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The Weight of Water

by Anita Shreve

On Smuttynose Island, off the coast of New Hampshire, more than a century ago, two Norwegian immigrant women were brutally murdered. A third woman survived by hiding in a cave until dawn.

In 1995, Jean, a photographer, is sent on an assignment to shoot a photo essay about the legendary crime. Taking her extended family with her, Jean stays in a sailboat anchored off the coast, and finds herself gradually becoming more and more engrossed in the bay’s mysterious and gruesome past. Wandering into a library one day, she unearths letters written by Maren, the sole survivor of the murder spree.

Jean’s fear of losing all that she cares about is reflected in Maren’s poignant tale of love and loss, and her obsession with the ancient story drives her to wild impulsive action – with unrecoverable consequences.

Shortlisted for the Orange Prize in 1998
“An engrossing tale….A cryptic long-lost narrative inside an impending family tragedy wrapped in a true-crime murder mystery framed by the aftermath of all of the above….Ms. Shreve unravels themes of adultery, jealousy, crimes of passion, incest, negligence, and loss . . . ultimately creating a nearly intolerable tension….A haunting novel.”  Susan Kenney, New York Times Book Review

“Both stories move slowly and surely through the dark and distorting medium of water toward tragedy….Both stories feel primitive in their passions, as if the characters were bereft of language and necessarily reliant on gaze, gesture, and touch….This is a powerful achievment.”  Boston Globe

“Colorful storytelling at its best, satisfying and entertaining.”  Boston Herald

“Mesmerizing . . . quietly spellbinding….A kind of mystery forged of romance and danger….Part of the book’s power is of the conventional whodunit variety….Equally strong is Shreve’s evocative prose style….The Weight of Water is well-crafted entertainment that also plumbs the depths.”  Newsday

“Spare, tightly plotted, and compactly written . . . a novel powerfully driven by plot and language….Shreve displays an intriguing range of style and tone. It is as if an Ibsen drama had erupted in an Ann Beattie novel.”  Chicago Tribune

“Gripping….The speed with which lives unravel is at the heart of both strands of Shreve’s stunning tale. There is plenty for the reader to ponder and savor in this accomplished inquiry into the ravages of love.”  Los Angeles Times

“Enthralling….The Weight of Water sheds light as raw as that which floods the Isles of Shoals in the dark of winter….Shreve has written the most moving book of her career so far.”  San Francisco Chronicle



01 January, 1997

About Anita Shreve

Anita Shreve is the acclaimed author of seventeen novels, including Rescue, A Change in Altitude, Testimony, Fortune's Rocks, The Weight of Water and The Pilot's Wife, which was a selection of Oprah's Book Club. She lives in Massachusetts.


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