As you read the reviews on Bookshop Talk, you'll notice that every review is positive. No, we're not a bunch of literary
pushovers who love everything we pick up; we just see no point in telling you about a book if we didn't like it.

April 28, 2012

THE WATER SEEKER by Kimberly Willis Holt, 2010

Amos Kincaid is the son of a dowser – a person gifted in knowing how to “find” water deep in the ground.  As a young person, Amos doesn’t reveal his gift to others; he’s not sure he wants the burden.  But through his experiences growing up and crossing the Oregon Trail, Amos learns about life’s harsh realities, especially the pain in losing loved ones.  As he cares for those around him, Amos comes to accept his dowsing fate.  This epic novel is a fascinating period piece about the westward expansion and one man’s destiny as he searches for love and family. (Goodreads)

Review by Kim Harris Thacker, writer, mommy, and Bookshop Talk Host 

Kimberly Willis Holt is known for tackling unique subjects well, and THE WATER SEEKER is nothing if not unique. But it’s also a story as deep and as pure as a good well. It’s a story of family, persistence, courage, fear, and enduring love.

THE WATER SEEKER is atypical young adult fiction in that it begins before the main character (Amos) is born and ends when he is a grown man with a child of his own. Amos is not a perfect person. The people he loves aren’t perfect either, nor are the people who love him (sometimes these aren’t the same people). But that is part of what makes this incredible story so believable. Another reason this is such a believable book is that it is a work of well-research historical fiction, perfect for the person who is interested in learning about early American pioneers. I have a lot of pioneering ancestry, and I felt such a kinship to my predecessors as I read this book, not only because I learned a lot about what life might have been like for my ancestors, but because “family” is such a strong theme in this book, one can’t help but reflect on and appreciate those who have gone before us.

The prose in THE WATER SEEKER is spare, and perhaps because it is so spare, it is also utterly striking. One of my favorite images comes from a segment of the book where Amos is a part of a wagon train heading West from Independence, Missouri along the Oregon Trail. Many of the pioneering families brought treasured pieces of furniture with them in their wagons, but soon realized their loads were too heavy for the trip. Amos sees a string of pianos, trunks, chifforobes, and chests lining the trail, which cuts through a sea of tall, green grass. Heartbreaking and gorgeous.

One last thing: Make sure you read this with a box of tissues on hand. While there is plenty to chuckle about, there is even more to cry about. Sometimes I even cried just because the language was so beautiful... 

Market: young adult, historical fiction
Language: mild
Sensuality: mild (a kiss; some romantic thoughts; allusions to conception)
Violence: mild (I wouldn’t necessarily call the physical trauma in this book violence, per se—it was mostly very tragic accidents and deaths resulting from illness/childbirth)
Mature Themes: prejudice against Native Americans; death; abandonment; inability to bear children; physical hardship; poverty; abuse (All of these themes are handed so tastefully, but coping with tragedy in general is a big overall theme in this book—it is a book that, in my opinion, parents should read with preteens and sensitive teens.)

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