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The Covenant of Water

by Abraham Verghese

Grove Press

Ohhhhhhh… this book….!  I was captivated, engrossed, totally consumed by this epic, evocative, sweeping, glorious read!   Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water opens with a young girl’s arranged marriage and follows three generations of remarkable women in Southern India.  All the big themes  – love, faith, medicine, joy, tragedy, humour, history, culture, a curse and medicine.  The author is a devoted physician and his love of medicine shines through in this book, as it did in his previous one, Cutting for Stone. And most importantly there is a family secret, a mysterious condition that in every generation at least one person dies by drowning which is particularly problematic as in Kerala, water is everywhere.

A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the hardships undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today.  Imbued with humour, deep emotion and the essence of life, it is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.

One of the best books I’ve read in my entire life. It’s epic. It’s transportive . . . It was unputdownable! - Oprah Winfrey

A rich, heartfelt novel . . . A lavish smorgasbord of genealogy, medicine and love affairs, tracing a family’s evolution from 1900 through the 1970s, in pointillist detail . . . What binds and drives this vast, intricate history as it patiently unspools are vibrant characters, sensuous detail and an intimate tour of cultures, landscapes and mores across eras . . . Verghese’s technical strengths are consistent and versatile: crisp, taut pacing, sensuous descriptions that can fan out into rhapsody . . . Verghese’s compassion for his ensemble, which subtly multiplies, infuses every page. So does his ability to inhabit a carousel of sensibilities—including those of myriad women—with penetrating insight and empathy . . . Rich and reverberant. The further into the novel readers sink, the more power it accrues . . . Grandly ambitious, impassioned . . . A magnificent feat. - Washington Post

Grand, spectacular, sweeping and utterly absorbing . . - New York Times Book Review 

An immense, immersive work, brimming with interconnected storylines that meander and converge like great river tributaries . . . The novel encompasses intense passion and tragedy, as well as a medical mystery . . . An essential, even healing feat of imagination, a whole world to get lost in. -  Los Angeles Times

Riveting . . . This is a novel—a splendid, enthralling one—about the body, about what characters inherit and what makes itself felt upon them. It is the body that contains ambiguities and mysteries. As in his international bestseller Cutting for Stone, Verghese’s medical knowledge and his mesmerising attention to detail combine to create breathtaking, edge-of-your-seat scenes of survival and medical procedures that are difficult to forget. Tenderness permeates every page, at the same time as he is ruthless with the many ways his characters are made vulnerable by simply being alive. Those scenes when a person must fight for their life make for some of the most gripping episodes that I have read in some time - The Guardian

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