Follow-Me Water explores how a family’s past haunts its present. The book opens with Cecilia’s graduation from high school during the turmoil of World War II. The possibility of destruction looms and the measured pacing of normal life has been disrupted, perhaps never to return. After her mother’s sudden death, Cecilia moves from her small Cajun community, with its codes of behavior and expectation, to New Orleans, falls in love with Francisco, a Puerto Rican sailor, and travels with him to the island where they marry. Rejected by his family, Cecilia, convinced her marriage is a sham, returns to Louisiana.
Her mother dead, her father grief-stricken, her supposed husband at sea, Cecilia turns to a traiteuse for guidance. Madame Lejeune treated her for childhood illnesses and now conjures the name of a New Orleans voodoo queen. Cecilila’s life, once dictated by conventional mores, conforms to the machinations of these women, powerful only to the extent that others believe in them.
Cecilia’s story is interspersed with her adult daughters’ stories as both Fern and Nina struggle with the aftermath of not knowing their true family history. Fern yearns for acceptance after the rejection she experiences from her father and his mother. Nina, single parent of three boys, rages against her husband’s abandonment, a loss mirroring the loss of her father. Their imploding lives compel Cecilia to reveal her life’s true arc.
Eventually, Cecilia returns to Puerto Rico with Fern and Nina. This helps liberate both Cecilia and her daughters from her secrets and opens the possibility that the past will nourish, not suffocate, the present.