold water touched my lips, and I let it run down my chin. She wiped it up off my neck. An ancient, wiry woman came from the kitchen and bent to her knees, leaning in close. The smell of onions and fresh greens seeped from her skin.
"Such a shame. Sure is a pretty thing," said the one cradling my head and clucking her tongue.
"Migh' look nice outside, Willa, but ain on de inside. Ain dat righ', baby? What you do wrong, chile? Ain nuttin you can do dat Gawd ain gwine forgive. No sir. You gwine be awright. Go on now, fetch some fresh sheet and pilla out de closet. Hurry now. Ruby, come on in ya and help move een de bedroom."
They lifted me to standing, but my legs were too heavy. Can a dead woman walk? The floorboards creaked. I put all my weight on the three women carrying me and then fell onto the bed like a baby bird out of the nest. I tried to fly. Really I did. I'm just not cut out for it.
Oh, thank God. This is my final resting place, I thought-cool white clouds of heaven nestled under me and over me. This is all I've ever wanted. Peace and quiet. Now I lay me down to sleep. The light flicked out and there was total darkness. It rolled all around me and painted me black.
I'm dead. Finally. Thank God.
Excerpted from Trouble the Water by NICOLE SEITZ Copyright © 2008 by Nicole Seitz. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Nicole Seitz weaves enchanting tales of redemption filled with unforgettable characters and a refreshing Southern voice. She lives near Charleston, South Carolina,with her husband and two children. Twitter @nicoleseitz, facebook.com/pages/Nicole-Seitz/121816365611?ref=nf
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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For anyone thats struggling with ANYTHING. This is an awesome book. I'm not a big fan of reading at all. I came across the book "The Help" googled books that are alike to it and found this one. One of the best books i've ever read. With an amazing ending.
A gently told story of a young troubled woman, appropriately named Honor, her sister, and the woman of St. Anne's Island who attempt to save her. If you are fond of books set on the South Carolina coast, as I am, you will enjoy this one as well.
This is my first book I read from this author and I can say I will read her first The Spirit of Sweetgrass and the onces to follow. It is an easy reading, but it also is a lesson to learn of lifes true meaning. You will laugh, cry and hope as I did. Every character will become real and when you complete the book, you will still have them in your thoughts. Nicole Seitz is a wonderful writer, I also love her painting. I hope you read this book, because you will not regret it.
This was one of those stories where you just wanted to be there and talk to the characters! I began reading on a weekend morning (when I was supposed to be doing my chores) and ended up reading all day. Read a chapter (or two or three), do a chore, read a chapter..... Really excellent read all the way through!
I found this book to be very well-written women's literature. And you'll notice that I used the term 'women's literature' rather than 'women's fiction.' That's because this book is definitely character-driven that is, the characters are more important than the plot. And I've had the privilege to meet Nicole Seitz, a woman with a gracious and humble spirit. When you play a stringed instrument, there are certain types of chords called harmonics. When this type of chord is played - although it is actually several notes - it sounds like a single note. It actually sounds as if it played itself - almost otherworldly. In literature, you may call the same concept resonance: when characters in a book come alive to produce a prolonged response in the reader. TROUBLE THE WATER is that type of book. As you are reading, you realize that the characters have struck a chord in your soul - a chord that resonates long after you've finished reading.
I wasn't sure what to expect out of this novel, as southern lit doesn't necessarily sound like something I'm going to be captivated by. I adored it. I got into it pretty quickly because the dialect and setting were so interesting. And, of course, there's a bit of mystery in the lives of both the Duchess and Honor and I was interested in understanding these two sad women better. It all unfolds perfectly paced, with just a smidge of humor, beautiful language, and characters that you just really care about. It's the sort of book that makes you want to treasure life, and also to fully feel and grieve the pain of your past. But hope is beautifully etched into this story, not overbearingly, just lightly enough so that you can feel it. And yes, I sobbed through the last 70 pages or so of the book. Everything is beautiful about this book from the cover to the title to the final pages and the way it is all woven together. Highly recommended.
Once again, Nicole Seitz has captured the flavor of the Low Country and the spirit of Southern women. Her words are powerful.
Forty something Honor believes her life is over as her marriage is history and she is unemployed. Deep in her psyche, Honor believes she deserves both and worse as she now feels there is something lacking in her that makes her contemptible not fit to be loved by anyone. Even knowing she cannot run away from herself, she flees to St. Anne¿s Isle off the South Carolina coast. Honor attempts suicide, but the islander Gullah nannies intercede and prevent her from succeeding. They nurse her back to physical health and shower her with love that brings emotional contentment. Honor moves in with another somewhat wounded adoptee Duchess. Soon she begins to paint and contacts her sister Alice. When Honor informs Alice she has cancer, the younger sibling reassesses her successful life that looks like a failure next to her dying sibling¿s recent lust for life. --- The three females (Honor, Duchess and Alice) rotate perspective so the audience gets to understand what motivates each of them. Adding to that insight is the back and forth major highlights of each of their lives over the past eight years. However, there is too much happening with each of these females so that none of their problems to include loneliness, physical and mental abuse, depression, and suicidal tendencies is looked at as profoundly deep as the well written TROUBLED THE WATER should. Still fans who appreciate a look into a troubled person trying to find a life preserver will enjoy this fine inspirational tale. --- Harriet Klausner
Trouble the Water is a novel about healing and coming to grips with the past that allows one to meet the future. Two sisters experience a shared dark secret while very young and each reacts differently. The experience influences the rest of both their lives. It even drives them into relationships that further damage their psyche, one into a bad marriage, the other to attempt suicide. It is the simple faith of a group of Gullah nannies on a remote sea island that rescue Honor Maddox from the brink of death by sleeping pills, and put her in the home of another white soul who has also lost her way. Honor recovers more than her health. The despair that drove her to suicide is replaced with a new desire to live, a lost talent is coming back, she has new friends, and maybe now she and her sister could become normal siblings again. The continuing thread in all of this is the Christian faith of the principals in the story even in the face of learning that one of the sisters has an unusual, insidious, and terminal case of breast cancer. The other sister, Alice is devastated and the guilt she has kept inside for all the intervening years¿ increases yet more. The other thread here is the quaint sea island. Sparsely populated by seasonal visitors and a colony of Gullah people who provide services for them, St Anne¿s Isle is a special place as Honor soon discovers as will Alice also. It is a place to go when one needs to find oneself or to get closer to a higher power. It is a place we all seek out at one time or another in our lives. There are twists and turns along the way as the two sisters converge from their once different directions, and a curious twist at the end the reader will not expect, but on reflection will realize that it had to be so. Nicole Seitz writes with a warm affection for her characters and seems almost to feel their pain. She is a gifted writer who blends her own strong Christian faith into a story very worth telling. However, it would be an incorrect assumption to describe her as a writer of Christian literature - her work is too mainstream for that. In Trouble the Water, Seitz¿s faith is there in the pages of her book, shining through like a lighthouse beacon to show the way for ships on the troubled water.