Regret was for people with nothing to defend, people who had no water.
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn’t leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival, and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it….
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.
Title: Not a Drop to Drink
Author: Mindy McGinnis
Publication date: September 24, 2013
Although I was kind of hoping a different book would win the My TBR List meme for this month, I was not disappointed when Not a Drop to Drink did win. I have been wanting to read it since it first came out, but I seem to be more of a contemporary fan than a dystopian fan these days. I don’t want that to be true, but I usually find myself reaching for the contemporary over any other book.
Lynn’s world is very small. She’s never known anyone other than her mother. She very briefly, once, met a neighbor named Stebbs, but most of her contact with him has been signals and hand waves. Anyone else who comes near their home gets shot. Lynn and her mother do what they have to do to survive, and to protect their pond. It’s their only source of clean drinking water (and still, they purify it to be sure) and the only thing of real value that they have.
This next part is a little spoilery. It might sound big, but it happens early on and there’s really no way to discuss the parts of the rest of the book that I want to without coming out and saying it.
After Lynn’s mother dies, leaving her completely alone and with a pond to protect, she goes through a mourning period. I’m very glad that was included. It could just as easily have been ignored, but it wasn’t. Lynn is a very tough girl. She’s survived a lonely, isolated upbringing and the loss of the only person she knows in the entire world. Her mother was, arguably, even harder than Lynn. She remembered life before it was like this: friends and neighbors, electricity and running water. She had to adjust to an entirely new world and it made her hard, maybe a little too hard. She didn’t trust anyone and she taught Lynn not to trust anyone either.
Once she’s gone, some new people show up and Lynn has whether decide to let them in and to open up to them or to try to survive on her own. It would be almost impossible for her to do it on her own for any length of time. Not only do the new people down by the stream need her help for their very survival (they’re pretty inept), but there is constant danger from others intent on getting to Lynn’s pond — and she has to sleep sometime. It’s a little difficult for me to believe just how quickly Lynn accepts Stebbs and, especially Eli and Lucy into her life after the way she was raised. Stebbs at least is a familiar presence, but her mom would have turned Eli and Lucy away — or shot them — on sight. Lynn realizes this and takes a chance on them anyway.
Eli is Lynn’s age, so of course there’s a little romance there but it’s not really explored in depth. I almost felt like parts of it were missing because it seems like they take their relationship a little more seriously than it seems to me, but they’re young and they’re the only two people their age in who knows how many miles. There are no other options. Anyway, I wasn’t really feeling it with them, and I was much more interested in Lynn’s interactions with Eli’s five year old niece Lucy. When circumstances dictate that Lucy go to live with Lynn for awhile, Lynn is suddenly responsible for someone who can’t take care of herself. It’s yet another new experience for Lynn and watching her grow to accept Lucy and Stebbs into her life is the best part of the book. Suddenly she has a family that she never realized she wanted.
Not a Drop to Drink has a satisfying ending, but then comes the epilogue. I wasn’t happy with it until I read that the next book takes place ten years in the future. Although it tells Lucy’s story, I’m looking forward to a return to Lynn’s world, to check in with her, and to see how things have changed around her. I just hope it explains how the world gets from the point they are in Not a Drop to Drink to where they are in A Handful of Dust.