Winner of the 2023 Independent Press Award for Literary Fiction
Winner of the 2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards for Outstanding Multicultural Fiction
Winner of the 2023 IPPY Awards Bronze Medal for Best Regional Ebook (Fiction)
Distinguished Favorite in the 2023 NYC Big Book Award
Finalist in the 2023 Eyelands Book Awards
Finalist in the 2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards for Literary Fiction
Finalist in the 2022 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards for Multicultural Fiction
Finalist in the 17th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards for New Fiction
The Girl in the Water is the story of a multiethnic group of young friends, coming of age in Estonia and Ukraine in the last days of the Soviet Union. Their lives are shaped by an Afghan war, the Chernobyl disaster, and the collapse and legacy of a suffocating society.
The novel examines life and choice in the aftermath of trauma and has garnered praise as both a lifelike family drama and a literary statement in the tradition of the Russian classics:
"The author includes emotional, compelling scenes with every character, as each one has been dealt a vastly different hand of cards." —Audrey Davis, Independent Book Review
"unreservedly recommended as an addition to personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections" —Midwest Book Review
"Joseph Howse evokes the literary styles of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky ... The author has composed a book like Tchaikovsky would a symphony; tight, disciplined, yet bubbling with unspoken passion and near-magical allegory." —Rob Errera, IndieReader
"a captivating story that sheds light on the complexities of human nature in times of great change ... A must-read" —Benji Allen, Waikato Independent
"wonderfully written" —Chris Reed, NZ Booklovers
"quite lovely" —Nicky Walker, Radio New Zealand Nine To Noon
Scenes of shortwave listening and roaming the hinterlands provide a backdrop to the young characters' search for themselves within a failing civilization that sees non-cooperation and unhappiness as a disease.
At the centre of this multilayered story of family, society, and nature is a Soviet girl, Nadia, who, one day on a remote beach, looks up from her book to see that her friend is drowning.
Nadia is an abstract thinker growing up in an era of endgames. She is a bookworm, an architect of reckless pranks, a day-and-night wanderer, a compulsive witness, and a note-taker. All around her she sees people quietly gambling with life and soul for little apparent gain. As her illusions unravel, she asks herself, what is to be done?
The Girl in the Water is a tragicomedy. It is an intricate study of beauty and futility in everyday life and a call for compassion and humour in a cruel world.