Imagine a world very close to our own: where women are not safe in their bodies, where desperate measures are required to raise a daughter. This is the story of Grace, Lia and Sky, kept apart from the world for their own good and taught the terrible things that every woman must learn about love. And it is the story of the men who come to find them – three strangers washed up by the sea, their gazes hungry and insistent, trailing desire and destruction in their wake.
Discussion points and questions:
- Grace, Lia and Sky spent their childhood undergoing the strange therapies invented by Mother and King, and yet their parents never let them complete the final therapy: the water cure itself. Why do you think Mother and King invented these rituals in the first place? And why do they not want their daughters to take the final cure?
- The damaged women arrive on the island visibly unwell, weakened and desperate. But it’s never clear what has made them sick. What do you think is really going on in the outside world?
- The sisters in the novel have all been raised by the same parents, in the same close-confined world and according to the same rules, and yet they turn out so different from each other. Why is this?
- King is determined to manage his daughters’ feelings – apparently trying to flatten out their emotions entirely. Why would he want to do that?
- When the men arrive on the island, Llew gravitates toward Lia very quickly. What is motivating him to pursue her?
- The Water Cure examines the overlaps between love and violence in many kinds of relationships, both familial and romantic. Do you think it’s possible to love someone and to hurt them? Do any of the characters in the book truly love each other?
- The novel ends on an ambiguous note – the sisters are on the move, in the middle of an escape attempt, their future uncertain. What do you think happens to them?
- In their parting words to us, the sisters describe themselves as ‘new and shining women’. What does this mean? Did they benefit from their upbringing in the end? And does the end justify the means?