Old Water

Fiction - Crime
159 Pages
Reviewed on 08/14/2021
Buy on Amazon

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    Book Review

Reviewed by Divine Zape for Readers' Favorite

Old Water by John Hansen is a great crime story with a setting in Southwest Idaho in 1967: a tale that explores the lives and family dynamics in a community of ranchers. In this community, the early settlers have “Old Water” rights, and one such person is Avery Jankcovic, whose water rights can’t be honored because of the drought and the water shortage. But he is determined to save his ranch, even if it means using unconventional - even illegal - means, including getting into deals with drug dealers. With his son, Eddy, off to Vietnam and his wife and daughter at loggerheads with him, how much harm is he ready to cause to save his ranch?

The reader is immediately presented with unsettling images of the Feather River, the flat land carved up by early settlers, and the river that is only puddles. The “Old River” becomes a symbolic character in this narrative: the very hope of survival for those living in this part of Idaho, far removed from the mountains. It symbolizes life. But with the drought, suffering is ushered in. It is interesting to see how author John Hansen takes a natural phenomenon and weaves it into the center of conflict in a tale brimming with realism, filled with intrigue, and featuring such unforgettable characters. The rural allure of the setting is highly detailed, the prose is crisp and punctuated by gorgeous descriptions. Old Water is the story of a place, but also the tale of what happens when a man stands to lose everything that sustains him and his family. Avery, Louise, Jerry, Oscar, Floyd, and other names in the story will stay with readers long after they have turned the last page. They are so realistically portrayed that they feel like people you could encounter in real life. Told in an engrossing first-person narrative voice, Old Water offers genuine realistic entertainment.

Pikasho Deka

Old Water by John Hansen is a crime novel set in a rural town in Idaho during the Vietnam war. When one of the worst droughts hits southwest Idaho, Titusville resident Avery Jankovic struggles to run his ranch with his new water rights. After blackmailing his neighbor Harry Newsom into sharing his water, Avery runs into further trouble when Jerry shoots one of his cows. Jerry and his partner Mike are drug dealers who grow marijuana in the nearby forest. Seeing his vulnerability, Jerry offers Avery a sizeable amount of money in exchange for helping Mike and him run their illegal product. In the meantime, Avery's son goes MIA in Vietnam. Will Avery's desperation cause him to go against the wishes of his wife and daughter and ultimately compromise his morals?

Old Water is an absorbing and enjoyable tale about a small-town man struggling against the odds to make a living in the late 1960s. While telling a slice-of-life story about an ordinary man with extraordinary problems, John Hansen's novel provides a rare glimpse of rural America. Despite the plot's slow development, the intense conflict, dramatic scenes, and colorful characters meld together to create a captivating and compelling story. If you're itching to read a well-written crime novel set during the 1960s, you must check out Old Water.

Lesley Jones

In Old Water by John Hansen, in 1967, Avery Jankovic, a cattle farmer in South West Idaho, has many worries. At a time of severe drought, Avery is struggling to fund the drilling and construction of a vital well, plus his son Eddy has also been drafted to the war in Vietnam. When Avery’s request to borrow $5,000 is rejected and no one is willing to share their supply of water, he foresees harsh times ahead. Then he receives a proposition from an unlikely source that could solve his financial problems once and for all. The only drawback is that Avery must go against all of his values and principles to carry out the request. As Avery struggles with his conscience and tries to hide his actions from his family, the demands become increasingly unscrupulous. By the summer, Avery feels as if his predicament cannot get any worse until he receives some disturbing news about Eddy.

Old Water by John Hansen perfectly highlights the moral dilemmas that many of us face at different times in our lives. The main strength of Old Water was definitely the authentic dialogue and excellent descriptive narrative. I adored the characters of Avery, Cassie, and Louise; their moral compasses were superb. They were also kind-hearted, loving, and generous. I thought the plot highlighted Avery's inner turmoil with his conscience perfectly. He struggled so badly to choose between looking after his family and his livelihood and living according to his values. There were some gripping dialogue exchanges between the characters which were filled with emotion and tension at times, especially involving Avery and Stromeyer. The plot is also a perfect example of a David and Goliath-style story where Avery tries to survive against more influential and morally bankrupt characters such as Stromeyer. I thought the plot also highlights the slippery slope a person can find themselves on if their standards are gradually conceded. Sooner or later you have given more of your pride and self-respect away than you ever thought was possible.