The Water Man's Daughter

The Water Man's Daughter

A Novel

Book - 2011
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"The violent death of a Canadian water company executive in a black township of Johannesburg, throws together a South African anti-privatization activist and the water executive's daughter, Clarie, who arrives suddenly from Canada desperate to understand her father's death. One of these women has a dark secret that could change both their lives. This debut novel, like its characters, is fierce and tender, thought-provoking and emotionally rich. It introduces Emma Ruby-Sachs as an enormously talented, original, and fearless new voice in Canadian fiction. Originally from Toronto, she now lives in Brooklyn, NY."--Publisher
Publisher: Toronto, Ont. : Emblem/McClelland & Stewart, c2011.
ISBN: 9780771077975
Characteristics: 325 p. ;,21 cm.


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Jan 28, 2016

A really great mystery with compelling female characters. The complicated relationship between a daughter and how she sees her father was well done in my opinion. Like the social justice angle, and the lesbian character.

dramaana May 19, 2012

A very good novel- would highly recommend and have encouraged others to read it as well. A few unrealistic detours/was disappointed in terms of how the author treats the "water man" and his decisions while in SA (regarding how his daughter eventually comes to process them; he seems to always be seen as a "hero" figure and the author seems unable to examine the bad, or misjudged, alongside the good); however overall the story is interesting and compelling.

May 01, 2012

A great first novel by a committed writer.

ksoles Oct 11, 2011

“Nomsulwa plays with bullets in the alleyway.” So opens Emma Ruby-Sachs's debut novel that depicts a violent South African legacy renewed with each generation. As Nomsulwa and her cousin, Mira, attempt to sabotage their township's recently privatized water distribution system, a supportive policewoman turns a blind eye and the mutilated body of a Canadian water company executive sparks a corrupt investigation.

When Claire, "the water man's daughter," arrives in grief to seek answers about her father's killing, Nomsulwa, as a return favour to the police, acts as a diversionary local host. And, with Mira and his gang among the murder suspects, plot lines develop and intersect. As Nomsulwa attempts to reconcile her disdain for corporate North America with her growing sympathy for Claire, the two women bond over the realities of loss and oppression.

Ruby-Sachs creates a vibrant setting and finely evokes most of her characters; parching heat, nightly chills, and lingering dust enhance the juxtaposition between house-proud families living poverty and civic officials in charmless mansions. Nomsulwa comes across as three-dimensional, proactive and relatable whereas, ironically, Claire emerges as the weakest character: confused, naive and flaky.

Despite lapses in realism, such as major oversights by Johannesburg’s police homicide squad and extremely lax hotel security, "The Water Man's Daughter" ultimately ties together themes and plot lines in unexpected, exhilarating ways that manage to eschew complete redemption in favour of highlighting the human cost of systemic inequity.

Sep 28, 2011

What a great first novel! The women in the story are compelling have stayed with me since I read the novel a few weeks ago. Ruby-Sachs manages a good balance of the serious and brooding intertwined with strong emotional ties between characters and the fierceness of Nomsulwa’s activism. And, perhaps best of all, my book review gaydar is still sharp!

Cdnbookworm Sep 06, 2011

This first novel by Ruby-Sachs is set in the townships of Johnnesburg, South Africa. A company is installing water pipes in the township, working with the government. It sounds straightforwardly as a good thing, but there are many underlying issues here relating to wealth, water rights, public health, and the gangs that arise in poverty-stricken areas.
Peter Matthews is an executive with the water company. He is from Canada, and when he goes out with a group of local politicians, something happens. The next day he is found, dead in the black township of Phiri, with his body mutilated.
Nomsulwa Sithu is a young woman who has grown up in Phiri. She runs an social organization fighting for water rights. Sometimes her activities have gone beyond the usual protests and meetings with local politicians. Her cousin Mira works closely with her. He sometimes needs to be reined in, but generally respects her judgment.
Zembe Afrika is head of the local police in Phiri. She has close ties to the community, but also move forward in her career. Sometimes her sense of social justice is stronger than her sense of criminal justice. Usually she can manage this, but this case may not develop that way.
Claire Matthews is the twenty-one year old daughter of Peter. She arrives in Johannesburg griefstricken yet determined to find out what happened to her father. Afrika pairs Nomsulwa with Claire as an escort, much against Nomsulwa's wishes. But Afrika has information about Nomsulwa that could harm her.
As we move through the story, we look at things through the eyes of the three women: Nomsulwa, Claire, and Mama Afrika. What we learn causes us to change how we think about the characters. What we think changes how we feel. This is a book about complicated lives, and will grasp you and keep you thinking even after you finish it. A winner.

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