Scenes from The Girl in the Water

The Girl in the Water

A novel by Joseph Howse, published by Nummist Media (2022)

Four teenagers and a feral cat navigate life in the Soviet twilight of the 1980s, against a broad backdrop of civilizations in decline.

The Girl in the Water is the first in a series of connected novels examining innocence, experience, oppression, and choice in a fractured modern world. The series is called Next Year’s Snow and I am currently working on the second novel, The Circus and the Atom.


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Read All About It

The novel has garnered praise as both a lifelike family drama and a literary statement in the tradition of the Russian classics.

Independent Press Award Winner: Literary Fiction

🇺🇸 The Girl in the Water has won the 2023 Independent Press Award for Literary Fiction. The judging committee, consisting of US book industry experts, scored it as the best work of literary fiction among entries from small and mid-sized publishers around the world.

Gabby Olczak, organizer of the Independent Press Award and host of The Gab Talks, has featured the novel in an interview with Joseph Howse.

IAN Book of the Year Awards: Outstanding Fiction

🇨🇦 The Girl in the Water has been honoured in the 2023 IAN Book of the Year Awards as the category winner for Outstanding Multicultural Fiction and as a finalist in Literary Fiction. The IAN Awards represent excellence in writing and design, as judged by a panel of reviewers, authors, publishers, and editors. Entries come from small and mid-sized presses around the world.

IPPY Awards: Bronze

🇺🇸 The Girl in the Water has won the 2023 IPPY Awards Bronze Medal for Best Regional Ebook (Fiction). This “Regional” category is for stories that convey a deep sense of a real-world place. Judges included editors, designers, reviewers, booksellers, and librarians who are experts on the North American market.

NYC Big Book Award Distinguished Favorite: Literary Fiction

🇺🇸 The Girl in the Water has been commended as a Distinguished Favorite in the 2023 NYC Big Book Award for Literary Fiction. The judging committee, consisting of US book industry experts, rated it as an outstanding work of literary fiction among entries from small, mid-sized, and large publishers around the world.

🇬🇷 The Girl in the Water is a finalist in the 2023 Eyelands Book Awards, an international literary competition organized by publishers, authors, and translators in Greece. Winners will be announced on December 30, 2023.

Foreword INDIES Finalist

🇺🇸 The Girl in the Water is a finalist in the 2022 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards for Multicultural Fiction. Finalists were picked by the editors of Foreword Reviews magazine.

Finalist: National Indie Excellence Awards

🇺🇸 The Girl in the Water is a finalist in the 17th Annual National Indie Excellence Awards for New Fiction. Judges included publishers, editors, authors, and book designers. They selected finalists on the basis of superior writing and design, among entries from small and mid-sized publishers around the world.

🇿🇦 Lebo Serache, host of SABC Morning Live, has welcomed the novel’s South African launch in an interview with Joseph Howse.

🇨🇦 Allison Lawlor, “The Book Shelf” columnist for The Chronicle Herald and the SaltWire Network, has featured the novel in an interview with Joseph Howse.

🇳🇿 ★★★★½ “a captivating story that sheds light on the complexities of human nature in times of great change … A must-read for anyone interested in the impact of historical events and the resilience of the human spirit in the face of adversity.” Benji Allen, Waikato Independent

IndieReader Approved

🇺🇸 ★★★★½ “Joseph Howse evokes the literary styles of Tolstoy and Dostoevsky … Howse’s novel feels Russian, from its ornate structure to its social commentary to its wry humor. The author has composed a book like Tchaikovsky would a symphony; tight, disciplined, yet bubbling with unspoken passion and near-magical allegory.” —Rob Errera, IndieReader

IndieReader has also featured the novel in its “Best Reviewed Books of the Month” (December 2022) and in an interview with Joseph Howse.

🇿🇦 Caxton Network News has featured the novel in its pick of new titles (July 2023), syndicated to newspapers and magazines across South Africa.

🇺🇸 “Howse excels at drawing textured portraits of multi-faceted women. … The Girl in the Water is a major achievement in a debut novel: a story populated with unforgettable characters who occupy the reader’s mind long after the book is back on the shelf.” —BlueInk Review

🇺🇸 “Howse’s novel is dense and detailed but alive with feeling, insight, and Nadia’s stirring, stinging, poetic thoughts. It juxtaposes in-depth, almost reportorial portraiture of a society’s decline with the fresh exuberance of youth, plus the terror and possibility of what might come next, when history itself … offers little reason for optimism.” —BookLife Reviews

🇺🇸 ★★★★ “Intentional and poetic, … the book excels because of its close-up focus on Nadia and her loved ones. Nadia is a lively, sympathetic heroine, and the people around her are engaging in each moment. Her glimpses at the world around her are sensitive and self-aware, and she, her friends, and her family members honor the people who live through difficult times with them. Among their ranks, shy romances bloom into relationships, friendships evolve, and families continue to love one another despite the keen drama around them.” —Chloe Clark, Foreword Clarion Reviews

🇺🇸 “OUR VERDICT: GET IT … Nadia’s journey is a memorable one. She comes of age in places as diverse as Estonia and Ukraine, which, while beset by Soviet malaise, abound with colorful characters.” —Kirkus Reviews

🇳🇿 “[The characters’] caring for one another and the people around them in need was quite lovely. Those values of family and support remain strong even in quite a bleak time.” —Nicky Walker, Radio New Zealand Nine To Noon

🇳🇿 “Howse’s prose is wonderfully written. Through the narrative he is able to create realism in the descriptions and authentic moments between people. … Centering on the dialogue, Howse uses language well and is able to present the vocabulary of each of the characters with a sense of authenticity. … [The novel] demonstrates more than just the vivid description of a time in our world’s history where oppressed people overcame incredible obstacles. It also celebrates life, and all that is to be gained through the experiences of togetherness and connection.” —Chris Reed, NZ Booklovers

🇿🇦 “I am sure it will be well received by young adults. … We read to understand, to try to get under the skin of others, and The Girl in the Water does help one find touch points, connections, and a greater empathy for ordinary people, like Nadia. Where are those girls now, girls who, like me, were 16, 17, in 1986? Are they refugees, soldiers, and are they even alive?” Vanessa Levenstein, Fine Music Radio Book Choice

The Girl in the Water, beside quote from Independent Book Review

🇺🇸 “A resilient coming-of-age story … The author includes emotional, compelling scenes with every character, as each one has been dealt a vastly different hand of cards. … It feels very down-to-Earth and includes necessary comical moments throughout. I did not know much about the events or places in this book before, but after finishing it and doing a little extra curiosity research, I’m thankful to have learned something new in such an engaging way.” Audrey Davis, Independent Book Review

LoveReading: Indie Books We Love

🇬🇧 “A coming of age narrative held against the backdrop of the last days of the Soviet Union … This setting and context of the book feels authentic and it is clear that a lot of research has been carried out in order to add dimension to the story. The sense of change in the setting reflects the coming-of-age themes in the characters’ narratives. … I think that this book would appeal to those interested in character driven family dramas and relationship stories, and may appeal to those interested in modern Eastern European history.” —LoveReading Ambassador

🇺🇸 “Of special appeal to fans of coming-of-age and family life novels, laced with humor, memorable characters, and an inherently interesting, narrative driven, storyline, ‘The Girl in the Water’ is unreservedly recommended as an addition to personal reading lists and community library Contemporary General Fiction collections.” —Midwest Book Review

Montmorency cherry blossoms, with ants

“Somehow it feels like the last summer on Earth. … There are wrynecks and Geiger counters, speaking to the mute and masked masses of mankind.” —Joseph Howse, The Girl in the Water

Order It

The Girl in the Water is available worldwide in paperback and ebook editions. To find it, preview it, and order it, please browse the following options.

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Discuss It

Any good story can be read in multiple ways, in part because readers bring their own experiences and book-learning from beyond the pages in hand. Thus, it is the author’s hope that no two conversations about this novel will be the same. Even so, reading groups may wish to download our book club guide to find some possible starting points for their discussions.

Stay Tuned

For more news and images about this novel and future works, follow Joseph online:

Ask About Publicity

🇳🇿 New Zealand media and event planners should enquire with Fantail Communications, our publicist in Auckland.

🇿🇦 South African media and event planners should enquire with JDoubleD Publicity, our publicist in Johannesburg.

For all other publicity enquiries, please email Joseph Howse.

Ask About Rights

Publishers who may wish to translate The Girl in the Water should enquire with DropCap, our foreign rights literary agent.

For all other rights enquiries, please email Joseph Howse.