The Water Cure


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Year Published

Book Review

The Water Cure by Sophie Mackintosh is a dystopian suspense/thriller. Three sisters have been taught the world beyond their island is toxic, but their parents disappear and strangers visit them.

Plot Summary

Sisters Grace, Lia and Sky live on an island with their mother and their father, King. Their parents have always told them about the toxic world outside of their property and have warned them that men make it so. Women sometimes come to their island to receive the Water Cure and be healed after men have contaminated them.

The girls understand little about the world beyond their island, and their father is the only male with whom they’ve interacted. They readily believe their parents’ terrifying claims and engage in the cult-like rituals their parents have designed to keep them pure in a dangerous world.

One day King disappears, and the women assume he’s dead. Then three men, two adults and one of the men’s sons, become stranded on their island. Mother nervously keeps the girls doing their rituals in an effort to protect them.

Readers learn Grace is somehow pregnant and about to give birth. She has the baby, but it dies. Lia becomes infatuated with one of the men, Llew, and they become sexually active. Mother also disappears, and the men say they saw her take a boat to the mainland for supplies. The girls try to navigate their circumstances, being alone with men whom they’ve always been taught to fear and despise.

Grace eventually reveals to readers that King, who was not her biological father, seduced and impregnated her. The men admit King is alive and wants them to retrieve the girls for him. Llew also tells the girls that he and his partner killed Mother and that the land on which they live isn’t really an island. The world isn’t toxic in the way they’ve been told, he explains. After Llew’s son dies in the forest, the girls kill Llew and his partner. They escape past the fences erected by their parents in search of a new life without King.

Christian Beliefs


Other Belief Systems

The girls’ parents raise them to believe that men, other than King, are toxic elements in the world. King represent the dogmatic, fear-based, misogynistic, repressed, abusive, hypocritical, twisted views of “Christians.” When King is gone, readers realize he has also been toxic by subjecting the girls to the rituals, teaching them to live in fear and seducing and impregnating Grace. Feminist elements and beliefs emerge as the girls try to sustain themselves in the presence of the visiting men and discover who they are without their parents’ dogmatic philosophies.

Authority Roles

King and Mother brainwash the girls and force them to participate in abusive rituals. King seduces and impregnates Grace to reaffirm his masculinity. He sends the visiting men under false pretenses to reclaim his daughters.

Profanity & Violence

The Lord’s name is used in vain. The f-word, s—, and b–ch appear a number of times. The girls are made to engage in strange, abusive and dangerous rituals intended to teach them control over their pain. They wear fainting sacks, put on weighted drowning dresses in the pool or shove muslin their mouths to keep them from screaming aloud.

Mother makes them stay in a sauna until they lose consciousness. During love therapy, Mother forces Lia to kill a mouse and a toad. Another time, King kills a rabbit Lia kept as a pet because he says love like this compromises the family. Another therapy determines who each family member may or may not love and touch that year.

The girls are warned to fear their feelings and emotions. After they believe King is dead, Mother drugs the girls with sleeping pills for a week. Women visiting the island undergo the water cure, which involves having their heads dunked repeatedly in saltwater before they vomit. They then drink pure water to restore them.

Vague passages suggest some of the women have lost or aborted children while visiting the island. Lia puts gashes in her body. The girls perform the water cure on each other before escaping the compound to make their way in the world.

Sexual Content

King seduces and impregnates Grace. Lia receives little physical touch because she was assigned as untouchable that year. She is both frightened of and intrigued by the men who visit, and she becomes sexually active with Llew. She feels guilty for how much she likes it. At one point, she also offers herself sexually to the other man, but he refuses. Grace and Sky punish Llew’s son when they find him in the woods touching himself sexually.

Discussion Topics


Additional Comments

Drugs: After they believe King is dead, Mother drugs the girls with sleeping pills for a week.

Abuse: King and Mother abuse their girls with a water cure, a sauna treatment, love therapy and in other ways.

Abortion: Vague passages suggest some of the women have lost or aborted children while visiting the island.

Cutting: Lia puts gashes in her body.

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