Welcome back to another Write On Purpose book review. Each week, I review a well-written book, highlighting what makes it good from the reader’s perspective and what writing skills and techniques make it an irresistible read. Thus, each review serves both writers and readers.

This week’s excellent read is a collection of southern short stories called Washed in the Water: Tales from the South by Nancy Hartney

Washed in the Water: Tales from the South by Nancy Hartney

I like a good short story collection. Sometimes I want to read something that won’t require a lot of time to read. Sometimes I don’t want to dive into the world of a novel. Plus, I can sample an author and decide quickly whether I like their style.

Washed in the Water: Tales from the South contains 7 stories. Grab a glass of sweet tea and get ready to journey to the deep south into the lives of people who live and work hard.

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 Vivid, Tight  Descriptions

Gone are the days when people will read pages and pages of description of a flower. Hartney brilliantly pulls you into the stories with few words. Here are a couple examples.

See how this description also reveals character.

Although heavy-set, Lisa was still a striking girl-woman, with her raven hair, olive complexion and acorn-brown eyes. She lacked self confidence though and often chewed her nails down to the quick, leaving raw, ragged hangnails outlining each finger.

You can feel the bumpy ride and smell the dust with this one:

they rattled off down the road in a rooster tail of dust toward old man  Chesterfield’s cane sugar mill.

You can see the colorful swarm of cats going after fresh milk with this one:

They ringed about, a pinwheel of stripes and colors, jostling against each other.

I live in the country, and the bugs create their own unique chorus at night. You may hear about the “quiet country,” but if you’ve ever been there, the critters are anything but silent.

I adore this single sentence that captures the essence of the nightly sing:

An insect chorus rose and throbbed in a deafening hosanna.

Enjoyment as a writer and as a reader

Lots to emulate as a writer desiring to pull the reader into the tale. Hartney wastes no words and deftly engages the senses.

As a bookworm who goes through 1-2 books a week, I feel as if I’ve had an education on  life in the old South. I will re-read these stories more than once

Award-Winning Book

Washed in the Water won 2 awards last November from the Ozarks Writers Leaue:

  • The Ozarks Writers League President’s Choice Award for best book
  • Published Book of the Year


About Nancy Hartney

Nancy Hartney writes about the Deep South of today wrapped in yesterday’s clothes. Her roots dig into the piney woods that she rode through on horseback, into the sweat-soaked hardscrabble farms, and into humid passionate nights. Her slice-of-life tales chronicle a time past that is poignant, vivid and sometimes brutal. The reader stares into the eyes of people struggling with living, grasping for understanding, doing the best they know how.
Nancy makes her home in Fayetteville, Arkansas. Washed in the Water: Tales from the South is her debut short story collection. Her website is http://nancyhartney.com.

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Ronda Del Boccio

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