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What to Read After "The Covenant of Water" by Abraham Verghese

The Covenant of Water Overview and Author:

"The Covenant of Water" is a mesmerizing novel penned by the celebrated author, Abraham Verghese. Known for his literary masterpiece "Cutting for Stone," Verghese has once again crafted a narrative that enthralls readers with its depth and complexity. 

Trivia Question: 

Before he became a renowned author, Abraham Verghese (The Covenant of Water, Cutting Stone) pursued a different profession that greatly influenced his writing. Can you guess what it was?

A) Chef B) Physician C) Pilot D) Sculptor

The answer is B) Physician. "Abraham Verghese is an American physician, author and Professor of the Theory and Practice of Medicine and Vice Chair of Education at Stanford University Medical School. He is the author of four best-selling books: two memoirs and two novels. In 2011, he was elected to be a member of the Institute of Medicine." (Wikipedia)


"The Covenant of Water" belongs to the genre of historical fiction, interwoven with elements of medical mystery and family saga.

Brief Summary:

The novel tells a compelling story set in Kerala, India. It spans three generations of a family seeking answers to a peculiar medical riddle. The book beautifully combines elements of love, faith, and medicine, painting a vivid picture of a bygone era in India.

Main Characters:

While the book features numerous characters, the central ones are the three generations of a family, each grappling with the same mysterious medical condition.This is just a small list of characters.For a complete list click Abraham Verghese's Complete Character List. 

  • Mariamma - Big Ammachi's namesake and granddaughter.
  • Big Ammachithe twelve-year-old bride, who in time becomes the matriarch of the family and is named “Big” Ammachi by Jojo
  • JoJo, son of Big Appachen, born to his first wife, and stepson of Big Ammachi 
  • Big Appachen - the widower, father of JoJo, who marries Big Ammachi.
  • Baby Mol - daughter of Big Ammachi and Big Appachen.
  • Philipose, Big Ammachi’s and Big Appachen son. 
  • Damodaran (Damo), an elephant nursed back to health by Big Appachen 
  • Digby Kilgour, a Glasgow-born physician, a Catholic, who joins the Indian Medical Services to get surgical experience and starts working in Madras at Longmere Hospital
  • Franz and Lena Mylin, owners of a large estate near Chandy’s. Lena is Digby’s patient.
  • Cromwell, works for Franz and Lena Mylin, and later for Digby as his estate manager. He is a member of the Badagas—an indigenous tribe in the Nilgiri mountains.
  • Chandy, estate owner who has an ancestral house near the Saint Bridget’s leprosarium and vast estates in the distant mountains a few hours away.
  • Leelamma, Chandy’s wife
  • Elsie, Chandy and Leelamma’s second child, a daughter

Character Dynamics and Relationships:

The dynamics between these characters are complex and layered, shaped by their shared history, cultural background, and the medical mystery that binds them together. The different "parts" of the book come together into a full circle showcasing how individual lifes are touched by other's life's by seemingly coincidence. Oh how richly woven are the tapestries of life. 

Plot and Setting:

The story unfolds in Kerala, India, across different time periods, reflecting the changing socio-cultural landscape of the region. The Pamba River, one of Kerala's longest rivers, features prominently in the narrative.

Themes and Symbols:

"The Covenant of Water" explores themes of family, heritage, and the quest for knowledge. Water, as suggested by the title, serves as a potent symbol in the book, representing life, change, and mystery.

Critical Reception:

"The Covenant of Water" has garnered significant attention and acclaim. It has been featured on TIME's list of the 100 must-read books of 2023, 2023 Writer in the World Award, Oprah's 101st book club pick, and more.

Read Alikes:

We've got a delightful selection of books for you that echo the soul-stirring narrative and vivid cultural backdrop of "The Covenant of Water" by Abraham Verghese. Each of these books, like different spices in a pot, adds its unique flavor to the rich stew of literature. So, pull up a comfy chair, grab a cup of tea, and immerse yourself in these captivating stories. Happy reading!

    1. "A Fine Balance" by Rohinton Mistry: This book offers a striking portrayal of India during the "State of Internal Emergency." Its intricate narrative and vivid depiction of India make it a great follow-up read.

    2. "Independence" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: A beautiful exploration of the immigrant experience, this book's rich storytelling and deep character exploration echo Verghese's style.

    3. "The Woman Destroyed" by Simone de Beauvoir: This book delves into the complexities of human relationships and emotions, much like "The Covenant of Water."

    4. "The Last Thing He Told Me: A Novel" by Laura Dave: This gripping novel weaves a complex narrative that keeps readers engaged till the end.

    5. "The Golem of Brooklyn: A Novel" by Adam Mansbach: If you enjoyed the blend of history and mysticism in "The Covenant of Water," you might find this book intriguing.

    6. "On the Rooftop" by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton: A Reese's Book Club Pick": This book's exploration of family and identity resonates with the themes in Verghese's novel.
    7. "One Puzzling Afternoon" by Emily Critchley: This book shares Verghese's knack for portraying complex family dynamics.

    8. "A Haunting in Hialeah Gardens" by Raul Palma: Like "The Covenant of Water," this book uses mystery and history to craft a compelling narrative.

    9. "The Tennis Partner" by Abraham Verghese: If you loved Verghese's writing style in "The Covenant of Water," you'll likely enjoy this poignant memoir about friendship and addiction.

    10. "My Own Country: A Doctor's Story" by Abraham Verghese: Another one from Verghese, this book offers a moving account of the early days of the AIDS epidemic in America.

    11. "Cutting for Stone" by Abraham Verghese: If you haven't already read this, Verghese's first novel is a must-read. It shares many themes with "The Covenant of Water," including medicine, family, and the immigrant experience.

    12. "Interpreter of Maladies" by Jhumpa Lahiri:This Pulitzer Prize-winning collection of nine short stories is like a patchwork quilt, each piece telling a tale of Indian immigrants and their emotional journeys. Much like Verghese, Lahiri explores the intersection of two worlds and how characters navigate these spaces.
    13. "The God of Small Things" by Arundhati Roy: Set in Kerala, like "The Covenant of Water", this Man Booker Prize winner paints a poignant picture of a family's downfall and the small things that shape our lives. Roy's lyrical prose and intricate narrative are sure to captivate you.
    14. "The Namesake" by Jhumpa Lahiri:  Lahiri returns with a tale of identity and belonging. This novel explores the life of Gogol Ganguli, an American-born son of Indian immigrants, much like Verghese's characters caught between cultures.
    15. "Midnight’s Children" by Salman Rushdie:  A magical realist tour-de-force, this novel uses the birth of India as a free nation to tell a story of children born at midnight who possess special abilities. If you enjoyed the historical backdrop in "The Covenant of Water", you'll appreciate how Rushdie weaves history with fiction.
    16. "The White Tiger" by Aravind Adiga: This Man Booker Prize-winning novel provides a darkly humorous perspective of India's class struggle in a globalized world, a theme that resonates with Verghese's exploration of societal issues.
    17. "A Suitable Boy" by Vikram Seth: A panoramic view of post-partition India, this book shares Verghese's flair for historical settings and multifaceted characters. It's a delightful blend of drama, comedy, and romance.
    18. "The Inheritance of Loss" by Kiran Desai: This poignant tale of love and loss in the face of political unrest echoes the emotional depth and complexity of "The Covenant of Water".
    19. "The Palace of Illusions" by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni: If you enjoyed the blend of history and mysticism in Verghese's novel, you'll love this reimagining of the Indian epic Mahabharata from Draupadi's perspective.
    20. "The Lowland" by Jhumpa Lahiri: Lahiri's tale of two brothers bound by tragedy is a testament to her ability to craft deeply emotional and complex narratives, much like Verghese.

And there you have it. A literary banquet awaits you, each book a tantalizing course ready to satiate your hunger for compelling narratives and deep, resonant themes.

As the sun sets and the cozy lights of our quaint online corner bookshop flicker on, I hope you find your next great adventure nestled between the pages of these wonderful books. So, pull up a chair, let the world outside melt away, and allow these stories to whisk you off on a journey of discovery and delight.

Remember, every book is a doorway to a new world, and all you have to do is step through. So why wait? Pick up one (or all!) of these magnificent reads today. After all, as we say in our little nook of the world, 'A day without reading is like a cup of tea without sugar—possible, but why would you want that?'

Happy reading!

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