The Covenant of Water (Oprah's Book Club) - Abraham Verghese

The Covenant of Water (Oprah's Book Club)

By Abraham Verghese

  • Release Date: 2023-05-02
  • Genre: Literary Fiction
Score: 4.5
From 2,600 Ratings



From the New York Times-bestselling author of Cutting for Stone comes a stunning and magisterial epic of love, faith, and medicine, set in Kerala, South India, following three generations of a family seeking the answers to a strange secret
“One of the best books I’ve read in my entire life. It’s epic. It’s transportive . . . It was unputdownable!” — Oprah Winfrey,
The Covenant of Wateris the long-awaited new novel by Abraham Verghese, the author of the major word-of-mouth bestseller Cutting for Stone, which has sold over 1.5 million copies in the United States alone and remained on the New York Times bestseller list for over two years.

Spanning the years 1900 to 1977, The Covenant of Water is set in Kerala, on South India’s Malabar Coast, and follows three generations of a family that suffers a peculiar affliction: in every generation, at least one person dies by drowning—and in Kerala, water is everywhere. At the turn of the century, a twelve-year-old girl from Kerala’s long-existing Christian community, grieving the death of her father, is sent by boat to her wedding, where she will meet her forty-year-old husband for the first time. From this unforgettable new beginning, the young girl—and future matriarch, known as Big Ammachi—will witness unthinkable changes over the span of her extraordinary life, full of joy and triumph as well as hardship and loss, her faith and love the only constants.

A shimmering evocation of a bygone India and of the passage of time itself, The Covenant of Water is a hymn to progress in medicine and to human understanding, and a humbling testament to the difficulties undergone by past generations for the sake of those alive today. It is one of the most masterful literary novels published in recent years.


  • Too long

    By lthoma2
    But beautiful. Wonderful character development & good plot. Nice twists.
  • Flowing and packed with character

    By Emily in MVCA
    A multigenerational page turner in rich, detailed settings. There are surprises and joy and grief for each character and the humanity shines bright, tied together in a narrative of family, place, and history.
  • Stunningly gorgeous writing and story. Unforgettable.

    By llyowill
    A one of a kind story of love and determination.
  • Disappointing

    By Jadacute11
    I’d previously read “Cutting for Stone” by Abraham Verghese and found it to be a compelling read. Upon finding myself in the hunt for a new book I sought out other works by Mr. Verghese. While He has once again brought fascinating exposure to a culture unfamiliar to me and coupled it with historical context; for me, the positive stops there. Too many characters are introduced but never fully developed to the bright futures hinted at, rather are abbreviated prematurely with a swipe of Mr. Verghese’s pen while he hurries to introduce a new storyline which will never be fully executed. If you are predisposed to melancholy, do not read this book as you will drown under its weight of unnecessary, unrealistic somberness and tedium which the author has misinterpreted as masterful.
  • New experience

    By Still A Chance
    Interesting adventure into a world and culture I have never explored.. Thank you
  • Phenomenal

    By Doctor Betsy
    Absolutely wonderful, original story with interesting plot twists!
  • Outstanding novel!

    By Mmaronic
    Intelligent, thought provoking, heart felt and heart wrenching novel! I was fully invested in every character. One of the best books I have ever read!
  • Secrets Kill

    By Richard Bakare
    There are so many things I want to say about “The Covenant of Water,” but struggle with where to begin. So many emotions and thoughts pass through you during this epically long saga. Its expansiveness in scope and coverage of the human experience from one part of the globe to another is equal parts thrilling and daunting. It is similar to “100 Years of Solitude” in its coverage of family drama over generations but set in India. A true multi-generational epoch that brings forth everything that life has to offer. The family in this case has a meandering and complex story that from the various perspectives over time we come to see all the joys and pains that bind us. We discover how personal growth and hidden discoveries are garnered through shared tragedy and struggle. All of these individual awakenings collective experiences are stitched together with some of the most beautiful lyrical writing I’ve read in a while. Abraham Verghese’s language and style shapes history in the style of an Ouroboros, eating the hopes and dreams of our characters with a precision lacking any sympathy. Moreover, Verghese wants us to learn that the snake itself is in the form of a Secret and that it is “Secrets [that truly] Kill” us in the end. The deeper embedded meaning is in the seeming permanence of water. How it holds our histories and truths; even when our own worlds are breaking. This was my first real foray into reading anything that would fit under Indian literature. Even with that limited exposure I would call this a must read for anyone interested the Indian diaspora. The author took great pains to stay as authentic and respectful as possible to his own Indian identity and the history of the period covered. That strenuous grounding differentiates it from the “Magical Realism” of Gabriel Márquez.
  • Beautiful story / 5 stars

    By KThugs3
    “She washes up, still marveling at the connections in her world, invisible or forgotten, but they’re all the same, like a river linking people upstream with those below, whether they know it or not.” While this book had started sort of slow for me, I am grateful that I refused to give up. Right before the halfway mark, I finally had become attached to all the characters, and could show compassion or express empathy for all the troubles and sorrows that they were going through. Finally, somewhere between 1/3 and *almost* halfway, did I become hooked. While the first part of the book took quite a few days for me to get wrapped up in, I was able to quickly finish it by the following day. What I loved about this book, is that all of the characters end up being tied together someway or another by the end, similar to the concept of “six degrees of separation,” and/or how everyone in my home town calls it “SmallEtown,” because everyone knows everyone where I am from. And I have also had connections in my life that seem like a synchronicity when people from my past are somehow connected to the people of my future. I also loved how the author was able to express the true humanity behind the complexity of humans and all their troubles, secrets, betrayals, and doing what we think is right. The author was also able to capture just the bittersweet aspects of life… and how beautiful yet hauntingly heartbreaking it can be. However, like some of the characters, we must NEVER give up… I guess it would be responsible for me to give a trigger warning for the book though… it does capture pretty much all of life’s biggest issues/heartbreaks that we still currently face today: poor health, sexual assault, losing loved ones, miscarriages and young ones not surviving, drug abuse/addiction & alcoholism. For all of the heartbreak though- there’s things to celebrate as well.. just like the real life.
  • Long and tedious

    By A. Quips
    I was enjoying the first half, then it went on too long with a roller coaster of sub plots, unnecessary and uninteresting medical descriptions, and a ‘preachy’ style that made me feel like I was being lectured.