By Emma Ruby-Sachs. $15.99; Emblem Editions; 336 pages
The much-anticipated U.S. release of Emma Ruby-Sachs The Water Man's Daughter is now available from Emblem Editions.
This debut mystery novel by Ruby-Sachs, a Canadian who now lives in Chicago, is a wonderful look at the geopolitics of South Africa. Ruby-Sachs is a journalist (The Nation; Huffington Post) who has worked as a civil litigator; she now works with a progressive online organization. This combination of interests and skills blends nicely in her book.
The Water Man's Daughter is not a lesbian novel per se, but there is content that will appeal to lesbian readers. Rather, it is a broader novel about the battle for water rights in Johannesburg, and the fight of Black township citizens against the privatization of their water by a Canadian-based company.
An executive of the water company is found dead, and his daughter arrives from Canada with hopes of uncovering the truth of his deathand his life's work. The stories of three powerful women intertwine beautifully in this well-written novel: Claire, the water man's daughter; Nomsulwa, an anti-privatization activist; and Zembe, a police woman who has competing sympathies.
Ruby-Sachs lived in South Africa for periods in 2003 and 2004, which is very clear from the vivid descriptions of the region. I have visited the country just once, and felt transported back there in reading this book. I felt the oppressive heat, the lack of resources, the desperation and hope, and the race, gender and class segregation. Ruby-Sachs also does a great job getting into the minds of people, providing the characters with dignity and complexity, not one-dimensional lives.
The issue of water rights is very topical right now, as citizens around the world are fighting against efforts to privatize and export one of their most critical resources for survival. This book takes an interesting and passionate approach to the complicated issues on all sides of this argument. I highly recommend it for your summer reading.