I have been thinking about water. I didn’t use to think much about water, here in the western world we tend to take it for granted, you turn the faucet on and it simply comes out, and it’s clean. However, a number of years ago I started to read about water issues around the world at the same time I was researching what stocks to buy in my IRA that year. I found a natural energy stock that deals in water companies, no not fancy bottled water companies, but other types of water companies. The stock has done very poorly, but I have held onto it as I still felt confident that water is a commodity that is becoming scarcer. A couple of years ago I even watched a documentary Flow: For Love of Water on World Water Day, a holiday I never knew existed. It solidified this growing notion I have that water, like oil, might well be the cause of future violence or even wars.
So I was excited when I found out that my Goodreads group, YA Apocalyptic and Dystopian Fiction, had chosen as their book of the month an apocalyptic book where water was the trigger of the story, Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis. The pacing of this story was very different than a lot of books of this genre these days, most books contain a high level of action, whether it’s running from a natural disaster to seek safety, or fighting violently against a dystopian society trying to control the main characters. Not A Drop to Drink’s pacing is very slow, and I liked that about it, in fact, I think that is the book’s strength. The book is like an exhale of breath among building tension, something that is harder to pull off than constant action.
Although the setting takes place in the Midwest, it seemed more like a Western, as the two strong female characters, Lynn and her mother, have the same grit and determination as pioneer women. The sparse dialogue also was reminiscent of female southern writers such as Eudora Welty, much is said in few words. I think the fierce love Lynn’s mother has for her is shown by the survival techniques she teaches her daughter, not by what she says, which is interesting because before the apocalyptic event of the story the mother had majored in English Lit. Therefore, she went from a world of words, to a world of action.
In the not too distant future, water is a precious commodity and Lynn and her Mother guard their source of water via their sharpshooting skills, each of them killing in order to protect it. Lynn doesn’t seem to be troubled by what she has had to do, but then again she has lived a completely isolated life, so not knowing anyone other than her mother means it’s probably easier to not think of her targets as people, just objects that want to get in the way of her and her mother’s survival.
When her mother dies, Lynn is forced for the first time to connect with others, including the distant figure of Stebbs, their longtime neighbor. She is pushed further toward her humanity when she and Stebbs come upon a small group of cityfolk who will not survive without help. Reluctantly, Lynn takes a little girl, Lucy, back home with her and Lucy begins to fill a void Lynn doesn’t even realize is there, though it’s not without a struggle. Lynn is torn between not wanting anyone to need or depend on her and needing something even she can’t begin to name. Her emotions are further complicated by Lucy’s uncle, Eli. Despite her growing emotional evolution, there is much about Lynn that remains a Shane type of figure, protecting the weak and dealing out justice, even if that means going up against an unexpected family member.
When people think of future struggles or even apocalyptic scenarios, access to safe and clean water doesn’t seem to be on anyone’s radar, yet the devastation that would ensue would affect us all. Not A Drop To Drink not only puts the spotlight on a real issue, but it’s a mighty fine story to boot.