Children of the Waters
In ancient Chinese culture, the yin yang symbol—with its contrasting white and black halves—symbolizes the interconnectedness of life. In Carleen Brice’s second novel, Children of the Waters, the seemingly different characters, both black and white, blend together to create an unforgettable story of love, family, and the ties that bind. Children of the Waters is the story of two sisters, Trish and Billie, separated by a family secret threatening to keep them apart.
Carlen Brice’s fluid prose allows the reader get to know both sisters in alternating chapters. Trish, the white, divorced mother of a brown teenaged boy, isn’t happy with her life. Raised by her strict grandparents after the supposed accidental death of her mother and half-sister, Trish feels that something is missing. Although she loves her job, taking care of animals, she is afraid of falling into the same lonely pattern of her bitter grandmother. When she begins finding jigsaw puzzle pieces throughout the city, she refuses to believe her dead grandmother, an avid puzzle maker, is trying to send her a message. Trish struggles to create a family for herself and her son, Will. But after a run-in with mall cops threaten to turn Will against all white people, including his mother, Trish begins to search her family history for the answers to her grandmother’s puzzle.
Unlike her half-sister Trish, Billie seems to have it all: a family that adores her, a lover who is protective and giving, and the comfort of her African ancestors’ guidance. After being diagnosed with Lupus years ago, Billie takes impeccable care of herself—teaching African dance, practicing yoga, and subscribing to a strict diet. Raised in a well-to-do family, Billie is cultured, educated, and confident in her skin, all the things Trish is not. Billie’s family, a beacon of African-American success, has given her the strength and the love to overcome any obstacle. But after finding out she is pregnant, her perfect world starts to unravel, and she is confronted with a past she never knew existed.
In Children of the Waters, Brice candidly tackles the complicated issues of race, class, and family secrets in such a way that everyone can relate. Through the story of Trish and Billie, we see just how connected we all are, despite our differences. In the age of Obama, when America is patting itself on the back for being “post-racial,” Children of the Waters gives us a sobering, yet hopeful look at how far we’ve come and just how far we’ve got to go.
The Prisoner's Wife is a teacher, mother, and writer. She writes about life, love, books, and her experiences raising her son alone on her blog, The Prisoner's Wife.