Solace of Water

Written by Elizabeth Younts
Review by Tom Vallar

No parent should have to bury a child, but this death hits Delilah Evans especially hard. Carver was her joy, though she still has four other children to love. She blames her eldest, Sparrow, for Carver’s death because she was kissing a boy while caring for the little ones. To start over, they move from Alabama to her preacher husband’s former hometown in Pennsylvania. The new start doesn’t help Sparrow, who knows her negligence caused her baby brother to drown and now wants to punish herself. Only the relationship with the white boy next door gives her hope.

Emma Mullet still mourns the unborn baby she lost 13 years ago. Her church family would sustain her if she didn’t shut them out because of sins she commits to protect her drunken husband, the Amish community’s head deacon. Instead, she is drawn to the new black family on the other side of the pond.

Small-town life in central Pennsylvania in the mid-1950s was not as racially charged as in the South, but blacks still were expected to stay away from whites. Emma treats Sparrow like the daughter she lost, and Emma and Delilah ignore those prejudices as they strengthen and comfort each other in their heartache.

Younts, who is Amish, does a masterful job of telling this tale from three points of view, two of which are black. Both the dialect and dialogue are spot-on. The secrets portrayed are more grievous than in many inspirationals, and we feel the ache in these women’s souls as they carry their burdens. Multiple allusions to water as both life-giving and life-taking pepper the book but never overwhelm the resolution of both acceptance and forgiveness.