The Water Dancers
The Water Dancers vividly brings to life the days of the decayed grandeur of summer homes on the water, be they on the East Coast or in the Midwest. This summer home is in Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan, where Rachel Winnapee, a teenage orphan Native American, works and where Woody, the shattered remaining son of the family, has returned from World War II in 1945. It may be a cliché that the lonely orphan girl and the wounded man find each other only to have his family separate them, but Gamble tells their story straightforwardly and without resorting to the stereotype of the “ruined” girl. Indeed, Rachel proves to be the stronger and more resilient of the two.
Ben, Rachel’s son with Woody, also proves to be stronger than Rory, Woody’s son with his wife Elizabeth. The contrast between the dissolute son of privilege and the Native American, Vietnam veteran son of a single mother is less subtle, but Gamble neither makes Ben a saint nor Rory without redeeming qualities. Also at play is the contrast between cultures. Rachel, while holding fast to some Native American beliefs, still questions how relevant they are today as the land she and her family had lived on could be sold out from under them.
Gamble has a spare, lyrical writing style. Reading this book, I noted elements that recalled other books, but rather than being stereotypical they instead came to life and were unique.