A Novel

Publisher: Random House Trade Paperbacks
In this brilliant, luminous novel, one of our finest realist writers gives us a story of surpassing depth and emotional power. Acclaimed for her lucid and compassionate exploration of the American family, Roxana Robinson sets her new work on familiar terrain—New York City and the Adirondacks—but with Sweetwater she transcends the particulars of the domestic sphere with a broader, more encompassing vision. In this poignant account of a young widow and her second marriage, Robinson expands her scope to include the larger natural world as well as the smaller, more intimate one of the home.

Isabel Green’s marriage to Paul Simmons, after the death of her first husband, marks her reconnection to life—a venture she’s determined will succeed. But this proves to be harder than she’d anticipated, and the challenges of starting afresh seem more complicated in adulthood. Staying at the Simmons lodge for their annual summer visit, Isabel finds herself entering into a set of familial complexities. She struggles to understand her new husband, his elderly, difficult parents and his brother, whose relationship with Paul seems oddly fraught. Furthermore, her second marriage begins to cast into sharp relief the troubling echoes of her first. Isabel’s professional life plays a part as well: a passionate environmental advocate, she is aware of the tensions within the mountain landscape itself during a summer of spectacular beauty and ominous drought.

In her cool, elegant prose, Robinson gracefully delivers a plot that is complex, surprising and ultimately wrenching in its impact. As the strands of family are woven tightly and inevitably together, and as the past painfully informs the present, the vivid backdrop of the physical world provides its own eloquent dynamic. Sweetwater is a stunning achievement by a writer at the peak of her craft.

From the Hardcover edition.


Chapter 1

The cabin was cool and dark, smelling of wood. Isabel set down her duffel bag inside the front door. Without looking at the unknown rooms on either side, she went straight down the dim hall to the door at the far end, a bright oblong of light. She pushed open the screen and stood looking out over...
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1. Grief plays an important part in Sweetwater. How does the heritage of loss move through the book, influencing the characters? How does it influence Theresa? Michael? Isabel?

2. How is the issue of responsibility, public and private, central to the book? How do the characters carry out their...

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Sweetwater is a repository for all of Roxana Robinson’s writerly gifts, most notably her keen eye for the details that make up the veneer of social and familial life and her awareness of the darker psychic rivers that run below that surface. She is a master at moving from the art of description to the work of excavating the truths about ourselves.” —Billy Collins

“There is such quiet power in this fateful novel, present from the start and gathering to its culmination: a story of loss and remarriage, and of the harm done to, and by, vulnerable men and women. This is cool, intrepid writing, not a word wasted, creating a human tension that reflects our endangered world.” —Shirley Hazzard

“In four previous works of fiction, Robinson established herself as an astute and sensitive chronicler of domestic tensions, particularly among affluent families in wealthy enclaves of Manhattan and exclusive summer abodes. Here she broadens her canvas to introduce larger social issues....Sweetwater succeeds as a moving study of a woman’s emergence from a suffocating life.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)

From the Hardcover edition.