Book Review | After the Dam

After the Dam is a novel by Amy Hassinger about a woman named Rachel, who—shortly after having her first child—leaves abruptly to visit her ailing grandmother in her childhood home. There, she finds her grandmother in a diminishing mental state, and finds that she can’t bring herself to trust her caretaker, Diane, a longtime friend of the family. Coupled with that distrust is the worry that her grandmother will give away the family’s farm to Diane due to it being originally Native land. While Rachel is there, she reunites with her first love, Diane’s son Joe, with whom she parted on bad terms. He takes care of the dam in the area, but with rising water levels and rising tensions, the status quo threatens to shatter.

This novel isn’t bad, but for me wasn’t great. The protagonist—the character you’re supposed to care most about—complains a lot, about pretty much everything: her baby, her husband, the situation with her grandmother, her bond with Joe, her prickly relationship with Diane. She’s rather whiny, which gets tedious pretty quickly. The other characters were less frustrating, but not enough to redeem the lackluster characterization overall.

The plot is pretty decent; I liked reading about Rachel’s early work regarding dams and the environmental effects that come with them. It’s a topic I’ve never given much thought to, and these aspects of the book seem well-researched and intrigued me. And the end of the book brings the tensions—both between characters and within the land itself—to breaking point, and it’s actually fairly exciting and suspenseful. I just wish I had cared more about Rachel during those pages; I imagine they would have had even more impact had that been the case.

In the end, After the Dam is at best okay. Some aspects are better than others, but this really suffers from a main character I couldn’t bring myself to actually like. The book is an interesting character study, and presents a thought-provoking moral dilemma; however, sadly, that wasn’t enough to make me enjoy it.

Overall rating: 6/10

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