"Gunner Fitch, a near-legendary water diviner, has been dead for over fifty years, but people in the town of Logan's Reef are still trying to escape his strange legacy.
"His son Mal, a famous Sydney theatre director, returns every year to the drought-stricken town for reasons he is only beginning to understand. An old story of rivalry and passions rules his blood, involving an unkept promise and 'a chain of hurt raching down from a cruel, courageous action taken by a barely remembered woman in the name of love.'
"When Ida, Mal's actress lover, writes a play based on the life there, matters left unfinished in one generation begin to clamour for attention in the next.
"It takes three men in Gunner's old truck, one of them an uncanny fit-throwing outcast with a nose for hidden water, to finish what Gunner had set in motion all those years before. To allow the past to break through and the circle to close. And, in so doing, to reveal to those lost in their lives a simple truth: 'The thing about change is it shows you who you were all along. It brings you to yourself.'
"Water Man is a moving and wise novel resonating with quiet power and extraordinary clarity of vision. Once read, it will never be forgotten."
"Roger McDonald uses language with the precision of a diamond cutter." - US Publishers Weekly
Gunner Fitch arrived at Croppdale with his new wife and left her alone for the day, headed away from the road, across the dry river and up into the hills on foot, with only a limping black dog for company. He carried a canvas knapsack holding a long-handled tin torch, a Vest Pocket Kodak camera, corned beef sandwiches, a bottle of cold milky tea, wax matches, and a packet of gelignite and fuses.
His wife Rosan sat on the verandah of the men's quarters and watched him disappear into the sun with a tired wave. If only he wouldn't just dump her like this, then she wouldn't just drift.
He wouldn’t return until nightfall; it was always the same. He needed a whole day to find what he could never see, but could feel in his nerves and stomach tension -- fissures in rock under his bootsoles and lakes of underground water that would rise with a lapping rush through iron bore casing when he called in the drill. Sometimes he’d light dynamite sticks and drop them into cracks in the ground, put his ear to the earth after the blast, and listen for echoes. Rage was in him as much as patience. When he smiled, a prominent gold molar invited murder. His work exhausted him like a fever: his divining gave him fits, it struck so deep. When he returned at nightfall he would spread sheets of graph paper on the bonnet of the car, and while Rosan held the torch the Gunner would explain his findings to the landowner. So much water here, so many feet under, at such a rate of flow. He would never be wrong. Rosan would have to do the driving afterwards while Gunner slumped in the passneger seat smoking roll-your-owns down to wet slugs and thinking his own thoughts.
From the Picador paperback edition, 1993.
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Last modified: January 26, 2006.