Rivers, Karen. Dream Water. Orca, ISBN pp. $
Both a statement on the keeping wild animals in captivity and a psychological novel about the after-effects of acts of violence, Rivers has written a tense and tight novel about freedom. Two Canadian teens struggle to cope with a shocking incident at a childhood field-trip to the Seaquarium. Holden, newly reunited with his ailing and addict mother, fears water and seeks escape in painting and abuses alcohol. Cassie, emotionally estranged from her naïve psychiatrist parents, dances and suffers from nightmares. Imprisoned by the memories that haunt them, together they find catharsis that leads to healing through their art, through talking, and through their relationship with one another. The author’s agenda to raise awareness is very clear, yet never overpowers the story. A zealous anti-captivity science teacher provides a natural opportunity for Cassie and her friend Sina to talk about the situation of killer whales in aquariums.
The book has a few minor flaws. In spite of the fact that Holden’s mother is dying of AIDS, condoms are never mentioned in the sparsely detailed, brief and fluid sex scene between Holden and Cassie. Cassie’s parents are unbelievably inconsiderate at every turn, almost Dahl-esque, but Holden’s parents make up for it by being more complex. Impressively, each detail, scene and character has a purpose, furthers the plot, and is pertinent. The novel ends on an hopeful note for the characters, but the epilogue has an ominous tone for the thousands of mistreated whales still kept in confined in too-small pools. Surprisingly, no contact information for animal rights activist groups is provided.