Amy Bloom’s Silver Water is a sad and beautiful story about a young woman named Rose, her struggle with schizophrenia and how the family copes with the illness. The story is told from the point of view of Violet, Rose’s sister. Silver Water was listed as One Story Magazine’s top ten favorite short stories. From the opening paragraph, Bloom appears to be composing as opposed to writing. The story opens up with the stellar line, “My sister’s voice was like mountain water in a silver pitcher, the clear blue beauty of it cools you and lifts you up beyond your heat, beyond your body.”
In this opening scene Violet recalls her sister Rose’s singing, then explains, “That’s what I like to remember and that’s what I told the therapists.” Rose suffers a “psychotic break,” and spends the next ten years in and out of hospitals and a halfway house. Throughout, Bloom touchingly shows the family coping with the struggles of dealing with a family member with mental illness.
The family becomes so disgusted with the therapists, they join in and openly mock one therapist during a session. They are a family that needs the sarcasm to brace themselves, to keep themselves sane. At one point, Violet’s mother assures her, “It won’t happen to you, honey. Some people go crazy and some people never do.”
Vivid descriptions of schizophrenic Rose abound. “She sat there licking the hairs on her forearm, first one way, then the other.” What Violet keeps coming back to is the memory of her sister’s singing. “Hymns so sweet and mighty you expected Jesus to come down off the cross and clap.” Eventually, Rose has to return home due to insurance issues and the tension implodes with a sad but foreshadowed ending that I don’t want to spoil here.
I really enjoyed Bloom’s storytelling here. Her prose is vivid and flows smoothly. I’ve become a fan.