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Watershed

Overview

A rediscovered classic of politics, murder, espionage, for the first time in paperback

On a windswept landscape somewhere north of Denver, Robert Hawks, a feisty and dangerously curious hydrologist, finds himself enmeshed in a fight over Native American treaty rights. What begins for Robert as a peaceful fishing interlude ends in murder and the disclosure of government secrets. Introduced by Sherman Alexie, who has taken a film option on the novel, this important novel is ...

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Overview

A rediscovered classic of politics, murder, espionage, for the first time in paperback

On a windswept landscape somewhere north of Denver, Robert Hawks, a feisty and dangerously curious hydrologist, finds himself enmeshed in a fight over Native American treaty rights. What begins for Robert as a peaceful fishing interlude ends in murder and the disclosure of government secrets. Introduced by Sherman Alexie, who has taken a film option on the novel, this important novel is published in paperback for the first time.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'Watershed has all the makings of a social thriller. Two FBI agents turn up dead in a local lake and a suspicious young Indian woman shows up soaking wet at the black hydrologist's cabin door. Everett keeps the storytelling terse and intense, while at the same time broadening the scope of the book, moving into the history of U.S. Indian treaty making and into the science behind the search for water and the pathos of reservation life. In this novel about water and the struggle for a life free of injustice, the mix doesn't just work, it flows.'--Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio

'Precise and important, Watershed is a book about honesty, and how to live with dignity in the presence of betrayal. It is a story we need; it contains a code of action for the present and unfortunately for the near future. It is mercifully funny, as well.'--Rick Bass, author of Where the Sea Used to Be

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Displaying much of the rueful irony and political bite, but none of the comic elan that distinguished his last novel, God's Country, Everett unfurls a disturbing, but rough-hewn story about a disaffected African American hydrologist, reluctantly enmeshed in a battle between Native American terrorists and nefarious federal agents. The opening scene is sharply drawn, as Robert Hawks, trapped in a church in the north Colorado mountains by 250 police, with three dead men and a gagged and bound FBI agent by his feet, reflects back on the events that brought him there. But the rest of the novel is a bumpy ride, interspersed with leaden excerpts from secondary sources ranging from topographical reports to a 1916 treaty granting water rights to the Plata Indians. Hawks recounts escaping from his high-strung girlfriend for a month of fishing at his cabin near the Plata Reservation; giving a ride to the enigmatic Louise Yellow Calf on the day that two FBI agents were murdered near the Plata watershed, then lying to the FBI about it; and, after prodding by Louise's relatives, uncovering a clandestine toxic dumping ground in the Plata mountains and a dam engineered to divert contaminated water into the reservation. Recalling his own father and grandfather's reluctant civil rights activism in the 1960s, he resolves to do the right thing, trekking across the mountains in a white-out to aid Louise's compatriots in a bloody showdown with the FBI. It's an ambitious novel, but Everett's dolorous subplots about broken families and failed relationships lack the nuance of the cultural background he gives them, one of black and Native American communities waging turf battles against rogue cops and racist whites. May
KLIATT
There's something terribly wrong on the Plata Reservation in Colorado. The water levels in the creeks are not normal, and Native American activists are implicated in the murder of two FBI agents at the lake. Vacationing hydrologist Robert Hawks, who has problems of his own, is drawn into the controversy. Although the disparate parts of this fast-moving novel don't always jell, there's enough here to recommend it to more mature readers. Sherman Alexie, in his angry introduction, touches on one of the central issues. Hawks is an African-American whose father and grandfather taught him to be wary and skeptical, an attitude that complicates his relations with the struggling Indians, who themselves are understandably edgy. His more or less unconscious identification with the Indians comes from his own feelings as an outsider in American society. A parallel plot concerning Hawks's neurotic girlfriend is unsettlingly amusing at times but is never absorbed smoothly into the heart of the novel. Nor are the lumps of hydrologic jargon and excerpts of historical and fictional treaties between the Indian nations and the U.S. government. But the central situation generates heat: an unengaged, questioning black man stumbles into a violent confrontation on behalf of a people he barely understands but intuitively senses are family. KLIATT Codes: A; Recommended for advanced students and adults. 1996, Beacon, 199p., Healy
Library Journal
Robert Hawks, a hydrologist with an attitude, becomes involved in a dispute over Native American treaty rights. On his way to his cabin north of Denver to do some winter fishing as well as to escape from his seriously deranged girlfriend, Hawks befriends Louise Yellow Calf, a Native American woman. Shortly thereafter, two FBI agents are found murdered not far from where Hawks met up with Louise. As the dispute comes to an increasingly violent climax, Hawks begins to see parallels between the civil rights struggles his family took part in when he was a child and the continuing attempts by Native Americans to right old wrongs. Everett God's Country, LJ 5/1/94 has written a wildly uneven book that mostly reads like the first draft of a bad novel. The prose is leaden, the characters one-dimensional and consequently impossible to tell apart, and the subplot dealing with Hawks's girlfriend Karen and her family adds nothing except length. Not recommended.-Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle
Kirkus Reviews
America's oppressed minorities join forces in this watered- down rehash of Black Panther/American Indian Movement activities—updated to include an image of the sensitive male—from University of California writing prof Everett (see above).

Black hydrologist Robert Hawks, fly-fishing his way through an early midlife crisis far from a wacky girlfriend back home in Denver, comes from a line of committed dissenters: His grandfather and father, both physicians, eschewed Christianity while embracing civil rights and humanity, to the point of grandfather having his license revoked for treating a gunshot wound on the sly. So, when a pint-sized Indian hitchhiker in sneakers gets Robert to drop her in rugged terrain with a winter storm coming on, and two FBI agents are found slain in the area shortly thereafter, his impulse is to protect her. This lands him in hot water himself, a situation he only compounds by going to find the woman, Louise Yellow Calf, to ask what she was up to. Robert learns that the US government dumped old biological warfare agents into the area, which are leaking into the Indian reservation watershed, and that the dead agents, one Indian and one black, were trying to warn those in harm's way when they were killed. Louise disappears, and, thinking she's in Denver, Robert returns home determined to understand the nature of commitment as his father and grandfather lived it. After meeting with Louise and other activists, he decides to gather evidence about the dump, and having done that commits himself still further when FBI hostages are taken by Louise's besieged group and Robert is asked to lead a supply run to them—over the terrain he knows better than anyone.

Some nice touches of humor and essential humanity, but the ground covered here has few breathtaking vistas—and the main character's low-key transformation fails to stir otherwise oddly tranquil waters.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780807083611
  • Publisher: Beacon
  • Publication date: 5/1/2003
  • Edition description: First Beacon Press Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 220
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.50 (h) x 0.44 (d)

Meet the Author

Percival Everett
Percival Everett is the author of eleven novels including the recent Erasure, which won the inaugural Hurston/Wright Legacy Award for fiction. He lives with his wife on a small ranch and teaches at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.
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