Teresa H. JanssenFeb 6, 2024
The Ways of Water
She Writes Press 2023
Josie Belle Gore is only six years old when we meet her in 1908, yet her father has tied a rope around her waist and is lowering her into a dark well to retrieve a dead animal that is poisoning the water. The third daughter of a growing family, Josie has moved with her family from western Texas to Arizona, then eastward again, settling in the New Mexican desert region known as the Jornada del Muerto. Her father, a railroad engineer, spends much of his time away, and it is her mother who holds the family together through poverty, sickness, and drought.
From an early age, Josie learns that her lot in life is to subsume her own interests to those of her family. Although she yearns to become a teacher, even mastering basic literacy is a challenge in a region where schools are few and far between, household chores never-ending, and such basic needs as food and water not always met. As her father falls prey to alcoholism, loses one job after another, and repeatedly uproots the family in search of a better future, Josie clings to the principles her mother has inculcated in her—until one day, she realizes that the price for tolerating that life has risen too high.
Based on the life of the author’s grandmother, Josie’s story sounds grim, but the telling of it is not. Hauntingly beautiful in its evocation of the American Southwest and Northern Mexico, this novel will draw you in, even as it gives you a whole new appreciation of the hardships that many of our ancestors endured.
Teresa H. Janssen, a former language and social studies teacher, writes, hikes, tends a small orchard, and is involved in several educational initiatives. The Ways of Water (She Writes Press, 2023) is her debut novel.
C. P. Lesley is the author of two historical fiction series set during the childhood of Ivan the Terrible and three other novels. Her latest book—The Merchant’s Tale, co-written with P.K. Adams—appeared in November 2023.