I finished this beautiful book in two sittings and it will stay with me for a long time.
Word of warning if you’re going to pick up A Life Without Water, have tissues to hand because you’ll cry, I sobbed.
Carol Denman is at work when her ex-husband, who she hasn’t seen in over twenty years turns up unannounced. It’s the day before their daughter’s thirtieth birthday and he has a request. John Bowman is very, very sick. He wants to make amends and fulfil some promises while he has time.
To do that he needs Carol’s agreement and he needs her to come on a long overdue road trip.
SPOILERS FROM HERE ON IN….
This book deals with grief, loss, healing and forgiveness.
Their daughter, Katie died 24 years ago, John was supposed to be taking care of her, he was passed out drunk. After that Carol left, blaming and hating John.
Through flash backs we learn that it wasn’t an entirely happy marriage, Carol had always struggled with low self-esteem. John made her feel seen, however, he had a big problem with drink and at times his own feelings of inadequacy. In the years since he’s seen his wife he’s sobered up.
In the meantime, she’d built a new life for herself, married again, her second husband, Tobias, died in an accident 8 months ago. Since then she’s shut herself down, buried herself in work and lived half a life.
When John turns up, he throws all that into chaos. He wants to take a road trip to scatter Katie’s ashes at all the places she wanted to visit, stating that she shouldn’t have been kept in a shelf in room with the door closed for 24 years.
Reluctant at first, Carol agrees to John’s request, reasoning that it’s time to let her daughter go and properly face up to the losses she’s suffered, she’s ready to confront the memories she’s been running from for 24 years.
It’s a really emotional read, Carol has to learn to deal with her anger and bitterness. She has to learn to forgive herself as well, as they embark on their journey she faces her own guilt over what happened to Katie.
For John, it’s about coming to terms with the mistakes that he’s made in his life. They both live with regrets, they’re both dealing with what ifs and how things could have been different had they acted or done something differently. John hasn’t moved on either, he’s never moved, or met anyone. He’s just sat suspended in grief and regret for 24 years.
There were times it felt a little repetitive in places, there was a lot of arguing and re-hashing of the past, but I loved this book. I think perfectly captured different emotions of anger from the first unannounced meeting, to grief and humour because there are moments of dark humour.
I enjoyed seeing how Carol changed through the book. How the bitterness started to ease, how they both came together to grieve Katie properly, how she was able to remember happier times and forgive John.
The biggest thing Carol learns is to live again. It’s about accepting the past, forgiving ourselves as well as other people, love and grasping the life we’re given.
I’ll read the follow up.
Give it a read but don’t forget the tissues.
Journalist, writer, traveller, music lover, collector of hats, news addict, bookworm