Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage
Genre: Chick Lit
Publisher: Arrowhead Publishing
Date of Publication: January 27, 2017
Number of pages: 288
Word Count: 107,532
Cover Artist: Mia Kemme
Tagline: “We all live with ghosts. . . Some are those of people who’ve never been born.”
“We all live with ghosts. . . Some are those of people who’ve never been born.”
So begins Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage, the second novel by award-winning Greeley, Colorado author Emily Kemme.
Loosely based on Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, the novel takes on life itself as a pilgrimage. One of life’s biggest struggles is fitting in with the rest of the human race, and an aspect of that is having children. It’s not meant for everyone and yet, true to Darwinian forces, it’s almost expected. Giving birth and then raising a child to maturity is one of the bravest tasks we take on.
On what was supposed to be a day to celebrate, another cruel outburst from Holly Thomas’ sister-in-law begins a spiral of events that would leave Holly questioning every choice she’d ever made and every belief she held as truth.
Had she done the right thing by her unborn child? Had she given enough, or too much, freedom of choice to her son? Did she truly, deeply know her husband and clinic partner, Roger? And what right had she to counsel infertile couples after her own pregnancies?
With the Fertility Tour only weeks away, a group of unlikely and disparate pilgrims look to her for guidance. But Holly’s life has unraveled in ways she could not have imagined, including a restraining order against her. Will she be able to find her footing and make peace with her choices and herself? Will visiting the religious and sacred feminine sites in England help her regain control or only tear her further apart?
"Today exists for you to let your mind wander, let it free, all week long. This is the time for reflection and evaluation."
Deeply traumatized after her daughter, Arella, is born dead, fertility counselor Holly Thomas struggles to achieve inner peace. Roger—Holly's supportive husband and a prominent fertility doctor—accepts her grief-induced eccentricities, but his intolerant Christian family resents her and her Jewish roots. When Edward, Roger's brother, openly belittles the Bar Mitzvah of Daniel, Holly's son, tensions escalate, and her whole world threatens to fall apart. To overcome heartbreak and reflect on self-discovery and relationships, Holly and Roger take a group of patients from their clinic on a fertility tour. This tour becomes a spiritual pilgrimage for unrealized truths.
Kemme elegantly examines the complicated aspects of life and relationships. Using Holly's experiences with a failed pregnancy, her in-laws, and Roger, Kemme focuses on how pain can shape and enlighten us. That religious intolerance can inflict significant emotional damage is depicted through Roger's family members who weaponize words to hurt Holly. This, along with Holly's emotional fragility, causes strain in her marriage. However, Roger's unwavering love helps Holly stay somewhat balanced, letting her emotionally heal many patients who cannot conceive. Some of these couples include Leah and Rachel, the Rhanjhas, the Chandlers, Burbages, and Jane Brown and her mother. As Holly and Roger take their chosen couples on a fertility tour to England, various colliding elements within the patients' lives emerge, thereby projecting how relationships bless or burden us. Pain becomes a recurrent theme in the novel, neutralized by the healing touch of water as a metaphor. Arella's grave is near water, and the visit to the sacred sites of England serves as ritual cleansing for the characters. Artistically nuanced language and the sincere, soothing tone bring out the true beauty of this literary novel. This is an introspective, gentle novel that illuminates and rejuvenates in the same breath.
RECOMMENDED by The US Review of Books
Fertility doctors confront the lingering effects of personal and cultural emotional trauma. Holly and Roger Thomas have a stable marriage, fulfilling careers, and a son practicing for his bar mitzvah. Holly insists on throwing a birthday party each year complete with gifts for their stillborn daughter, but Roger doesn't complain. His Catholic brother and sister-in-law, however, find fault with Holly, primarily because she's Jewish. Her religion haunts her, almost as much as the death of her daughter. . .
. . . the author often beautifully depicts Holly s self-doubt as she explores different aspects of overcoming trauma. . . [in a] positive tale of moving forward through unexpected circumstances.
-- Kirkus Reviews
Dr. Roger and Holly Thomas run a successful fertility clinic in New York City. Roger tends to the patients' physical needs while Holly ministers to their emotional and psychological ones. The couple cherish the routines of their partnership and their happy marriage as they struggle with the pain of a lost child. Holly continues to throw their daughter birthday parties long after the child's been buried. This painful ritual causes her in-laws to question her sanity and is a source of annual familial strife.
Then the Thomas's son, Daniel, decides to complete his Bar Mitzvah. While Holly was born Jewish and Roger was born Catholic, neither parent practices his or her childhood religion. They've exposed Daniel to both religions for the sake of their families, but neither of them expected him to take it this far. Roger's devoutly Catholic family cannot accept Daniel's sincerity, and harsh words are said at his birthday party. Holly and Roger's resulting fight has surprising and unintended consequences.
All this turmoil takes its toll on the workings of the clinic. The Thomases have hosted something they call the Fertility Tour for over a decade. It's an opportunity for their clients to connect to one another outside of their familiar surroundings. Holly conducts the tour; she chooses the participants, orchestrates ice-breakers, and mediates conflicts. Normally she's a skillful operator, but she's lost her confidence. This year's tour is populated by an odd and ill-matched assortment of individuals. Needless to say, this tour does not run smoothly. Roger and Holly must find a way to reconnect with one another in order to salvage the retreat.
The Thomases deal with people at their most vulnerable. Fertility is closely tied to an individual's identity, and both men and women find it difficult to process the inability to have a child. While Holly and Roger have never encountered problems with conceiving, they have suffered a loss and are sympathetic to thwarted expectations. This closeness to struggle and their ongoing religious turmoil provide the pair with a lot of philosophical ground to cover. Is religion necessary to cope with the vicissitudes of life? Is God responsible?
Drinking the Knock Water is at heart an exploration of the role religion plays in the life of an individual. Faith in a god can both connect a soul to others and sow discord. In the end, it's up to the reader to decide if faith is essential or composed of empty rituals.
-- Manhattan Book Review
About the Author:
As the award-winning author for her novels, Drinking the Knock Water: A New Age Pilgrimage and In Search of Sushi Tora, and on her lifestyle blog, “Feeding the Famished”, Emily Kemme tends to look at the world in all its rawness. She writes about human nature, and on her blog shares recipes and food for thought along with insights about daily life. She is a recipe creator but winces when labeled a foodie. She is the Food and Lifestyle Contributor for the Greeley Tribune’s Dining column and also writes features for the newspaper and its magazine, #Greality.
"I write about what I ate for lunch only if it's meaningful," Emily says. "Mostly, I'm just hungry.”
Emily also writes because her degrees in American and English History, followed by a law degree from the University of Colorado, left her searching for her voice. She also suffered from chronic insomnia.
“Writing helps clarify my mind, erasing clutter, and makes room for more impressions. My thoughts can seem random and disconnected, but once they flow onto paper, a coherency and purpose emerges, directing patterns into story. I sleep much better, too.”
As an author who lives in Greeley, Colorado, she celebrates people’s differences, noting that the biggest problem with being different is when it’s deemed a problem. Emily often identifies with the underdog, focusing on humanizing the outsider, showing there is not only one right way to be or to live. Through her writing she hopes her audience will be open to new ideas, the acceptance of others, and will recognize the universalities of human experience in a non-judgmental way as they meet her characters and follow their stories.
Her first novel, In Search of Sushi Tora, was awarded as Finalist for First Novel in the 2012 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and her second novel, Drinking the Knock Water, was awarded as a Finalist in Chick Lit in the 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Awards and received two CIPA EVVY awards. Emily is currently working on a children’s book series, Moro and The Cone of Shame, a collaborative project with her daughter-in-law, Mia. She is also writing her third novel, The Man With the Wonky Spleen, a story about human idiosyncrasies.
Professional Memberships: PEN America
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