Published by Harper Voyager on June 10, 2014
Genres: Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fantasy, Science Fiction, Speculative Fiction
Source: Amazon Vine
Global warming has changed the world's geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria's father tends, which once provided water for her whole village.
But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father's death the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship.
Imaginative and engaging, lyrical and poignant, Memory of Water is an indelible novel that portrays a future that is all too possible.
“But I knew that was what the best stories were like: you could believe in them, even if you knew they were just imagination (p. 65).”
For me, the above quote perfectly sums up MEMORY OF WATER. This book feels like it could come true. Sometime in the future, we could live in a world where there’s very little fresh water. In a world where the army controls all sources of water, there’s water rationing, and water crimes result in death.
The progress of MEMORY OF WATER is a lot like water. The book moves along slowly but surely, sometimes circling obstacles, but always coming back to the main story. I will warn you that this book doesn’t have a neat ending or resolution, which is usually something that bugs the heck out of me, because I like concrete endings, but it didn’t bother me here.
I did have some trouble getting into the book when I started it. But once I read a few chapters and got used to Noria’s narration, the author’s writing style, and the world, I didn’t want to put the book down. I finished it in one day, and a week later, I’m still thinking about MEMORY OF WATER.
Noria is a tea master, perhaps an odd profession in a world where water is so scarce. But tea masters preserve traditions, and Noria’s family also guards a secret spring, one of the last free springs. The secret spring lets the author explore lots of questions: Can water be controlled by the army? Should free water be kept a secret when families are suffering, even dying because they don’t have enough water? Should one take the easy way out, or stand up for what one believes in?
There’s not a lot of action in MEMORY OF WATER, which is a-okay. The book doesn’t need it. I’m just pointing that out because this book is different (in a good way) from a lot of the popular dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA fiction out there. MEMORY OF WATER is a book to make you think, a book that laps at the edges of your brain as you read. And the writing is just gorgeous, descriptive and evocative without falling into the usual cliches.
There is one thing about MEMORY OF WATER I didn’t like, which made it a 4 star book instead of a 5 star book. In order to explain what that one thing is, I have to do some plot spoiling, so don’t keep reading if you don’t want to know what happens. I will say it relates to worldbuilding, and while the author paints an excellent portrait of the world now, daily life and politics included, she doesn’t go into too much detail of how it became that way.
Otherwise, an amazing debut. Simple in some ways, but so complex in others. A real thought provoking book, putting the speculative in speculative fiction. I will definitely be on the lookout for more from Emmi Itäranta.
Last spoiler warning!
Okay. One of my big peeves is when authors withhold information from the reader. Noria and her best friend discover the truth about how the world changed, but the author does not tell the reader. That information stays a secret between Noria and Sanja, which is a shame, because I really wanted to know what happened. If they hadn’t found out the truth, I wouldn’t have been as disappointed, but they did, and so I was irked over that.
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