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Read the review in The Virginian-Pilot

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Read the review in Chesapeake Bay Magazine

Still Water Bending, Wendy Mitman Clarke’s evocative, moving novel, explores a Chesapeake and a waterman’s family in the midst of great change. Jines Arley Evans and his adult daughter Lily Rae struggle to reconnect while navigating eddies of memory, tradition, and old hurts against a gorgeously detailed Chesapeake Bay. It’s both an honest, nuanced family portrait and a ravishing love letter to the Chesapeake’s working maritime communities—a worthy addition to the Chesapeake canon alongside writers like Horton, Tilghman, and Voight.
— Kate Livie, author of Chesapeake Oysters
There is no issue of author Wendy Mitman Clarke not knowing her subject—the wonderful and dynamic Chesapeake Bay, its culture and heritage. Her prose flows like a swift running tide along the surface of the bay’s cut channel.
— Larry Chowning, author of Harvesting the Chesapeake, Chesapeake Bay Buyboats, Barcat Skipper, Deadrise and Cross-Planked
Set in the rural beauty of tidewater Chesapeake and laid out against a metaphor-rich back drop of a waterman’s life, this story embraces its characters and its reader in a lush landscape of water, sky and the human heart. Ancestral callings help break the fearful heart wide open. Lily must learn again what her friend Mary Virginia teaches—that love is “ a two way street…You want love to come to you, you got to open the door to it and then send it right on back out, double time.” Easier said than done, of course. This book is about that difficult journey. It is a novel filled with tenderness, truth-telling and wisdom. It is a powerful, life-affirming, “must read.”
— Michael Glaser, Maryland Poet Laureate 2004-09


                In the river-born community of Ophelia, Virginia, on the Chesapeake Bay, there are three religions: The Water, The Family, and The Land. For generations, this trinity has sustained a community of proud, independent people. But their way of life is dying. Third-generation waterman Jines Arley Evans clings to what little is left. The fisheries are depleted. His wife and son are long dead, his estranged daughter, Lily Rae, bitter at her father’s emotional abandonment, far away. The family land and silent house, the workboat Jenny Rae, and the water—its rhythms, mysteries, and seasons—are all that remain for him.

              But when a stroke that Jines suffers threatens to take even those fragments of what’s left of his world, Lily Rae must leave her life as a journalist in Portland, Maine and return home to care for him.

             Thrown uncomfortably together, they must come to terms—with each other and with their isolation from others. Maybe they can find common ground in an unlikely place—Jines’s boat shed—where they once again try to build a traditional deadrise skiff together.

            As Jines’s powerful life contracts, Lily’s expands. She begins to see the place and people she had left behind through new eyes, including Jamie Cockrell, her once best friend. Now divorced with a beautiful young daughter, Jamie yearns for what few other young men of Ophelia still want—a chance, like Jines, to run his own boat and work on the water. Lily is falling in love, not only with Jamie and his daughter but with her home. Yet in the end, she has to make the hardest decision she has ever faced. 

Both well-wrought and true… I loved every bit of it! Still Water Bending takes you deep into the heart of the Chesapeake, into the lives of the watermen and their families and their powerful attachments to the land, the sea, and each other. Beautifully written and emotionally rich, this is a novel to read and read again.
— Barbara Esstman The Other Anna, Night Ride Home, and A More Perfect Union
Clarke’s depictions of life around the Bay, in the boatyards and on the water, are dynamic and true, reflecting her deep experience on the Chesapeake and in the maritime communities... she introduces us to characters we feel like we might know from any time spent along the Chesapeake and Maine shores. The mix provides the texture and reality of a compelling tale of love, loss and redemption. This is a courageous piece of work worth reading.

— Joe Evans, Editor, Chesapeake Bay Magazine
Still Water Bending portrays a vanishing way of life as the watermen…struggle to maintain their independence and their dignity against an influx of moneyed ‘come heres’ who do not understand or respect the water or the land. It is also the story of two proud and stubborn people, father and daughter, who…are struggling to come to terms with belonging and isolation, with loss and forgiveness, with dependence and choice, and with defiance and acceptance. They are trying to exert some control in a world where change comes whether we are ready for it or not. Written in the lyrical language of Bay fishing and boatbuilding, Still Water Bending explores with authenticity and sensitivity how people and communities adapt to the turbulence of life flowing around them.
— Beth Leonard VP at Boat US, author of Blue Horizons: Dispatches from Distant Seas, The Voyager's Handbook, and Following Seas: Sailing the Globe, Sounding a Life.
Aye, God, Wendy Mitman Clarke knows boats and the Bay, its rhythms, its accents, its soul. She is a beautiful writer and this is a beautiful book, with compelling characters and a deep sense of place that is as enchanting and enduring as a Chesapeake sunrise.  
— Eugene L. Meyer, journalist and author of Chesapeake Country is a member of the board of the Washington Independent Review of Books, and a former Washington Post reporter and editor.
wendy mitman clarke still water bending writer

Cover design and artwork by Kailani M. Clarke