All The Water In The World by Karen Raney

A heart-breaking, heartfelt literary debut


Karen Raney, All The Water In The World book cover

What do you do when you’re faced with the worst? When you know, aged 16, that you have incurable cancer?

Well, you can roll over and die, or, like Maddy, the heroine of All The Water In The World, you can determine to live life to the full. Hungry for all the experiences life has to offer, she throws herself into her studies, seeks out her first romantic relationship and sets out to track down the father who does not even know she exists.

As we follow her adventures, we get to know her boyfriend Jack, friends Fiona and Vicky, her pampered ragdoll cat, Cloud, and her loving grandparents – all wonderful characters, sympathetically portrayed with Maddy’s customary humour and grace.

But it’s her mother, Eve, whom the reader’s heart goes out to. Yes, she has her parents and her partner Robin, to support her. But her isolation as she works her way through the grief and pain of her daughter’s illness is apparent from the very first page, where we meet her as she sits alone at the family’s lakeside cabin, contemplating the gift of a daughter like Maddy.

From her first kiss to her enthusiasm for the project she’s working on with Jack to help save the planet, from the loss of her hair to the discovery of her newly-found father, whatever Maddy does, she does with courage, philosophical wisdom and wit. Can her mother gather her own strength in response, and live her own life as Maddy would want her to?

The beautiful prose, sympathetic characters and reflective theme of this novel make it a joy to read. The narrative flows like the water that is its theme.

But what I loved most of all was the exploration of the relationship between mother and daughter, that goes beyond illness and squabbles and teenage tantrums (for Maddy is no saint) to show the unshakeable bonds that nothing in this life can break.

This story is heartbreaking and heartwarming in equal measure, but you’ll never regret meeting Maddy, who’ll live on in your heart long after the final pages.

Published by Two Roads

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