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In the Lonely Backwater (Paperback)
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All seventeen-year-old Maggie Warshauer wants is to leave her stifled life in Filliyaw Creek behind and head to college. An outsider at school and uncertain of her own sexual identity, Maggie longs to start again somewhere new. Inspired by a long-dead biologist’s journals, scientific-minded Maggie spends her days sailing, exploring, and categorizing life around her. But when her beautiful cousin Charisse disappears on prom night and is found dead at the marina where Maggie lives, Maggie’s plans begin to unravel. A mysterious stranger begins stalking her and a local detective on the case leaves her struggling to hold on to her secrets—her father’s alcoholism, her mother’s abandonment, a boyfriend who may or may not exist, and her own actions on prom night. As the detective gets closer to finding the truth, and Maggie’s stalker is closing in, she is forced to comes to terms with the one person who might hold the answers—herself.
About the Author
Valerie Nieman has been a farmer, a sailor, a journalist, a teacher. To the Bones, a genre-bending novel about Appalachia, was published by West Virginia University Press in 2019, joining three earlier novels, a short fiction collection, and three poetry books. Her award-winning poetry and short prose have been published here and abroad. A graduate of WVU and Queens University of Charlotte, she has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships.
"Maggie Warshauer, the intelligent, conflicted and often inscrutable narrator of Valerie Nieman’s Backwater has, against all odds, managed to carve out a life living on a rundown houseboat with her alcoholic father who she helps with his duties as marina manager. With an absent mother and few friends, Maggie turns to the natural world for solace and constancy. She’s most at home sailing her little sailboat, exploring islands and the wildlife she finds there. The marina is a sort of village where everybody knows everybody, and where a murder, like a stone dropped in a pond, sends out unsettling repercussions. Maggie’s heightened awareness of this insular world and its occupants gives the novel a powerful grounding as well as deep emotional resonance. I love this beautiful novel for everything Maggie tells us and for everything we sense she’s keeping to herself." —Tommy Hays, author of What I Came to Tell You and The Pleasure Was Mine
"When Maggie's cousin goes missing after prom night, then turns up dead at the marina where she and her ne'er-do-well father live, Maggie knows something about it but not enough to solve the case, or does she? She’s really just trying to survive as a smart and non-gender-performing girl whose mother is AWOL while her father drinks himself to death. To make sense of her world, she classifies: animals, plants, humans. And maybe she spins a yarn or two and escapes to her imagination. In this realist/Gothic hybrid coming-of-age novel, Nieman achieves a suspenseful narrative full of compassion, haunting, and desire, and instruction about the power of storytelling." —Elaine Neil Orr, author of Swimming Between Worlds
"Backwater is not only a page-turning thriller but also a complex psychological portrait of a young woman dealing with guilt, betrayal, and secrecy. Equally compelling is Nieman’s deep sense of the wonderment of the natural world." —Dawn Raffel, author of The Strange Case of Dr. Couney
"Valerie Nieman’s Backwater is a page-turning psychological thriller." —Jessica Handler, author, The Magnetic Girl
"Gripping and graceful in equal measure—charting a community in crisis, friendship and family, and the more complex geographies of the human heart. Maggie Warshauer is quite the character, her story one you won’t soon forget." —Art Taylor, Edgar Awarding-winnings author of The Boy Detective and The Summer of '74
"A suspenseful narrative full of compassion, haunting, and desire, and instruction about the power of storytelling." —Scuppernong Books