Bodies of Water

Greenwood, T. (2013). Bodies of Water. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp.

Nimbly alternating between 1960 and 2010, Bodies of Water tells a resonant story of an ill-fated romance, family secrets, hidden identities, and the deep joy and loss of love. Neighbors and best friends Billie and Eva grow closer as their alcoholic husbands neglect and mistreat them. Falling in love is a delicious surprise and they nurture a secret relationship with plausible reasons to be together—children, chores, and all the other trappings of a tedious housewife lifestyle.

Inevitably, their secret comes to light and husbands and children are stunned and do everything in their power to normalize the situation; the children with love, and the husbands with violence. I was saddened (but not shocked) by the realities of lesbian life in the era. Just like other women, they had to put their own desires, ambitions, and interests aside to pander to the whims of their husbands. But for them, their desires were seen as illicit and in need of conversion through forced therapy, hospitalization in a mental institution, or physical and sexual violence.

By switching between the past and present, the narrative is enriched as we learn how Billie has grown and changed through her life. Rather than just being a tragic love story, Bodies of Water is also an individual history interwoven with community history. Although the twist at the end is somewhat predictable, it’s still satisfying and I wish there were more details- I would have liked a whole other chapter because I liked the characters so much.

About Charlie McNabb

Archivist, Folklorist, and Legend Tripper
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