*I received a free ARC of this book with thanks to the author and Hodder & Stoughton. The decision to review and my opinions are my own.*
Blurb: Maddy is sixteen. Deeply curious, wry and vivacious, she’s poised at the outset of adulthood. She has loyal friends, a mother with whom she’s unusually close, a father she’s never met, devoted grandparents, and a crush on a boy named Jack. Maddy also has cancer.
Hungry for experience despite living in the shadow of illness, Maddy seeks out her first romantic relationship, ponders philosophical questions, finds solace in music and art, and tracks down her father, Antonio. She continually tests the depths and limits of her closeness with her mother, while Eve has to come to terms with the daughter she loves and only partly knows, in a world she can’t control.
For fans of Celeste Ng and John Boyne, All the Water in the World is the story of a family doing its best when faced with the worst. Unforgettable and singularly moving, with voices that range from tender to funny, despairing to defiant, this novel is a poignant testimony to the transformative power of love, humour and hope.
It’s hard to think of many more heartbreaking topics than that of a child with cancer.
Karen Raney takes this weighty subject and infuses it with gentle humour; perfectly capturing the sweet awkwardness of a first teen relationship; the easy banter of a family suffering together but still finding humour in the ridiculousness of day-to-day life; the discomfort of new friendships and the familiarity of old loves. There is no dwelling on the morbid, or maudlin here… just realistically raw emotions of all flavours.
The story alternates between chapters in Eve’s perspective (the mother) and in Maddy’s perspective (the teen daughter), and so the reader is gradually able to piece together the ‘full story’, which (as always!) lies somewhere between the lines. I far preferred the Maddy chapters – full of hope, determination, curiosity and the desire to change the world for the better. I felt sympathy for Eve, but struggled to fully engage with her as the story developed and her actions felt somewhat petty and small, especially in the wider context of the novel.
Raney’s writing style is as fluid and immersive as her title, and I was quickly swept into this sad, yet inspiring, intimate insight into the life of one small family during a very difficult time. I was left pondering how the effect we have on others isn’t always the one that we expect or wish to have, and that the important thing is to understand, accept and forgive – others and ourselves – and try to keep pushing forward against adverse currents.
Fans of contemporary, women-centred fiction will… maybe ‘enjoy’ is not quite the word… have their hearts gently broken and reglued by this novel, reflecting the mother-daughter relationship it depicts.
I studied Norma’s face as she recounted her children’s foibles in tones of high bemusement, as if motherhood were a hilarious accident that had happened to her while she’d been looking the other way.
She stopped talking and frowned into the sun. Under the freckles her skin shone as if lit from within. I felt a longing for the easy company of women. I know my smile is an unnerving thing these days. Still, I smiled at her when she turned, and she reached out and put her hand under mine, making me jump.
‘Classy,’ she said, meaning I did not look like the kind of person who would paint my nails. Purple this week, with diagonal white stripes. I snatched my hand back. What on earth was she doing here? How much did she know?
‘I do it for Maddy,’ I said.
Norma held my gaze. ‘Who is Maddy?’
– Karen Raney, All the Water in the World
Find more from Karen Raney at her website here, or follow her on Instagram and Goodreads.
All the Water in the World is available on Amazon right now!