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Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite
Old Water by John Hansen is a great crime story with a setting in Southwest Idaho in 1967: a tale that explores the lives and family dynamics in a community of ranchers. In this community, the early settlers have “Old Water” rights, and one such person is Avery Jankcovic, whose water rights can’t be honored because of the drought and the water shortage. But he is determined to save his ranch, even if it means using unconventional - even illegal - means, including getting into deals with drug dealers. With his son, Eddy, off to Vietnam and his wife and daughter at loggerheads with him, how much harm is he ready to cause to save his ranch?
The reader is immediately presented with unsettling images of the Feather River, the flat land carved up by early settlers, and the river that is only puddles. The “Old River” becomes a symbolic character in this narrative: the very hope of survival for those living in this part of Idaho, far removed from the mountains. It symbolizes life. But with the drought, suffering is ushered in. It is interesting to see how author John Hansen takes a natural phenomenon and weaves it into the center of conflict in a tale brimming with realism, filled with intrigue, and featuring such unforgettable characters. The rural allure of the setting is highly detailed, the prose is crisp and punctuated by gorgeous descriptions. Old Water is the story of a place, but also the tale of what happens when a man stands to lose everything that sustains him and his family. Avery, Louise, Jerry, Oscar, Floyd, and other names in the story will stay with readers long after they have turned the last page. They are so realistically portrayed that they feel like people you could encounter in real life. Told in an engrossing first-person narrative voice, Old Water offers genuine realistic entertainment.