Marnie Maitland left McClellanville in the Southern Carolina Low Country ten years ago for the desert of Sedona , Arizona. She needed to get away from the water, her sister Diana and the past memories of a tragic boating accident. Now, she has come back home at the request of Quinn, Diana's ex-husband. Gil, Diana and Quinn's, son has been rendered mute after a new boating accident with his mother. Marnie works with special needs children, so Quinn believes she may be able to pull Gil out of his silence.
Marnie and Diana's grandfather is also silent, but for a different reason. He has suffered a stroke and is a shadow of the man who raised the two girls. He still communicates in his own way through highlighted passages in his Bible. a reflection of his preacher past.
Marnie sees that her sister has isolated herself with her painting and is not eating or sleeping well. Diana has become obsessed with "the Maitland curse" and is working on a mural that reflects the genealogy of the family and how mental illness has led to tragedies. Diana's inability to deal with her own mental health led to her divorce from Quinn. Quinn has not walked away from his responsibilities. He is the main caretaker for Gil and Grandpa, since Diana can hardly take of herself. Quinn has his own tragic past to deal with, but he copes by trying to "fix" animals in his career as a vet and in his hobby of growing orchids.
The author uses the unusual device of telling the story through rotating first person narratives. The reader gets inside the heads of Marnie, Diana, Quinn and Gil. This works well and is most helpful with Gil, since he is not speaking. The characters all reveal their innermost feelings and this makes them all the more empathetic. The love in this stunning novel revolves more around family than romantic love. There is the element of romantic love that underlies some pivotal points.
Water plays an important element throughout the book. The author's love of the Low Country is evident and gives a authentic sense of place. Despite an overall melancholy , bittersweet tone, The Memory of Water is ultimately an emotionally charged tale of hope and redemption. I have been a huge fan of Karen White's from the first novel, but she truly continues to grow as a writer with each new book and this is her best so far. I am thrilled that she will have another new book coming out later in 2008.