An eerie, evocative, and strangely beautiful tale, The Water Cure offers a dystopian narrative of three sisters surviving on a completely secluded island with their parents. They are subjected to strange rituals and cures and told stories about the viciousness of men and a virus spreading in the outside world that is sure to infect them if they don’t mind their parents and participate.
Mackintosh’s dreamlike narrative worked perfectly for this fable, which was a story I couldn’t quite keep hold of. Like trying to grab a handful of water, the narrative train of the story kept slipping through the cracks of fingers and the only way to learn more was to just keep reading.
The book switches between narrators, with all three sisters narrating a chapter, and then a chapter from the perspective of each girl. I got the sense of them each as distinct personalities, but at the same time they flowed into each other as one, like water pouring from different cups into the ocean. In the second section when life on the island changes and their daily routine and structure begins to disintegrate, the narrative focuses on middle child Lia’s observations and path. She is a bit of an outsider even at the start of the story, and the sisters float away from each other, their upbringing creating a divide they can’t quite see.
The book creates this strange, isolating feeling, because as the reader, you are as adrift as the girls, not knowing anything about the world outside the island other than the little that filters back through other characters. What is really going on outside their house on the beach and who can you believe? Where are all the other people? Are men really monsters now? Are women really so vulnerable?
An ethereal rumination on familial love and obligation and dysfunction, the perception of gender inequality, and balancing the evils of what you know against the unknown, I couldn’t help but to be pulled under by Mackintosh’s intense and intangible vision.
My thanks to Doubleday for sending me a free copy of this book to read and review.
Associate editor, amateur photdographer, bibliophile, and occasional sleuth.