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3.5  ·  Rating details ·  303 Ratings  ·  52 Reviews
In this brilliant, luminous novel, one of our finest realist writers gives us a story of surpassing depth and emotional power. Acclaimed for her lucid and compassionate exploration of the American family, Roxana Robinson sets her new work on familiar terrain—New York City and the Adirondacks—but with Sweetwater she transcends the particulars of the domestic sphere with a b ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published March 8th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published 2003)
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Rating details
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Jan 23, 2010 rated it it was ok
Not great. Good, well, sort of good, in a predictable kind of way.
What I did like: I love the Adironacks, so I liked the scenes on the lake. And I liked the dysfunctional people: the alcoholic mother-in-law and the bipolar first husband. She was obnoxious, he was unpredictable, but both pushed people into action. Unfortunately these characters were at peripheral.
What I didn't like:
1.) I didn't much like Isabel and I don't know why three fairly interesting men, (OK, two interesting and one dolt
Aug 04, 2007 rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Yes, for writers
This story revolves around a recently widowed woman who decides she will be content if she is married to a man who cares about her. The problem? She does not love him. He takes her to his childhood vacation home in the Adirondacks where she meets his family and learns about his strained family dynamic, especially after her husband Paul's estranged brother, Whit, arrives on scene.

Ultimately, the marriage is tested and strained to the point she realizes it was a mistake.

Pros: Robinson's love of
Aug 30, 2009 rated it liked it
Unsatisfying. Robinson keeps the reader interested, but only by setting up false mysteries (how did Michael die?) and telling the story out of chronological order. I never believed that the Isabel of the later time period was the same Isabel of the earlier one. I found the lectures on the environment stultifying. I felt yanked around from section to section. I was sulky and resistant during the final conflagration, which came too quickly and tidily. And I never believed for a moment that some du ...more
Nov 14, 2008 rated it really liked it
Isabel entered a new marriage on the rebound, trying to move on from the dramatic death of her former husband, Michael. Part of the books details her first marriage, her son, her measures to have another child, and the other part is in the present, married to Paul, and spending some time with his parents at their family home in the Adirondacks on a lake.
Enter Whit, Paul's brother and rival, and everything changes.
Emotions in this book run high and Robinson draws out minute details in the plot.
Sep 01, 2010 rated it it was amazing
(From Booklist Review "Critically acclaimed but not well known, Robinson will reach a broader audience with this hold-your-breath novel of loss and love".)
Sweetwater runs like a low tide; quiet, and very powerful. This is a story of loss and remarriage, and of the harm done to, and by, vulnerable men and women. This is the second book I have read by this author. She has an astounding talent for interlacing a story. I finished this book last night around 1:00 am; this was hard to put down. Robins
Sep 08, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone!
Recommended to Carmen by: Was on the NY Times top 100 notable books from 2003
Good book! Her descriptions made me feel like I was right there in the scene! I like what the story seems to be saying about mental illness (sometimes no matter how much you love a person, you can't save them) and also about marrying too soon after a previous marriage. In the end, I found myself reading faster and faster and even breathing faster, she was that good at describing danger!
Lauren Albert
Jan 27, 2010 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
Anyone who follows my reviews knows that I read a fair number of (what would be considered) depressing books. When I finished Sweetwater, I began to think about what redeemed those books that failed to redeem this one. Because I found Sweetwater depressing in a way that I didn't find many of those other books. I realized that a book is most depressing when you walk away from it with nothing but the despair of the story. When you can walk away from it with a memory of the beauty of the language o ...more
Oct 27, 2008 rated it liked it
This book is narrated by a woman named Isabel telling about her second marriage. Both of her husbands considered her fabulous, but I couldn't see exactly why. Her first husband, a bi-polar journalist, subjected her to emotional abuse. And her second husband was a peculiar choice. She admits that she agreed to marry him sort of to shut him up. Her terrible choices ripen and she suffers.

I give this book about a 3.25. There are some good characters and some good scenes, and I would have liked it m
Oct 13, 2008 rated it really liked it
This is the first novel by this author that I have read and, true to my character, when I really like an author, I devour everything she's written. Good story about the struggle of a second marriage. Lots of stuff about the environment, sound stuff, credible and interesting. I read it in a day and then I read "Cost" the next day!
Sep 17, 2017 rated it liked it
Started slowly, but as I stuck with it, Sweetwater got intriguing. I really did not like Paul, though. What the heck was his problem? I would have given this book 4 stars except for the terrible ending. After all the drawn-out descriptions and plot events of the rest of the book, I didn't buy the random 1-page closing to this novel. It was like a random page from another book was mistakenly tacked on to the book.
Kim Miller-Davis
This book sat on my shelf for a few years without garnering any attention from me. Then, sometime in the last year, I precipitously came across a recommendation for it in an interview with an author whose book I had just finished. Suddenly--thankfully--it was catapulted to the "must-read soon" category. And now, it sits with those select few that are so beautifully written, so powerful that I wonder why I didn't read them sooner.

Sweetwater is a gorgeous, evocative novel in which Robinson explor
Feb 23, 2013 rated it liked it
I was so taken with this book at first. A woman and her new husband are going to his family cabin in the Adirondacks. Although it isn't the landscape of Lassen, It evoked Juniper Lake so vividly. I felt as though I were there. The novel goes back and forth between this lake setting and the main character, 's first marriage to , a man whose depressions finally result in his taking his own life. Paul's brother Whit comes to spend time with them at the cabin and there is an immediate connection. It ...more
Jennifer G
Jul 05, 2007 rated it liked it
The story of a woman who "rushes" into a second marriage after the death of her husband and the consequences that follow. A book that has very good PARTS to it, but is like looking at a jigsaw puzzle with about 10 pieces missing. The plot goes along at a slow, steady pace, then suddenly slams to a screeching halt (or really speeds up to about Mach 3), leaving you totally mystified. There are nice elements that could have been dealt with more (second marriages, grief, etc.) but everything is so c ...more
Jen Brown
Mar 26, 2010 rated it did not like it

Very,very disappointing.
I read her collection of short stories, A Perfect Stranger & immediately thought "I must read more of this woman's work!"
Sweetwater was a let-down.
Too transparent, too heavy ,wooden characters.Reading this book, one can see very clearly why writers are told to "show, don't TELL!"She explains everything, describes everything in minute detail .....& not like Proust.
I can't believe that the person who wrote Sweetwater & "A Perfect Stranger" are one & the same
May 15, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: literary-fiction
A heart-wrenching but well-written novel about a first marriage that ended when the clinically depressed husband commits suicide. The book itself is hopeful. It has some of the most insightful descriptions I've ever read of what (success rather than failure) triggers Michael's black depressions, which are separated by long periods of being a delightful, brilliant husband and father. The denouement, which takes place in the middle of a raging wildfire, is extremely vivid--hard to believe that any ...more
Diane Yannick
May 11, 2012 rated it really liked it
Read this book as I liked Cost by this author. It was a good read and I cared about the characters. I thought it was going to be the same old married woman falls in love with husband's brother theme but it was more than that. The flashbacks of Isabel's life with her depressive first husband were engaging. Just not too sure about the way the author worked out the ending. Was a little too much tying up loose ends after a slowly unfolding novel.
Jul 23, 2013 rated it liked it
It's beautiful, it hits the emotional notes right on. It's realistic and gentle in portraying less than ideal relationships. But it also weaves in some environmental preaching that, while i agree with every word, occasionally seems a bit grating and out of place with the rest of the story. and i'm not sure how i feel about the ending, no spoilers but one character gets short shrift on both development and life events.
Mar 31, 2011 rated it it was ok
The description was beautiful and very precise, each word chosen with a lot of thought. Unfortunately the plot was depressing and predictable and I strongly disliked all of the characters. The protagonist denied her own agency at every turn and was so weak you wanted to slap her, and the men surrounding her were all jerks. The author was also way too heavy-handed with the nature symbolism, which got completely ridiculous at the end.
Isabel and Paul have just married (2nd marriage for both) and are spending a couple of weeks at Paul's family's lodge in the Adirondacks. You can tell from the beginning that the marriage has its troubles. Isabel is still not over her first husband or his death and you can tell she just doesn't want to be a widow anymore. Isabel tries, you can tell, but it turns out to be an interesting two week lake vacation.
Kathy Juveli Hauck
Mar 19, 2007 rated it it was ok
It's the story of a widowed woman who remarries for the sake of companionship. Set in the Adirondacks, she meets the family of the man she's recently married to and then, something happens. How's that for a summary?

I kept waiting for something of interest to happen and had to read until I was 7/8 of the way through the book. Cripes.
Jan 22, 2009 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2009
I would give this 2.5 stars. This story alternated between the narrators 2nd marriage and her first marriage. I think I would have preferred this if the author had told only one of those stories, rather than trying to weave the two together. I didn't find the woman sympathetic and had a hard time identifying with her.
Aug 12, 2015 rated it liked it
Il n'y a pas vraiment de lien entre les "deux vies" d'Isabel mais le commentaire sur la couverture ne ment pas, c'est vraiment un portrait de femme, j'ai beaucoup apprécier son tempérament et surtout son courage sa force de caractère. C'est un beau personnage de roman. Même si je pense que s'étendre autant sur sa vie avec son ex mari n'était pas essentiel à l'histoire !
Mary Cronk
Aug 11, 2009 rated it liked it
I liked this book but the style is a bit wordy. There were times I was not sympathetic to Isabel, the main character. The depiction of mental illness and the treatment (or not) was very good.

I liked the ending but it was a little too convenient....

I hated the mother-in-laws and they deserved it.

I was glad to get to the end of the book. "Cost" was a much better book.
Meg Petersen
Jan 01, 2011 rated it liked it
I liked this. It was well written and interesting. I would have given it four stars, except for the very last couple of pages with the airport scene which should have been cut. Very well written though, and I liked the interplay between ecology and the events of the novel. Wasn't wild about the main character, though... get more spunk...
Lynn Harpham
Sep 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Loved this novel -my first by Roxana Robinson. Sweetwater floats along on quiet but important actions and dialogue, honing the points that all families pivot on: love, loyalty, childhood, the future... Who loves who more, who loves who with what conditions, what happened and can never be forgiven.... it is all there, and exquisitely written.
Jul 12, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another by the same author because I liked the last one, Cost. Again good writing, kept my interest through the story, characters likeable. But does she have this dark aspect to all of her stories? Try one more and see perhaps....
Jul 22, 2009 rated it really liked it
I liked the way it moved between her first and second marriage. I think it was necessary to under the motivation of her second. I could relate to her passion regarding the environment and how some of the lack of control over it is a metaphor for her more immediate issues in relations.
Jan 01, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: skipped-ahead
There was an idea of a story here buried in a message about nature and the environment. The characters however are an abstraction, distracting even in their anemic development. You feel there might be someone relatable in Isabel, but then all the Lifetimey drama washes that all away.
Cathleen Bell
Apr 29, 2009 rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Mar 08, 2013 rated it really liked it
This novel takes the reader through Isabel Green's new marriage and a vacation stay in the Adirondacks, and interweaves her previous troubled marriage. Beautiful details and descriptions of the natural world, along with describing Isabel's emotions. Very enjoyable read.
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Born in Pine Mountain, Kentucky, Roxana Robinson grew up in New Hope, Pennsylvania. She graduated from Buckingham Friends School, in Lahaska, and from The Shipley School, in Bryn Mawr. She attended Bennington College and studied with Bernard Malamud and Howard Nemerov. She received a B.A. degree in English Literature from the University of Michigan.
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