Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press

The Hundred Waters

by Lauren Acampora

Celebrated by the Boston Globe as “a brilliant anthropologist of the suburbs,” the deliciously weird and darkly offbeat Lauren Acampora returns to the secret lives of the polished Connecticut haven that got us all hooked on NPR Best Book of the Year The Wonder Garden, and jolts us with the sparks that fly when those lives collide

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date August 22, 2023
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-6180-2
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $17.00
  • Imprint Grove Hardcover
  • Page Count 256
  • Publication Date August 23, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5974-8
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25"
  • US List Price $26.00
  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Publication Date August 23, 2022
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-5975-5
  • US List Price $26.00

“Acampora’s prose has a seductive, pearlescent allure.”—TIME Magazine

Formerly a model and photographer trying to make it in New York, Louisa Rader is back in her affluent hometown of Nearwater, Connecticut, where she’s married to a successful older architect, raising a preteen daughter, and trying to vitalize the provincial local art center. As the years pass, she’s grown restless in her safe and comfortable routine, haunted by the flash of the life she used to live. When intense and intriguing young artist-environmentalist Gabriel arrives in town with his aristocratic family, his impact on the Raders has hothouse effects. As Gabriel pushes to realize his artistic vision for the world, he pulls both Louisa and her daughter Sylvie under his spell, with consequences that disrupt the Raders’ world forever.

A strange, sexy, and sinister novel of art and obsession, in The Hundred Waters Acampora gives us an incisive, page-turning story of ambition, despair, desire, and the pursuit of fulfillment and freedom at all costs.

Tags Literary

Praise for The Hundred Waters

“Questions of the pursuit of art, stagnation, youth and aging, and how to exist on a planet that is, increasingly, made up solely of emergencies, are grounded in the richness (no pun intended) of Sylvie and Louisa’s characters. And, as in The Paper Wasp, Acampora’s descriptions of the strangeness of artworks are not to be missed.”—Lit Hub, Best Summer Reads

“A thrilling drama… As Gabriel draws both Louisa and Sylvie into his thrall, their lush small town stops feeling quite so staid.”—Vogue

“In the tradition of territory-marking novelists John Cheever and John Updike, Lauren Acampora expertly captures deep-pocketed suburban restlessness in The Hundred Waters… Through its delicate narrative circuitry and roving point of view, the novel gradually exposes a community that’s in crisis without even knowing it.”—Shelf Awareness, starred review

“In this tightly paced novel that echoes Celeste Ng’s Little Fires Everywhere (2017), Tom Perrotta’s Mrs. Fletcher (2017), and A. Natasha Joukovsky’s The Portrait of a Mirror (2021), Acampora sets the idealism of youth against middle-age complacency and high-society reservations… With this gem of a novel, Acampora cements herself as a thrilling voice in fiction.”—Booklist, starred review

“Arresting… Acampora achieves a sharp and tense depiction of an illusory and stultifying haven.”—Publishers Weekly

“Acampora weaves a tale of artistic ambition, climate activism, and the seductive allure of extravagant wealth. Told in the author’s signature lush prose… this is an enchanting pool worth sticking your toe into.”—Kirkus Reviews

“With a fluid writing style and a plot that moves along quickly… Absorbing… Excellent.”—Library Journal (starred review)

Praise for The Paper Wasp:

“Take The Talented Mr. Ripley, cross it with Suspiria, add a dash of La La Land and mix it all at midnight and this arty psychological stalker novel is what might result.”—New York Times Book Review

“A hypnotic tale of codependence that skewers our fascination with gossip and fame.”—O Magazine, “The Best Books by Women of Summer 2019”

The Paper Wasp fixes its gaze on one magnetic and increasingly twisted friendship… hypnotic and sensual… Acampora’s prose has a seductive, pearlescent allure.”—TIME Magazine

“Acampora’s kaleidoscopic narrative shifts fluidly from Abby’s strange, shimmering images to Elise’s descent into tabloid erasure, artfully tracking the unexpected power shift between them.”—BBC.com

“Gripping… likely to buzz its way into many beach bags this summer.”—Irish Times

“A thrilling tale of a twisted friendship, obsession and ambition… an unsettling, compelling read.”—Tatler

“Landing somewhere in between Marisha Pessl’s Night Film and You by Caroline Kepnes, The Paper Wasp aims to disturb while it enraptures.”—Open Letters Review

“Readers will enjoy reading this story of dark friendship set against the ‘flash of Hollywood.’”—Boston.com

“This is the Los Angeles of weird cults and day-drunk stars, of struggling documentary filmmakers and mysterious but powerful directors… Utterly bizarre and completely bewitching, this twisted, delicious tale will grab you from the first page and hurl you over the edge.”—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

“Acampora’s linked short story collection, The Wonder Garden, electrified literary critics, and this deeply disturbing, wildly inventive, and completely unpredictable debut novel is sure to do the same. Abby and Elise will be haunting readers’ dreams long after the last page.”—Library Journal (starred review)

“An unsettling and surreal excavation of the boundless depths of the human psyche… Acampora’s writing is gorgeous and renders with precision and clarity the spiral of Abby’s increasingly disorienting world of obsession and hallucinatory imagery. The result is a piercing, disquieting novel.”—Publishers Weekly

“It seems at first a novel of friendship between women—a rich vein for any writer—but in The Paper Wasp, Lauren Acampora upends convention, creating an unsettling (and impossible to put down) story about art and ambition, fame and power. A beautiful and surprising book.”—Rumaan Alam, author of That Kind of Mother

“Acampora is an exquisite stylist who misses no shade or psychological texture and who also plumbs depths of feeling in note-perfect prose that leaves one stunned at the artistry on display. The Paper Wasp is a powerful statement of aesthetic purpose, and an unalloyed triumph.”—Matthew Thomas, author of We Are Not Ourselves

“A lyrical, provocative, imaginative page turner that makes the world feel new again, The Paper Wasp is both a stunning portrait of a fixated woman and an addictive, modern commentary on an eternal theme of obsession. In her glittering, goosebump-inducing prose, Lauren Acampora gives us a soul trip/head trip/rarefied LA trip replete with surrealism and social commentary.”—Caroline Kepnes, author of You

The Paper Wasp was a crazy joyride of a novel; a bold and joyous take on female friendship, outsider ambition and the secret powers of loners. It gives us a heroine who is selfish, weird, manipulative, and sometimes just plain nasty, and makes us root for her with all our selfish, weird, manipulative, and nasty hearts. I loved every second of it.”—Sandra Newman, author of The Heavens

Reading Group Guide

Reading Group Guide for Lauren Acampora’s The Hundred Waters

Guide by Kathe McCormick-Evans

1. The Hundred Waters takes place in the idyllic but sleepy fictional town of Nearwater, Connecticut. Louisa is occasionally frustrated by the “fairy-tale quicksand” of life there; Richard seems to experience Nearwater as an oasis (p. 68). Talk about the town and the prominent role it plays in this narrative. What does Nearwater mean to Louisa? To Richard?

2. Both thirty-nine-year-old Louisa and twelve-year-old Sylvie are drawn to eighteen-year-old Gabriel. Richard and Louisa are a married couple nearly two decades apart in age. How do you think age gaps impact the way the characters relate to each other? Do their attitudes reflect universal generational patterns or divides? Do they subvert them? In what ways?

3. What is the role of Sylvie’s friend Katherine’s untimely death in this story? How does it influence the way Sylvie views the world? The way Louisa and Richard view parenting?

4. Throughout the novel, Richard and Louisa disagree about parenting Sylvie: Richard argues that their job is to “protect her from pain and fear”; Louisa counters that it is to “equip her for the inescapable” (p. 24). Which perspective are your own ideas most aligned with? In the end, is Sylvie protected? Is she equipped to handle adversity? Is it possible to fully protect a child from pain, or to fully prepare a child to handle difficulty?

5. By turns, Louisa is threatened by and powerfully attracted to Gabriel. Their connection comes to a head when they have sex in the woods after Gabriel shows Louisa his latest “project.” What do you think Gabriel represents for Louisa? What draws her to him? How did you feel about the sex scene? Did it change the way you felt about Louisa?

6. Gabriel and Sylvie form an unusual and secret friendship. Why is Gabriel motivated to befriend Sylvie? Does he enjoy her company? Is proximity to Sylvie another way to gain access to Louisa?

7. While comparing her former home in New York City to Nearwater’s “bland, coddling comfort,” Louisa reflects that “Grown people need friction to live” (p. 69). Do you think this is true? In your own life, do you seek friction, comfort, or both?

8. Talk about Louisa’s reaction to Gabriel’s final “gift” in the audio building. When Richard is upset by hearing the recording of his wife and Gabriel having sex, Louisa tells him “It’s art” (p. 217). Did her response surprise you?

9. As Louisa makes tentative strides towards resuming her curtailed photography career, she is “bewildered” by Gabriel’s confidence in his own artistic abilities: “the kind of male determination based on nothing but the itch of potential inside” (pp. 58-59). By contrast, “The world had always told Louisa . . . She was the art, not the artist” (p. 55). Talk about the role of gender in Louisa’s versus Gabriel’s relationship to their art. How does Louisa’s gender influence her relationship to her photography career? What are the differences in what the world “tells” men and women about their personal and professional ambitions?

10. Louisa feels that technology allows for a ubiquity of images that cheapens their wonder: “Now that everyone is a photographer, now that the world is awash in images, there’s little magic left in them. What pictures remain to be taken?” (p. 53). What do you think of this statement? How do the cellphone camera and the accessibility of images play a role in your own life? In this story?

11. Louisa was once enmeshed in the Manhattan art world. When talking to Angelica, a successful artist still living in Manhattan, Louisa thinks wistfully that “This is what [her own] life could have been, living for herself alone” (p. 134). What does it mean to live for oneself alone? Does “making it” as an artist require doing so?

12. Gabriel tells Sylvie it is “good to remember that you’re dying . . . Now, and now, and now” (p. 82). By contrast, Louisa enjoys photography partially because it allows her to capture “a slice of immortality” (p. 96). How do the characters in this book relate differently to death and mortality? What do you make of Gabriel and Louisa’s different perspectives? How do these attitudes manifest in each of their art?

13. How do you think seeing Xavier at the gallery opening, then learning of his death, affects Louisa’s choices in the novel? Do you think the story would have gone the same way had Louisa not run into him, or had she not found out about his death?

14. Gabriel’s activism centers on the global climate crisis. He tells Sylvie that it’s easier for people to focus on small actions they can control—such as switching to reusable grocery bags—than to truly wake up to the gravity of the situation. What do you think about this? Is it easier to live in a “dream life” than to confront the magnitude of the problem? How do you relate to the changing climate in your own life? To activism?

15. Gabriel is inspired by the artist and sailor who renamed himself Hundertwasser, meaning “hundred waters” (p. 114). Why do you think Acampora decided to title the book after him?

16. Gabriel’s provocative “projects” escalate in scope—beginning with covering the golf course with the Noah’s Ark figures and concluding with arson and freeing the menagerie at the home of the Foxes. Where is the line between art, activism, and vandalism? Do you think his actions are justified?

17. What do you think of the book’s ending? What do you imagine will happen next for Sylvie, Louisa, Gabriel, and Richard?