Book Review: The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

April 18, 2023

About:

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese is a novel set in South India, following three generations of a family seeking answers to a curse. Mr. Verghese is a published author and physician.

  • 736 pages
  • Publisher ‏ : Grove Press
  • Language ‏ : English
  • ISBN-10 ‏ : 0802162177

Book Review: The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese
My rat­ing for The Covenant of Water3
Buy The Covenant of Water from Amazon.com*

More Books by Abraham Verghese *

Thoughts:

I was looking forward to reading another book from Dr. Verghese since I enjoyed Cutting for Stone very much. A family saga taking place between 1900 and 1977 on India’s Malabar Coast seemed promising since a lot has happened in that area during that time.

If anything, I feel that The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese is too ambitious. The book tries to tell a story, but also incorporate Christian influences, rituals, politics, spiritual aspects, cast system challenges, customs, architecture, languages, colonialism, education, medicine (of course) and much more.

At several points I found myself just reading to finish – never a good sign. Some of the narrative was, frankly, exhausting to plow through. There are, however, beautiful descriptions, and an overall story which kept me going.

Some of the narrative seems repetitive, other just seemed wasteful (paragraphs ruminating on the flavors of spices). The side stories were interesting as well, but they get lost in the effort to make the novel more “literary” which, to me, seem to simply make the reading more challenging without adding any value to the work as a whole.

I did, however, enjoy the familial saga, as well as learning new things about a culture I knew very little about. While still not an expert, I certainly gained knowledge which, in my mind, made the novel a worthwhile read.

I still don’t know if the story or the history were the main narratives which drove the novel forward (albeit very slowly). But does it really matter?

Synopsis:

A family living in Kerala, South India is enduring a curse for generations. At least one person in every generation dies by drowning.  An addition to the family is a twelve year old girl, part of a Christian community, is sent to be married after her father passed away. Her husband is a good man and a  hard worker, and she is being mentored by his family before taking on the duties of a wife.

The girl who has become the family’s matriarch, known as Big Ammachi, will witness changes and tragedies throughout her life.

Buy The Covenant of Water from Amazon.com*
More Books by Abraham Verghese *

Zohar — Man of la Book
Dis­claimer: I bought this book
*Ama­zon links point to an affil­i­ate account, the money is usually spent on books

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Wrap Up

The Covenant of Water by Abraham Verghese

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