Blue Hen, Aug 2002, 23.95, 256 pp.
In 1977 in the mountainous backwoods of Northern California, logger Jake Colby is struggling to feed his wife and three children as he is out of work especially since a mining company has bought the rights to the area. Independent, Jake rejects any government assistance. Instead he is willing to poach though it is against the law, but his wife Dale, a devout Jehovah Witness, feels he will be breaking more than just man's law.
However, starvation of her children leads to Dale encouraging Jake to shoot a deer. Meanwhile their youngest child seven-year-old Justy fears her family is falling apart. Reared in faith, she takes a vow of silence until her dad can obtain permanent work rather than the occasional grave digging odd jobs he performs. As transplanted urban hippies rally against the mining interests, the Colbys worry more about their next meal than stripping the environment.
BY WAY OF WATER is an insightful look at the late seventies in a remote area of the country. Through the Colbys and other residents, readers observe a world where the environmental and industrial interests fostered by governmental self-promotion lose sight of a tree in their dispute over the forest while long time locals just struggle to obtain sustenance. The characters make the story line work with their slowly simmering dreams of a better world though Justy at times seems like the most adult person in the novel. Though no Steinbeck, the great author must be proudly looking down at Charlotte Gullick for providing a strong character study that brings the area vividly alive to the audience.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner