EMPTY NEST by Curt Swarm

Covenant of Water is best book ever


I know I've said this before, and one of my readers was quick to point it out, but “The Covenant of Water” is the best book I have ever read.  How do I know?  Well, I'll take and tell you.  “The Covenant of Water” is 775 pages long, which I believe is the fattest book I have ever read.  But, what did I do?  The story, or stories within, so intrigued me, and were so well written, that when I turned the last page, and still wasn't sure what the covenant of water was, I went right back to page one and started rereading—something I've never done before.  Oh, I have read books twice, but there has always been a period of time between readings. 
Ginnie's reading “The Covenant of Water” also, and can't put it down.  We like to discuss it.
Upon completion of the second reading of “Covenant,” which took about a week of concentrated power reading, where I gleaned all sorts of details that I had missed on first reading, I finally found Verghese's meaning as to the covenant of water: As the monsoon begins, “eyes open to this precious land and its people, to the covenant of water, water that washes away the sins of the world, water that will gather in streams, ponds, and rivers, rivers that float the seas, water that I will never enter.”  “she had secured their covenant, the monsoon has pledged its loyalty, the family is safe, and all is well with the world.”
Abraham Verghese was born in Ethiopia but immigrated to the United States with his parents.  He went to medical school in India and the United States and became a very well known, highly respected doctor.  He also attended the Writer's Workshop at the University of Iowa.  He knows his subject well.  I can't imagine him having the time to write thick, best selling novels, and practice medicine.  But he obviously does.
There are four main stories in the book that all intertwine.  Think of this Oprah book as a 10,000 piece puzzle that takes weeks to assemble, but you feel so enthralled when it is all together and you can see how all the pieces fit. 
The first main story involves a 12 year old girl who, through a matchmaker, is slated to marry a 40-year old widower.  We in America gasp at this, calling it cruel, inhuman and worse: child rape.  However, there was no sex involved until the girl was in her teens, the husband loves the girl dearly, and she him.  She matures to be the matriarch of a very large family with immense agricultural holdings.  But there is a problem in the family.  They call it the “condition” which involves fear of water, erratic behavior and strokes or paralysis on one side of the face and vocal cords. 
For those of us appalled by arranged marriages, especially of children: fact.  Those cultures that practice arranged marriages, as compared to a love match, have a lower divorce rate than the good ole US of A.  And the people in these marriages seem to be, not just content, but quite happy.
In another story plot that is interconnected, a young surgeon is badly burned, his lover killed, and his surgical hands all but incapacitated.  He builds his own leper colony, ministers and heals the scourge of society, and helps to solve the mystery of the “condition” that plagued generations.
With our spring planting season delayed here in the Midwest because of record rainfall, this novel hits to the heart of rich fertile land and hard working people suffering from freaky, bizarre weather.  Maybe we should be a little more cognizant of The Spirits.
I must now read Abraham Verghese's other Best Sellers, “Cutting for Stone” and “The Tennis Partner.”  Note: With the first three chapters of “Cutting for Stone” under my belt, I'm sucked in like it's a vacuum. 
Ginnie can't put down “The Covenant of Water.”  She stayed up 'til midnight reading it. 
Have a good story? Call or text Curt Swarm in Mt. Pleasant at 319-217-0526, or email him curtswarm@yahoo.com.  Curt is available for public speaking.

opinion, commentary, Empty Nest, Curt Swarm, Pen City Current, editorial, The Covenant of Water, Abraham Verghese


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