The Solace of Water: A Novel

The Solace of Water: A Novel

by Elizabeth Byler Younts

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Overview

The Solace of Water: A Novel by Elizabeth Byler Younts

“Younts has set herself apart with this exquisite story of friendship and redemption . . . I’ll be talking about this book for years to come.” —Rachel Hauck, New York Times bestselling author of The Wedding Dress

In a time of grief and heartache, an unlikely friendship provides strength and solace.

After leaving her son’s grave behind in Montgomery, Alabama, Delilah Evans has little faith that moving to her husband’s hometown in Pennsylvania will bring a fresh start. Enveloped by grief and doubt, the last thing Delilah imagines is becoming friends with her reclusive Amish neighbor, Emma Mullet—yet the secrets that keep Emma isolated from her own community bond her to Delilah in delicate and unexpected ways.

Delilah’s eldest daughter, Sparrow, bears the brunt of her mother’s pain, never allowed for a moment to forget she is responsible for her brother’s death. When tensions at home become unbearable for her, she seeks peace at Emma’s house and becomes the daughter Emma has always wanted. Sparrow, however, is hiding secrets of her own—secrets that could devastate them all.

With the white, black, and Amish communities of Sinking Creek at their most divided, there seems to be little hope for reconciliation. But long-buried hurts have their way of surfacing, and Delilah and Emma find themselves facing their own self-deceptions. Together they must learn how to face the future through the healing power of forgiveness.

Eminently relevant to the beauty and struggle in America today, The Solace of Water offers a glimpse into the turbulent 1950s and reminds us that friendship rises above religion, race, and custom—and has the power to transform a broken heart.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780718075668
Publisher: Nelson, Thomas, Inc.
Publication date: 06/05/2018
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 409,675
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Elizabeth Byler Younts gained a worldwide audience through her first book Seasons: A Real Story of an Amish Girl and is a RITA nominated writer. She is also the author of The Promise of Sunrise series. She has consulted on Amish lifestyle and the Pennsylvania Dutch dialect two award-winning television shows. Elizabeth lives in Central Pennsylvania with her husband, two daughters, and a cockapoo named Fable. Website: ElizabethBylerYounts.com; Twitter: @ElizabethYounts; Facebook: AuthorElizabethBylerYounts; Instagram: @ElizabethBylerYounts.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

DELILAH

Mid-April 1956

My skin was the same color as the soil. I pushed my hands into the ground, and it had hardened some since my visit a week earlier. My hands barely left a dent when I lifted them. I put them back and pressed harder. Tiny bright-green blades of grass were growing, and the dirt didn't look so newly turned over no more. Made me mad. Grass growing over my boy's grave. Should have known it would happen quick in an Alabama spring without no shade overhead. Still wasn't ready to see the ground looking so settled in just a month.

But in that month's time there had been a whole lot of rain to tamp down the old dirt. Even though the gravediggers didn't sow grass over the colored folks' graves, these seeds found this soil anyhow. But I still didn't like that. No, sir, I didn't. With life coming up from what was dead and buried. It was unnatural. That's what it was.

"Come on, Deedee." My husband's voice yielded to my heaviness like a down pillow. He put his hand on my shoulder, and he would've had to bend over real far because he was tall and I was on my knees. "Brother Jake is waiting for us."

I leaned forward away from his touch. My tears dripped and the wetness slipped between my fingers and watered the new grass I hated.

"Just a minute, Malachi." He didn't mean to rush me, but part of me just wanted to tell him to let me be, to take hisself to Brother Jake's Ford and wait on me 'til I was done. Might never be done though.

I rubbed my hand against the rough concrete gravestone. But it wasn't just concrete. We didn't have enough money for a whole bag, so we had to add in sand from the river. The sand made it weaker though. But it didn't look different from all the other colored folks' stones in the graveyard. Most didn't stick up out of the ground like the white folks' stones. They just lay flat. Flat and dead. I traced his name with my finger. I thought I'd do the lettering just like that — with my own finger —' til Brother Joshua offered to do it up nice with his tools. He done a good job.

What I didn't like was that someone had added a shell from the Alabama River to the corner. Just about all the gravestones at this cemetery had them embedded somewhere. But I didn't want that for my boy. No way. I didn't need to explain why, but that river shell got no business on his marker. I knew who snuck the shell to Brother Joshua, and there wasn't no way I was going to leave it be.

I pulled out a hammer from my handbag. I'd taken it from the box of tools Malachi had packed a week ago. With one quick swing I set a crack in the corner of the gravestone.

"Delilah Evans, why you do that? Gimme that." Malachi grabbed the hammer from my hand. When he got mad he lost a little of his polished-up preacher voice. "Look what you done."

"You know why." My gaze was still on the gravestone.

I didn't like that the corner was chipped off, but it was better than having that shell there. I tucked the shell in my pocket and it felt heavier than was right.

With my pinky I brushed off bits of concrete from the gravestone onto the grass. I took a few minutes and just stared at what I'd done. But getting that Alabama River shell off was like a little bit of right in all the wrong.

With my handbag still open I took out my coin purse, my white church gloves, my hankie, and my sunglasses. I handed my stuff to Malachi without turning around. He fumbled a little but he took them. Now my handbag was empty.

When I dug my fingers into the dirt, the grit got under my nails. Beneath the surface the dirt's a little damp but that don't stop me. After I put the first handful in my purse, Malachi grabbed my shoulder real firm this time.

"Delilah." He almost never used my given name, and now this was the second time in a few minutes. 'Course he was worried about me but I wasn't going to stop. "What you doing, baby?"

"I need some of his dirt. Dirt don't die. Dirt don't die." I set my purse down and used two hands. I got some urgency down in my gut that I hadn't felt since the day I heard my little boy was in trouble. "I'm taking little Carver's dirt with us. Pennsylvania got to know my boy."

When my handbag was full I sat back and let my breathing calm down. I got dirt all over my black dress, but I don't care none. And Malachi's sigh got all sorts of heft to it and I felt it all down my backside.

After a few moments sitting in the new morning sun, he started talking again in that calm way he do. "Sister Lois say she'll come by to take a picture of the headstone and send it to us. Her grown boy got a nice new camera."

I nodded and sniffed again. I closed my handbag and when it clicked shut, I got half a mind to throw it across the ole misty graveyard. It just felt too finished.

"Time to go." Malachi offered his hand.

I let him help me up. My strength all gone.

I looked at my husband and his big, brown, glassy eyes got a sadness in them that I wonder will never leave. 'Course he was hurting too, but two weeks after our baby boy died he preached from the pulpit. It was about forgiveness and he sang along with the choir in proclamation of the Lord's goodness. I couldn't do that. Some fingers of my gloves stuck out of his pocket, like they was grabbing at something. I looked back at Carver's grave. Nothing felt right.

Malachi took my dirty hand in his and we walked away. Brother Jake sat with his hands on the wheel. He tried to smile at me but didn't get far. I glanced in the backseat before I slid in. My kids filled it up. Malachi Jr., Mallie, sat by the door and just looked out. I could almost hear his brave voice tell me again that ten-year-olds were too old to cry. I almost slapped him smart when he said it. Got no business keeping dry eyes when his brother died. Little Harriet sat next to him. She gave me a smile because that girl always tried to give away happiness.

Next to the other door was my oldest girl, a new young woman really, Sparrow. I raised my eyebrow when I looked at her, dug that shell out of my pocket, and held it out for her.

"You keep it, girl. Don't you lose it." I wanted to add too but held back the reminder.

She took that concrete-crusted shell from me and curled it in her hand and turned back toward the window. Her gaze traveled to the distant stone with the cracked corner.

I let my gaze trail down to little George sitting on Sparrow's lap. He had this lost look on his four-year-old face.

It was his other half that was buried in the deep down.

CHAPTER 2

EMMA

1956

Secret hive, whispering wind — no — breeze. Swaying branches, dancing trees. I repeated the words over and over in my mind. I didn't want to forget them. My fingers thrummed against my knee, itching for the pencil and paper I had at home. What would come next? What would it be like to have the freedom of trees?

"Life is a vapor. It's just a breath." Mervin Mast, the preacher, released a puff of air as an example. He was a new preacher who had just moved into our small Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania, settlement. It wasn't in the mountains with the miners or in the valley where it was lush and green, but just in between. Mervin's beard was neat and a rich auburn, declaring that he was younger than the preachers with long schtrubleh beards — the messy beards had always bothered me. Mervin came from Lancaster and his frau, Lena, fancied her kapp. She was round and plump and pretty. The very opposite of me.

"But the world doesn't live like that. Their lives move like the blowing wind. They go wherever it leads. They travel fast like the many streams and creeks that come down from the mountain and just let the current lead their way without thought."

I turned away from the sea of white and black coverings of my fellow Amish schwesters to the nearby window. Several bees buzzed around the hanging potted plant. I imagined the murmur of their collective wings. Like the hum of these same fellow sisters who surrounded me, who talked with quiet voices behind their hands.

Preachers on occasion have referred to Amish communities as beehives or colonies of ants — living in groups and always working at their ordained responsibilities. And just like bees always had their golden honey ready for harvest before the summer faded to autumn, we always had to be ready too. For whatever was to come.

The cry of the most recently born baby in our church caught my attention away from the window. It was like looking backward into a past life I'd lived. I'd been about the age of this girl — the new mom — when I'd had Johnny. The bliss and wonder of new motherhood had captivated every part of me. I'd suddenly realized why my mother glowed every time she introduced me to our family's new baby. It made sense that my alt mammie, even at the risk of her health, would travel to see the fresh little face. Through my old grandma I learned to see this new life stretch before us and it brought so much hope.

That's what it was. Hope.

And even as I thought this, my hands rested in my lap, so close to where my son had grown. He was across the room somewhere now — tall, lanky, and as handsome as his dat had been at sixteen. I looked at my hands. They were so empty.

"Emma." The whisper came from near me and a warm hand tapped my knee.

My daydreaming — my past-dreaming — had taken me through the rest of the service. It was time to kneel and pray. Then we would file out. We would eat. We would talk. I would hold many babies and I would hand them all back to their mothers.

A few hours later I was in the buggy with my husband, John, trying to forget my reminiscing and remember my lines that I'd thought up during service instead. I mouthed the words a few ways before I recalled the exact lines. The clip-clop of the horses offered me a rhythm. I whispered them. Secret hive, whispering breeze. Swaying branches, dancing trees.

"Vas wah sehl?" John asked what I said, with his eyes trained on the road through the open windshield — now that April had turned nice.

"Nix." I told him nothing because he didn't appreciate what he called my fancy lines and ideas and warned me against vanity.

"Larry and Berthy are coming on Tuesday. For a week or so."

"In two days your brother and sister-in-law and their seven children are visiting from Ohio and you are just telling me now?"

Since Berthy couldn't read or write, Larry usually wrote to John. I remembered seeing the letter weeks ago but had forgotten to ask John about it. This had happened enough times I should not be surprised. The last time was before Thanksgiving and his parents and two unmarried bruders came to visit for a week. My oil and flour ran dry and my faith was dashed clean away.

"Ich hap fageseh." He was a plainspoken man. He would not provide more explanation.

"How can you forget? John, we don't have close to enough food to feed nine more people." Of course, I knew why he'd forgotten. He knew also. But it wasn't something we talked about.

"Nah, Emma, you're making something bigger out of this than it is. Most of the women around here are feeding more than nine for every meal. You got it easy with just me and Johnny. Stop being spoiled. You just need to make our food stretch. We make more money than Larry does, and Berthy still finds a way to feed all nine of them. Why don't you ask her to show you how?" He never looked at me when he spoke. He remained elbows to knees with the reins loose in his hands.

The mild weather was suddenly too hot for me because I knew he was right. I only had one son and husband to feed and care for. Berthy worked small miracles to feed her brood. But feeding twelve instead of three without time to prepare made my stomach drop. I wasn't good at working without a plan.

"We got all those empty rooms — shouldn't complain about filling them up. You cry because they're empty and get ornery when they're filled."

"John —" My response was disrupted by a buggy racing by, throwing gravel toward our horse, Brian.

Johnny.

John let out a hoot and holler and our son offered a wild response. He'd just turned sixteen and John had paid for half his buggy to help the boy out. I wished I'd had a say in the matter. Johnny was an irresponsible rabble-rouser and should've had to save the entire amount for the buggy himself. He would be prepared for baptism this fall, which could calm some of the ambitions of the young people. Maybe it would settle him down.

"Sehlah buh muß schlake." I was half teasing.

John laughed and the heartiness of it softened me a little. We didn't often laugh together. "I'd like to see you try and spank that boy — you're too hard on him."

While racing buggies was normal behavior for our youth, I worried about Johnny's irresponsible ways.

The chickens and geese scattered as we pulled into our drive. If we turned to the left it would take us to the back of our white farmhouse and the walkout basement, but we went off to the right to park in the red barn.

"Last week I found him watching television." Though a typical rebellion, it still concerned me. Johnny was far too comfortable with the English neighbor's son, Arnold. "I was taking some herbs to Lisa — she hasn't been well for weeks — and Johnny was sitting with Arnold in the living room watching something on the television. He didn't care that I saw him because he knows you won't do anything about it."

"Emma, I remember the two of us raising a little Cain when we were running around."

I hadn't seen the twinkle in his eyes for so long my heart flopped. I played along and jabbed him in the ribs. He smirked. He had raised Cain; I had not. I'd done little more than hem my dress a little higher and write poetry that I was told was prideful. His twinkle didn't remain and his stern jaw returned, set like stone.

I reverted just as fast, returning to my concerns about our son. "I know all about rumspringa, but because you're the aumah deanah, people expect a certain thing from the head deacon's family."

His chest tightened and his movements were stern and snappy when securing the reins. "Listen, you don't have to remind me of what I am." He threw the words over his shoulder as he stepped out of the buggy.

I hopped out and walked around to his side as he unhitched the horse. I got close to him, but his hands didn't stop moving and he didn't turn toward me. He didn't want to have this conversation. I didn't either, but Johnny —

I moved my hand to cover his so he would look at me but then laced my hands together instead. "He knows he can get away with anything, John, because —"

"Because what?" He turned toward me.

I couldn't remember the last time he'd looked into my face so fully. His brown eyes squinted at me. I took in his appearance. His dark hair still without a single gray strand — unlike mine that mixed evenly with my dark blonde, making me seem older than my thirty-seven years. He'd been so handsome when we first married almost twenty years earlier, and remnants remained, but in the last few years his cheeks had become unnaturally red against the edge of his beard. The strong features in his face had hardened and I knew why. His tall body had become softer, but it wasn't because of age — he wasn't even forty yet.

His jaw tightened and his Adam's apple bobbed. "Because what?" His voice was thin and his face twitched when he repeated his words.

I could smell the peppermint leaves he chewed for his breath and as a comfort. He always had some handy, even if pressed between the pages of his Bible. His question hung unanswered. Because the answer would bring pain to us both. I avoided all pain. And I loved my husband and I didn't want him in pain. I wanted to be what brought him solace even when he was lost in sin. It was what drove me.

But as I walked away the answer still plagued me. Johnny knew he could get away with anything because the aumah deanah, his own father, was a drunk and no one but me was the wiser.

(Continues…)


Excerpted from "The Solace of Water"
by .
Copyright © 2018 Elizabeth Byler Younts.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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.

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The Solace of Water: A Novel 4.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 32 reviews.
JLYoung 6 months ago
Have you every read a book that stays with you... for a looong time? This is one of those books. It's deep, heavy, reminiscent, and reflective but full of acceptance, love, joy, grace and forgiveness. It's the story of how grief covers you and takes over your being and won't let you go sometimes. The words make you feel their loss. They make you hurt for their pain. They pull you in and won't let you go. To be completely honest, at first, I thought the story was a little slow, reflective, and lyrical and I wasn't sure what the point was. But the writing was beautiful. Absolutely beautiful. The farther I got into the story the more I loved it. Not because it became so much more active, but because I could feel the story happening. The author is brilliant at writing how people feel, how they respond to the events in their life, and how they relate to those around them because of it. It's the story of two totally unrelated people groups drawn together; African American and Amish together, helping each other, grieving with and for each other, becoming friends in the deepest unexpected way. It is so unique. It's unlike any other Amish fiction book I've read. She doesn't paint a perfect picture of the Amish. I'm glad for that. There's no romanticizing them in this book. They have issues just like the rest of us. I loved how the author didn't shy away from that. I loved the metaphor of the water. Christ is our healing water, the one who can quench real thirst and give forgiveness for even the worst things. Christian references were very minimal but powerful. They don't detract from the story at all. Very tastefully included. I put this book right up there with pulitzer prize winning All the Light We Cannot See: A Novel by Anthony Doerr and Kristin Hannah's The Nightingale: A Novel. Excellently written literary work of the highest quality. Definitely worth the time it takes to read it. It's not an easy read but it's so so good. Give it a chance and stick with it! I received a copy of this book from BookLookBloggers. This has in no way influenced my review. All thoughts are my own. https://livinglifefreeinchrist.com/2018/08/10/solace-of-water/
Anonymous 11 months ago
Love the story! It is a wonderful story by a wonderful woman. Don’t miss out. Get your copy today.
EpicFehlReader 27 days ago
The novel is presented in alternating POVs, rotating between Delilah, daughter Sparrow, and Amish neighbor Emma. To date, the novel seems to have gotten solid 4-5 star ratings across the board but I just did not have the same reaction as so many others. To be honest, I actually struggled to get to the end of this book. I DID finish it but for a book this size (under 400 pages), it took me WEEKS to get there. Highly unusual for me, especially for a historical fiction novel -- one of my favorite genres! The pace felt molasses-slow... which is sometimes nice in a novel if the writer brings the right tone... but when you combine slow with a deeply depressing plot for most of the novel... that alone left me exhausted enough. But then add in Delilah as a character. That woman had a personality that just came off as almost straight vinegar. Yes, it is explained later (through her conversations with Malachi and later, Emma) that much of her acidic demeanor is driven by a combination of fear and grieving, even fear that letting go of the grieving will somehow dishonor the memory of Carver. Full disclosure: I do not have children, have never personally experienced the loss of my own child. BUT, in my own circle of family and friends, there are a number of women who have had that experience in one form or another, whether through miscarriage, stillbirth, or tragedy. With that, I can say that none of the women in my circle have ever come anywhere near the unpleasantness of Delilah. They've known the sadness for sure, but they went on to live the best lives they could, full of love and appreciation for the people they still had around them. Delilah was just EXHAUSTING in the way she never gave anyone or anything a chance, she just assumed everything was more misery in disguise ... at least for a large part of the story. So what kept me reading? Well, this is one of those stories that does have its important, moving moments, even if they are few and far between for some readers. But as I said, I stuck with it, and the plot's pace FINALLY picked up for me around the 250 page mark. But remember, the entire book is less than 400 pages. That's a long wait to a payoff. But readers who choose to stay with it do witness revelatory conversations, where women ask the important questions such as "Is that what you want --- to be separate?" and we come to realize that though the details and the POVs may differ, one commonality bonds these women together: they are all desperate for unconditional love and affectionate touch, something to remind them they are still important to others... yet their actions show just how scared all them are to voice that need. Good concepts for a novel, the problem for me mainly fell on the characters not having enough dimension for me to have much emotional investment in them. FTC Disclaimer: TNZ Fiction Guild kindly provided me with a complimentary copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. The opinions above are entirely my own.
Cynthia181 30 days ago
I received a copy of this book from the Fiction Guild, I was not required to give a favorable review. This was a wonderful story of motherhood, overcoming fears of change of situations. A mother with her husband and family move from an area that is very much determined by black & white to her husband home which is in the north. Before she left she buries her little son and is dealing with this as well. Emma is very a big disconnect from her Amish community and these two women had become friends during a time that when each is dealing with anguish and pain. I very much enjoyed this story.
Pattistep 4 months ago
The very first page of this book broke my heart. From that page forward, I was mesmerized by this well-written, unusual story. There is not one page of this book that’s comfortable. The themes of racism; deep grief over the tragic loss of a child; alcohol addiction; anger; and deceitfulness run through every part of this story. But just when I thought the there was no way out of the grief these characters were experiencing, the powers of friendship, faith, love, and forgiveness came alive just when they were needed the most. The characters of Emma, Sparrow, and Delilah are quite complex and we view this broken story through their eyes. Reading this book is a remarkable journey of seeing how faith can change even the most desperate of situations. This is not a “happily ever after” kind of story, but it’s a reminder that God is allowed to work in a life, even the bitter things become trophies of His grace. I received a copy of this book from the publisher. All opinions are my own.
JennGrand 4 months ago
This book is about family, friendship, grief and true community. After her son passes away, Delilah Evans moves back to her hometown in Pennsylvania, thinking a fresh start is just what she and her daughter, Sparrow, needs. She reconnects with her childhood friend, Emma Mullet, something she never expects. Through her grief of losing her son, Sparrow's grief of not only losing her brother, but also feeling responsible, and the the divisions in her community, Delilah, Emma and Sparrow embark on a journey they never expect.  This book was a great read! Culturally relevant and a true story of how hope and forgiveness can transform a community.
JournalOfABibliophile 5 months ago
The Solace of Water is a historical fiction novel about healing, forgiveness, and finding friendship (and love) in unexpected places. This book is set in Amish country during the 1950’s. The narrators are an African-American preacher’s wife named Delilah “Deedee”, her teenage daughter Sparrow, and an Amish woman named Emma. This book contains challenging topics that some readers may struggle with, or want to avoid completely (racism, alcoholism, stillbirth/miscarriage, and self harm). After the death of their little boy, Malachi and Delilah Evans move from Montgomery, Alabama to Sinking Creek, Pennsylvania with their children for a fresh start. Sparrow is the oldest daughter and thinks she’s responsible for the death of her little brother, Carver. It doesn’t help that Delilah constantly blames Sparrow for his death. Emma is the wife of a deacon in a small Amish community, and a recluse. Her husband John is a drunk and her teenage son Johnny is smoking and drinking with non-Amish kids. Not only does Emma have to help hide her husband’s alcoholism, she’s grieving the loss of her infant daughter, and has secrets of her own. When the Evans family moves to Sinking Creek, they notice the town isn’t like Montgomery. There aren’t any race signs up, but some of the folks around town still have issues with people of color, and the grocery store has a blacks only food section. Race is not the focal point of the book though, friendship and healing is, so a majority of the book doesn’t even take place in town. After Emma finds Deedee’s son George in the woods, she brings him to his parent’s home and her life changes dramatically. Despite their cultural differences, Delilah and Emma become friends, and share their grief. When mother-daughter tension rises, Sparrow runs off to Emma and helps her around the house with chores. Sparrow becomes the daughter Emma always wanted. It’s such a wholesome relationship. Emma’s chapters were my favorite. I’m so intrigued by the Amish lifestyle and wish there had been more about it. Sparrow was an interesting character as well! I understood the grief Delilah was feeling over the loss of her son, but her treatment towards Sparrow was emotionally abusive and completely unnecessary. It really made me dislike her! My heart broke so much when Sparrow started self harming. This was my first Amish book, and it’s the perfect book if you’re a fan of historical fiction and want to dip your toes into Amish fiction. I’m so glad there was a happy ending. I highly recommend this book. Elizabeth Byler Younts is a great author!
Anonymous 5 months ago
Thank you to the author, the publisher, and NetGalley for giving me an ARC in exchange for my candid review. What an excellent book! It is set in the 1950's when a black family moves from Montgomery Alabama to te Lancaster Pennsylvania area. The small town does not have signs posted about what whites and blacks can or can't do, but it still carries double standards. The town also includes an Amish settlement. The book is about tragedy, and secrets and mistakes. And how all of those things impact people's lives. It is also about finding friends in the most unusual places. It is about sadness and hope and faith and salvation. I literally could not put the book down. I loved the two women, their families and their children. I wish that I could count them as my friends. Please read this book----you will not be disappointed! Six stars!!! Excellent book!
LucyMR1 5 months ago
Poignant, heartrending, touching, poetic, healing, these are some words that come to mind after reading The Solace of Water. This is my first read by this author and I was so impressed. The characters and their life experiences stick with you and you want to read more about them instead of closing the book and forgetting them. I wasn’t able to read this quickly as the words were meant to be savored and contemplated. It deals with hurting people and their coping mechanisms to get through the pain. My heart hurt for each of these women, but I was sobbing over Sparrow. I don’t want to say more as my words don’t seem to do this book the merit it deserves. Run to get your copy as you don’t want to miss this keeper. I received a complimentary copy from Thomas Nelson & Zondervan Fiction Guild. The honest review and opinions are my own and were not required.
Melissa Andres 6 months ago
A compelling and sometimes difficult read. This story dives into some deep, dark issues like alcoholism, loss of a child, self-harm, and racism, but Elizabeth Byler Younts handles them with sensitivity and grace. The story has three main characters and parts are written from each persons point of view. At first I wasn't sure I was going to like that, but I think it helps you to understand each of the three characters better and form a bond with them. The Solace of Water is definitely not an easy read, but it is well worth your time! I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.
Mandy Elliott 6 months ago
THE SOLACE OF WATER IS NOT A BOOK TO JUST BE READ, BUT RATHER A BOOK TO BE EXPERIENCED.  *I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook Bloggers book review program and Thomas Nelson (a registered trademark of HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc.) in exchange for an honest review. All thoughts below are my own. Have you ever read a book that was so riveting, you needed time after finishing the book just to process the depth of the words and the emotions tied up in them? I’m feeling that way after just finishing the new release, The Solace of Water, by Elizabeth Byler Younts.  For hours, my mind and heart has mulled over what I just read - the extreme depth of grief, love, friendship and the redemption that can only be found in forgiveness. As I compose my review, I’m not even sure my words will do this novel justice. I loved everything about this book. How the characters and their thoughts jumped off the page, coming alive and coercing me to relate to them. How I felt angered over their decisions, grief over their losses and heartache over their pain. I felt the newness of life come about as forgiveness made its way into the lives of the characters, a refreshing balm for the soul.  Author Elizabeth Byler Younts wasn’t afraid to entwine hard truths or expose the realities of lies and deception. She brought life to the pages and made me, as a reader, see how we as humans make choices without fully realizing how they impact those around us.  Using a timeline when racial tension was at an all time high, she weaves a story that is just as relevant today as it was in the mid 1950’s. Friendship and love can transcend all religions, races and ways of life.  I can’t say enough about this book, without giving too much of the story away. It is a story I would highly recommend to other adult readers. It is one that won’t soon be forgotten and quite possibly remembered for a long time to come.
bookchickdi 7 months ago
Elizabeth Byler Younts' novel, The Solace of Water, opens with Delilah at the grave of her son, suffering an unbearable grief. Her preacher husband Malachi softly approaches her as she is filling her empty purse with dirt from his grave, which she will bring with her to their new home in Sinking Creek in Pennsylvania Amish country. Delilah blames her fourteen-year-old daughter Sparrow for her son's death, and although we know don't the exact circumstances, we know that Sparrow blames herself as well. Delilah has turned her back on Sparrow, and refuses to offer comfort to her daughter. Emma is an Amish woman, married to John, a respected deacon in their church. Emma is sad as well. She lost a baby girl to a miscarriage years ago, and her grief is still fresh. Her husband John is an alcoholic, a secret that Emma keeps from the congregation for fear that they will be shunned by their closeknit community. Emma also has a secret of her own that she is carrying, one that troubles her daily. While walking in the woods near her home, Emma finds young George, the twin brother to the son Delilah lost. Sparrow turns to Emma for the kindness that her mother can't seem to give her, and she becomes involved with Emma's son Johnny. Delilah's family left the overt racism of Montgomery, Alabama in 1957 for the more covert racism of the North. While the children notice that there aren't any 'Whites Only' signs anywhere, they still need to learn where they are welcome and where they are not. Malachi gets a job working in the only white grocery store where blacks are allowed to shop, although they have a separate produce section and shopping carts. The Amish community does not discriminate against the black members of the community, but they stick to themselves, preferring not to socialize with anyone who isn't Amish. Emma breaks that tradition because she likes Sparrow, and teaches her how to do laundry and sew. When Sparrow finds Emma in a bad state, she runs to her mother for help, and Delilah discovers that Sparrow has been spending time with Emma. She helps Emma and they become friends, finding that they have a shared sense of grief that no one else understands. The title of the book comes from this line: "It was like lamenting over thirst while the solace of water was close at hand". Emma says that "no one wanted to talk about why we drew invisible lines around our hearts and expected everyone to stay away." There is one incredibly tense scene that could have been from "The Real Housewives of Sinking Creek" where Delilah confronts Emma about the secrets she has been keeping, unaware that her own daughter has secrets of her own that could endanger her life. The Solace of Water tackles so many themes- racism, grief, friendship, forgiveness, secrets, religion- that it would make a wonderful book club pick. There is a lot to discuss here. Younts is a wonderful writer, she has several turns of phrase that made me stop and reflect. She tells the story through the words of Delilah, Emma and Sparrow and each woman speaks with a distinct voice. She also gives the reader a look into the Amish culture, something I was not overly familiar with. I recommend The Solace of Water for those who like a serious story.
Anonymous 7 months ago
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. I seldom give a book 5 out of 5 stars. It must be a book that I will keep thinking about it. This book definitely meets the criteria. The title raises the main themes of the book: Solace (comfort) and water (baptism, birth, life, growth, drowning, death). The quote “Water for life; dirt of the dead” is an overarching summary of this book. The book gets your attention right off the start. The death of a child which has the reader sympathizing. The book is set in the 1950s. An Amish family and a Negro family become neighbors and friends. (“Was I just a white person and … just a colored person?” or “I’d always been known by what I wore and how I lived, but not by my skin. I didn’t know what it was like to be known by my own skin.”) Each mother in these families lost a child. The pain and coping that goes with their grief binds them together. Additionally, the book effectively raises the challenges of each group during these times. Awareness is raised of: • Death of a child (“Water could do a lot, but I didn’t think it could bring anything back from death. Sometimes too much water caused a seed or a young plant to die.” and “I tried so hard to see his little face, but it was like I was looking through water.”), • Loss (“…something wrong with my land because it wasn’t letting nothing grow yet. No little sprouts. Maybe what I’d sown and planted was grief so that was all I could harvest.”), • Self-harm (“I hurt real bad because I killed my brother.”), • Interracial relationships (“You know better than that. You know our colors don’t mix. You live your life. I live mine.”), • Racism in the 50s, • Alcoholism and its impact on the community and family (“the secrets … kept from the church bound us together but were also destroying us from within”), • Forgiveness (“…it was about me forgiving myself. I just wanted to die.”), • Grief (“…didn’t want to be touched no more. Didn’t want no pleasure—didn’t seem right.” Grief so strong that she denies herself happiness.) • Church and baptism (“Wasn’t baptism supposed to bring you a new life? It brought my baby death.”) Numerous times it caused me to stop and think: “…the very trees called to me. Sometimes it was in the way the wind wrapped around them and their leaves waved hello. This morning it was in the birdsong with its trill reminding me that there was something beautiful still to be cherished.” Over and over there are lines grabbed me, such as: “The sun was setting just on the other side of the church. It looked pretty. Pink. Purple. Orange. God was painting His love across the sky.” “It was like lamenting over thirst while the solace of water was close at hand. But I’d remained empty, and instead of taking a long drink of healing and offering forgiveness, I’d poured the water onto the earth to satisfy the bitter roots I harvest daily.” “Water just did what it did and got in all the cracks and went in all the emptiness it could find. It didn’t even have to try hard. It was just how water worked. Sometimes it was giving and sometimes it was taking. Because water can do both.” “… water was alive. It just did what it did and ain’t nobody can tame it.” The book is compelling and very thought provoking. I loved this book and highly recommend it.
BooksAndSpoons 8 months ago
A heart-wrenchingly somber tale of three women and their lives, the pain of losing a child, the sorrow of the emptiness inside, the secrets of the families, the racial and cultural unrest of the 1950s, and the turmoil of hearts when the darkest, deepest corners of your heart and mind are being exposed to the community surrounding you. With breathtakingly beautiful prose, the author tells a story that went straight to my heart and shattered it repeatedly with the realistic and raw grief each of the women experience in their lives. From the hidden alcoholism, self-mutilation, manipulations of mind and body, to the blame, bitterness, and agony, the sense of failure as a woman, mother, wife, sister, daughter, a Christian, a person of the community, every emotion and event tours a new wound to the fragile souls. Each of the three women seemed to burst into dust with their own unique pain until they were able to start to heal, to let the past go, to try to start a fresh, and find a new direction and purpose in their lives. Each of the ladies gets their turn to tell their side of the story and events unfolding, in the first POV. And through their own eyes and thoughts, the reader gets to live the moments at their side, feeling all the emotions and the despair of their minds. While I admire and applaud this devastatingly heartbreaking novel, it might have been one of the most difficult books to read with its burdensome lessons and heartfelt messages, even of the survival and strength of women when put them through the worst hardships of life. These ladies and their destinies have stayed with me, lingered in my mind, and made me wonder how much - if any while watching the recent events - has the society advanced with certain matters over the decades. While there is nothing light or fluffy about the story, and it definitely cannot be considered escape-reading, this delicate tale about the racial differences, and the mother's heart and its grief, about lives in turmoil, and the growing pains of a teenager, for an open mind and heart it will give a new perspective, a new understanding, and a new respect, appreciation, and confirmation of the strength of a woman and their heart, mind, and soul. Yes, the story will shatter you, your very core being, if you let it, but it will bring the healing, mending, encouragement, and inspiration before the ladies continue their new lives with their fresh start. A stunningly affecting and poignant story ~ Five Spoons
TheBeccaFiles 9 months ago
Wow, talk about a book that will emotionally wreck you! This book had me gripped from the very beginning. I knew going in that the book would be emotionally charged based on the description, but I had no way of knowing just how deep that emotional connection would take me! The Solace of Water takes place during the Jim Crowe days of the 50’s in America. Sparrow and her family move from Montgomery in the south to Sinking Creek in the north. While the south was more visual in their segregation with signs posting their racial distinctions, the north was more subtle in their approach, but just as brutal in their enforcement. Without going too political, the book clearly described the energy of the times. While the “blacks and whites” had their battles between them, the Amish attempted to be separate from all of it, often to the point of ignorance. They didn’t see the big deal in fighting over something as trivial as the color of one’s skin, but they understood the separations due to religion. The dynamics and complexity of the strife between the groups was felt throughout the entire story. This story was beautifully written, and it would be impossible to read it without your heart breaking for several of the characters. The story was told from the point-of-view of Sparrow, her mother Delilah (Dee), and their Amish neighbor Emma. Each character was wrestling with deep rooted pain and guilt over things they may or may not have had any control over. Their brokenness is manifested in different ways for each character. Sparrow can’t let go of the guilt that she feels responsible for her little brother Carver’s death along with the fact she wishes she could have taken his place. Delilah blames Sparrow for Carver’s death and can’t seem to let him go. Emma wrestles with the guilt of hiding her husband’s alcoholism for years, the pain of losing a baby daughter before she could take her first breaths in the world, as well as the guilt over things she has hidden from her own husband. Each woman has battles that they are dealing with that are much deeper than the color of their skin or the church they attend. They looked beyond those differences in order to be a help to one another in their greatest moments of need. My heart absolutely broke for Sparrow’s character. Throughout the book you see her looking to pain to help her cope. Emma’s son Johnny knew some of it and tried to help her, but she learned quickly how to hide her wounds. It was only a matter of time before they could no longer be hidden though, and it was in several of those moments that I confess to a whole lot of crying. It was in these moments, when Sparrow’s heart was on the table, that I broke the most for her. This was an amazingly well written story, and one that will certainly rip at you emotionally. It will also get you to see past the perceived issues and instead travel deeper to the desperate pleas of the heart. I highly recommend this book, but also warn that some of the subject matter could be very difficult for some readers to handle. Be prepared for an emotional ride! *I received a complimentary copy from BookLook Bloggers and the author in hopes of an honest review. I was not obligated to give a positive review. Thoughts and opinions expressed are mine alone.
Montana Schopieray 9 months ago
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Out of all of the books I’ve read so far this year, The Solace of Water: A Novel is by far my favorite. Set in the 1950s, this book focuses on two women, Emma and Delilah, and Delilah’s daughter, Sparrow. Emma is Amish and has many hurts from a painful loss that she keeps hidden away. Delilah, or DeeDee, is full of anger and grief after her son’s untimely death. Sparrow is lost and grieving for her brother, believing she’s responsible for his death. These three women form an unlikely bond and friendship, connected by their losses and pain. This story is about grieving and forgiveness. While not a mother myself, losing a child is something I cannot fathom. Even thinking about losing my imagined child makes me choke up, so reading this book was heartbreaking. Life is never the same, and a death such as this affects everyone in different ways. The book accurately portrays these characters as grieving souls. The never-ending what-ifs these mothers ask themselves and the relentless punishments they give to themselves was what I feel I would do as well. While I thought the constant what ifs the mothers asked themselves was accurate, I almost felt it was overdone. At times the questions went on for paragraphs, and almost got philosophical to a certain extent. I admittedly was drawn to this book because it was about an Amish woman. I have never read a book about the Amish lifestyle so it pure curiosity on my part when I picked the book up. The author herself was Amish as a child so it made the entire story much more authentic than I think most fiction books about the Amish are. The fact that the author didn’t stick to a nicely tied up ending made it much more realistic. The author wrote what she believed was best for each character and sometimes that means having friendships that make you learn a few life lessons and then saying goodbye to them. Maybe it wasn’t the end of these women’s friendships with each other but each was vital to the other during this period of their lives together, and it was satisfying to know that each woman would be moving on with her life in the way that was best for her. I would highly recommend this book.
Montana Schopieray 9 months ago
I received a complimentary copy of this book from Thomas Nelson through NetGalley. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. Out of all of the books I’ve read so far this year, The Solace of Water: A Novel is by far my favorite. Set in the 1950s, this book focuses on two women, Emma and Delilah, and Delilah’s daughter, Sparrow. Emma is Amish and has many hurts from a painful loss that she keeps hidden away. Delilah, or DeeDee, is full of anger and grief after her son’s untimely death. Sparrow is lost and grieving for her brother, believing she’s responsible for his death. These three women form an unlikely bond and friendship, connected by their losses and pain. This story is about grieving and forgiveness. While not a mother myself, losing a child is something I cannot fathom. Even thinking about losing my imagined child makes me choke up, so reading this book was heartbreaking. Life is never the same, and a death such as this affects everyone in different ways. The book accurately portrays these characters as grieving souls. The never-ending what-ifs these mothers ask themselves and the relentless punishments they give to themselves was what I feel I would do as well. While I thought the constant what ifs the mothers asked themselves was accurate, I almost felt it was overdone. At times the questions went on for paragraphs, and almost got philosophical to a certain extent. I admittedly was drawn to this book because it was about an Amish woman. I have never read a book about the Amish lifestyle so it pure curiosity on my part when I picked the book up. The author herself was Amish as a child so it made the entire story much more authentic than I think most fiction books about the Amish are. The fact that the author didn’t stick to a nicely tied up ending made it much more realistic. The author wrote what she believed was best for each character and sometimes that means having friendships that make you learn a few life lessons and then saying goodbye to them. Maybe it wasn’t the end of these women’s friendships with each other but each was vital to the other during this period of their lives together, and it was satisfying to know that each woman would be moving on with her life in the way that was best for her. I would highly recommend this book.
joyful334209 10 months ago
Solace Of Water is a hard core heart wrenching story. It is a story of how sin and guilt can drag your Soul down and how redemption through the LORD can free it and your Soul can soar. You have to wade through all the muck and mire of sin and get to the other side to the light of CHRIST and freedom and joy to the Soul. Free from the chains of life & sin. I received a copy of this book from the Publisher and Netgalley; all of the opinions expressed in this review are all my own. if you would like to read more of my Christian book reviews go to christianlybookreviewers.blogspot.com - I look forward to seeing you there.
jdowell 10 months ago
A story of redemption and renewal and a story of an unlikely friendship between an African-American preacher's wife and an Amish wife. Delilah and Malachi move to Pennsylvania with their remaining children for a new start after losing their son, Carver in Alabama. Delilah blames her daughter, Sparrow, for Carver's death. Emma, an Amish wife, is harboring more than one secret from the Amish community and from her husband. Sparrow, feeling no love from her mother, ends up spending a lot of time at Emma's house and Emma becomes like a surrogate mother to her. This story is tangled with emotions of grief, social issues, secrets, and difficult decisions. It does become a little preachy at times, but all in all a good story. Thanks to Elizabeth Byler Younts and Thomas Nelson -- FICTION through Netgalley for an advance copy.
C_Astfalk 11 months ago
The Solace of Water begins with a memorable first line, pregnant with meaning. From the first pages, I knew the writer was skilled, and I was in for a memorable read. Through shared grief, two seemingly different families - different in race, culture, and denomination - find friendship and hope. Delilah has recently buried her 4-year-old son and refuses to forgive her oldest daughter for her part in the boy's death. Emma buried a daughter long ago, and like Delilah, has held tightly to her grief, distancing herself from her family and withholding forgiveness from others. While the women take tentative steps toward friendship, Delilah's guilt-ridden daughter Sparrow and Emma's rebellious teen Johnny strike up a secret friendship of their own - one of many secrets both they and their parents cling to. Elizabeth Byler Younts has written a beautiful tale of grief, shared suffering, forgiveness, and ultimately, hope. The characters, so well-developed and real, walk off of the pages and into your heart. Expert imagery and painful honesty make the novel all the more moving. You'll find no caricatures of Amish life here nor sugarcoating of the trials African-Americans faced in 1950s America, either in the North or the South. In the end, none of us will escape suffering, but neither were we meant to suffer alone. Hope and the possibility of rebirth are always at hand. I highly recommend The Solace of Water for a riveting, heart-rending read.
Nicnac63 11 months ago
Though The Solace of Water takes place during the 1950s, the messages are timely. The author infused these women’s stories with cultural nuances, heartrending trauma, and other memorable touches. The story deals delicately with race, secrets, tragedies, healing, grace, and forgiveness. Emma and Delilah are diverse characters and so interesting, with unique dilemmas, yet similar needs of forgiveness. Their friendship is stirring and their journey to healing brought me to tears. If you want a timely, touching, and memorable read that deals with cultural, social, and spiritual issues look no further. Get your tissues ready, though. It’s sure to prick your heart more than a time or two. I received a complimentary copy of this book from BookLook and NetGalley.
cularien 11 months ago
"The Solace of Water" is quite the counterpoint to other books I've read lately. It's the drama to the romcom I usually read, "The Help" to my "You've Got Mail". This is not a book to be read before bedtime. Not because it's not a good book; it's masterfully written, in fact. Not because it's not engaging; it's quite that. Not because it's confusing with three points of view; sure, maybe I had to do a little juggling, but it was unbelievable how the three distinct voices were equally well written and shone throughout the book. That is a testament to the author's skill as a writer. No, it's not bedtime reading because it's not light, sleep-inducing reading material. The subject matter will keep you up, begging one more chapter like a drip of water on a thirsty tongue. It's heavy, but it so needs to be told. Not much has changed since the time period the book was set in -- it could be set in 2018 just as easily as the early 1960s. Younts is a new-to-me author that I hope will keep writing for a long time. She is a truly gifted writer and has presented a book that will linger in my mind and heart for a good while. I received a free copy of the book from the author as part of the street team. All opinions are my own.
Sandy_Howell 11 months ago
“The Solace of Water.” The title left me questioning what this could possibly be about. The picture of a sparrow on the cover left me wondering what a sparrow had to do with water. And when I read the overview, I couldn’t imagine how this story line would go. An African American woman and an Amish woman becoming friends? I couldn’t see how the author was going to make that happen. She made it happen beautifully, with a cast of characters I felt I came to know, and will miss dearly now that I have finished this emotionally charged book. Some place this book under the category RELIGIOUS. I hope this doesn’t scare any “non religious” people away from purchasing and reading it. I would not have classified it as such at all. I’d have classified it as historical fiction . I think this book could easily find its way to a best seller list, because to me, it was every bit as good as THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett. I sometimes read a book and a month later can’t remember much about it. I’m quite sure that will not happen with THE SOLACE OF WATER.
Anonymous 11 months ago
I LOVED this book!! The story of these two ladies friendship was so touching. It drew me in completely, I felt part of the story and had a hard time pulling myself away from it. Emma and Delilah were so different in many ways but yet on the inside they struggled with the same things. Things we still struggle with today. I was sad for Sparrow and then filled with hope for complete restoration of the relationship with her mom. I didn’t want the story to end! Elizabeth is an amazing author and she outdid herself this time.
SusanKC 11 months ago
Wow! This book will easily be one of my top 10 reads of the year. Ms. Younts is a new-to me author. This story is filled with heartbreak and anguish. It is a story of tragedy and how family members dealt with grief and guilt in their own way. It is also the story of unusual friendships that blurred the lines of race and religion in the 1960's setting. The story is told from the separate POV of Delilah, Emma and Sparrow. While I did not always agree with the decisions made by the three main characters, I was able to empathize and eager to read a happy ending. Ms. Younts creates believable and flawed characters that remain with the reader after the last page has been read. Each of the three main characters have a strong faith, but are at a point where they question why God lets bad things happen. The resulting story of soul-searching and forgiveness is powerful. I look forward to reading more by this author in the future. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book from Netgalley and the author/publisher. I was not required to write a review. All opinions expressed are my own.