THE WATER HERE IS NEVER BLUE
INTRIGUE AND LIES FROM AN UNCOMMON CHILDHOOD
In the 1970s, Shelagh Plunkett, a teenage girl from Vancouver, travels with her middle-class family to Guyana and Indonesia, where her father, a civil engineer, has been posted to help with those countries’ water systems. On the surface, she lives a protected life, attending girls’ schools run by nuns and surrounded by household staff. But there is also a fearlessness and recklessness in the girl—a hotel tryst at fifteen, swimming with piranhas, and cavorting with monkeys.
The secrecy and double life of this teenager in a foreign land is paralleled by the mysterious comings and goings of her beloved but distant father. Guyana is nationalizing Canada’s bauxite mines, and Indonesians are slaughtering East Timorese a few miles away. Why is their phone tapped, why do they always have to have a suitcase packed, and why is her father working on a water project on a parched island? In The Water Here Is Never Blue, an adolescent comes of age and is indelibly marked by her years abroad. But it is the adult narrator who ultimately struggles with the truth of who her father was.
"A transplanted child musing in her soft hybrid voice becomes almost woman as she takes in the sins and confusions of her family and surroundings—first in Guyana and then Timor. Though fraught with political intensity and intrigue, the Guyanese world is strangely affirming and life-changing. But Timor is profoundly disturbing, a spiritual and social exile. Shelagh Plunkett's is a unique story, beautifully told."
—Linda Spalding, author of The Purchase, winner of the 2012 Governor General’s Prize for Fiction
"Shelagh Plunkett’s journeys to Guyana and Indonesia are fuelled by secrets and recounted with spirited detail. Her astute observations are rhythmic, fiery, like her own coming of age, and they echo the turbulence of change in both nations. In her hands, the outsider becomes insider, the onlooker becomes protagonist."
—Tessa McWatt, author of Vital Signs
"A multilayered memoir told in the raw yet innocent voice of the narrator, The Water Here Is Never Blue traces an adolescent's journey through politically fraught foreign soils with a loving yet mysterious father. Plunkett’s poetic prose describes the intrigue surrounding her unusual family, and there is an undertow of danger that propels the narrative. I loved this book."
—Donna Morrissey, author of The Deception of Livvy Higgs
"I dreamt of my own father again after reading Shelagh Plunkett's tantalizing struggle to plumb the clandestine depths of her father's personality. Absorbing, evocative and haunting, The Water Here Is Never Blue is a template for every daughter's mission to penetrate that most mysterious and yet formative relationship."
—Catherine Gildiner, author of Too Close to the Falls