This review and others are posted at Inspiring Insomnia.
If I told you that a book with a heavy focus on the gathering, purification, and consumption of water was beautiful in an indescribable way, would you be tempted to side-eye me? Don't even think about it, because with Not a Drop to Drink, Mindy McGinnis has written a book packed full of breath-taking moments, fantastic characters, and yes, lots of information about water. Every author presented with the challenge of conveying a great deal of information to the reader, without making it seem like an information dump, should read this book. The way McGinnis describes each step in the purification process conveys its importance. In this post-apocalytpic world, access to an ever-dwindling supply of clean water is the key to life, and every drop must be protected.
In Not a Drop to Drink, Lynn ekes out an existence with Mother. Lynn was born into a time of extreme water scarcity, and she knows little beyond the area surrounding her house and small pond. That small pond is not only the source of life for Lynn and Mother, but it is also a potential killer, since desperate people are willing to die to get a drink from it. Lynn and Mother will kill to protect it, setting aside any compassion they might feel for someone risking death just for a drink, because the pond's existence must be kept a secret.
Throughout her life, Lynn has experienced almost no social interaction with anyone other than Mother. Mother has taught Lynn that no one is to be trusted, and every stranger is a potential murderer. Mother kills the people who venture onto their property with no remorse, and she teaches Lynn to do the same. Lynn's world eventually opens up beyond the borders of her property, and as it does, new dangers and new opportunities present themselves. Lynn's whole world previously revolved around Mother, and now there are new people in her life. Lynn has to make the choice to either remain isolated or to try to trust these outsiders, violating every lesson Mother ever taught her.
Not a Drop to Drink was even better than I had hoped, and my hopes were high. There was so much to love here. Lynn is a fabulous heroine, and she grows throughout the book in a very realistic way. Mother's views of the world are harsh, almost robotic, but she managed to keep herself and her daughter alive when many others perished. McGinnis makes us feel compassion for even the least sympathetic character in the book as we gradually learn the reasons for her behavior.
About the ending... Did McGinnis really just do THAT??? Oh, yes, she did. When I managed to pull myself back together, I could fully appreciate the beauty of this book, the best I've read in 2013.