The Water Seeker

The Water Seeker by Kimberly Willis Holt

I am struggling with the summary of this book.  I could list all of the things that happen, but that doesn’t capture the wonder of this book, the tiny touches that make it so very special and the overlying theme of water and family that tie it all together.  I could talk about the special moments but at its heart this book is the story of a boy who becomes a man before our eyes and builds his own sort of family out of the people he loves.  It is the story of Amos, a boy who loses his mother the moment he is born, is loved by his father who cannot settle down and stay with him but makes sure he is cared for.  It is the story of a mother’s love that continues to guide, embodied in birds and reflections.  It is the story of the Oregon Trail, of homesteading, of hardship and pain.  It is the story of humanity captured in one boy’s life.  And I apologize that that is the best I can do for a summary, because it only grazes the top of this deep book.

I am amazed that Holt was able to put so much love, soul and power into a book that reads like an adventure story.  It is a book that can be enjoyed on different levels, but is wonderful to plunge into and be carried away by like a strong river current.  It is a book that celebrates all sorts of loves, doesn’t turn away from pain and loss, and shows how life continues after devastation meets us.  It is a story filled with strong women and men.  Men who are both physically strong but also emotionally there.  Women who shoulder the burden of entire families, survive horrific abuse, and continue to life and love. 

Holt has created great characters here who are a joy to spend time with.  Amos is a humble protagonist who grows into greatness.  He is complicated, a wonderful amalgam of all who cared for him in his life.  And yet at the same time he is simple and always himself.  Holt manages to do both in this boy.  And through it all runs a current of water.  Water as life.  Water as death. 

Get this book.  I am afraid I can’t capture it any more clearly, because my words don’t seem to be able to match the depth and power of this novel.  It is amazing, wondrous and special.  My Newbery pick so far. 

Appropriate for ages 12-15.

Reviewed from copy received from Henry Holt.

6 thoughts on “The Water Seeker

  1. I was wondering about this one when I read about it — is there a fantasy element viz the water seeking? It sounds awfully good, regardless, but I’m curious.

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    1. Charlotte,

      It does have a fantasy element, less about the dowsing and more about the continued presence of the dead mother in many people’s lives and through flocks of birds. It is subtle but there.

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  2. I couldn’t agree with your review more! I couldn’t put this book down, yet when my colleagues wanted to know exactly why I was at a loss for words. Holt really has a knack for character development and leaves you with a lifelong book-friend.

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  3. K.W. Holt often writes novels which defy description, yet which have such a beauty — this one sounds like another winner. I love her work.

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