REVIEW: Memory of Water by Emmi Itäranta


Genre: Dystopian
Pages: 263 (paperback)
Reading Level: Intermediate
Rating: 3/5


Summary from Goodreads

Global warming has changed the world’s geography and its politics. Wars are waged over water, and China rules Europe, including the Scandinavian Union, which is occupied by the power state of New Qian. In this far north place, seventeen-year-old Noria Kaitio is learning to become a tea master like her father, a position that holds great responsibility and great secrets. Tea masters alone know the location of hidden water sources, including the natural spring that Noria’s father tends, which once provided water for her whole village.

But secrets do not stay hidden forever, and after her father’s death the army starts watching their town-and Noria. And as water becomes even scarcer, Noria must choose between safety and striking out, between knowledge and kinship.

Imaginative and engaging, lyrical and poignant, Memory of Water is an indelible novel that portrays a future that is all too possible.

Memory of Water should have been right up my alley. It is a dystopian/apocalyptic fiction about a future with ever decreasing amounts of potable water. In addition, it is a very intelligent book with profound quotes. So why did I not enjoy it more? Let’s look at what Memory of water is.

The story is filled with many deep, meaningful statements and quotes. For example:

Water is the most versatile of all elements. So my father told me the day he took me to the place that didn’t exist. While he was wrong about many things, he was right about this, so I still believe. Water walks with the moon and embraces the earth, and it isn’t afraid to die in fire or live in air. When you step into it, it will be as close as your own skin, but if you hit it too hard, it will shatter you.

Besides being profound, these quotes tend to be extremely lyrical, so if that is your thing, you will not be disappointed.

Memory of Water is also, most definitely, political. It deals with traditionalism versus progressivism, male versus female roles, the haves and the have nots and of course, climate change. But don’t worry, the political messages are not blatant and overwhelming; it is just enough to spark political discussion, if desired.

The characters and story are well-developed; I didn’t notice a lot of holes in the plot. While my concern was not great, I did care about the characters. So why didn’t the story appeal to me more? Was it the whole tea thing?

Honestly, I found the actual tea ceremonies interesting. What fell a bit flat for me was the idea that tea masters are the keepers of the water. If Noria’s father had simply been in the right place at the right time, I think I would have found that more appealing. However, the development of tea masters turned protectors of secret stashes of fresh water just didn’t do it for me. Maybe the story was too tea heavy for my taste.

I also would have liked to see more from different points of view. I wanted to know what it was like living in the cities. I wanted to know what life was like for the soldiers. I wanted to know more about how the planet and society got to where they were during the events of the book. Instead, I felt frustrated, stuck in a small village with no information about the world, even though all the characters in the book knew what had happened and how the current world worked.

Finally, it was too short on apocalypse; I think that was due in large part to the missing information mentioned above, and while there were several scenes that I found effective, I cannot point to one that had a particularly lasting effect. I did have a favorite quote:

Once the silent space around a secret is shattered, it cannot be made whole again. The cracks will grow longer and wider, reaching far and branching out like an underground network of roots, until it’s impossible to say where it started and if it will come to an end.

Bottom line, this book was just not my cup of tea.

Review by Christina Galvez
December 30, 2016

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