Skip to main content
Cover for Trouble the Water

Trouble the Water

Jacqueline Friedland


List Price: 16.95*
* Individual store prices may vary.

Other Editions of This Title:
Digital Audiobook (10/8/2018)
Paperback (9/26/2000)


Abigail Milton was born into the British middle class, but her family has landed in unthinkable debt. To ease their burdens, Abby's parents send her to America to live off the charity of their old friend, Douglas Elling. When she arrives in Charleston at the age of seventeen, Abigail discovers that the man her parents raved about is a disagreeable widower who wants little to do with her. To her relief, he relegates her care to a governess, leaving her to settle into his enormous estate with little interference. But just as she begins to grow comfortable in her new life, she overhears her benefactor planning the escape of a local slave--and suddenly, everything she thought she knew about Douglas Elling is turned on its head. Abby's attempts to learn more about Douglas and his involvement in abolition initiate a circuitous dance of secrets and trust. As Abby and Douglas each attempt to manage their complicated interior lives, readers can't help but hope that their meandering will lead them straight to each other. Set against the vivid backdrop of Charleston twenty years before the Civil War, Trouble the Water is a captivating tale replete with authentic details about Charleston's aristocratic planter class, American slavery, and the Underground Railroad.

Sparkpress, 9781943006540, 352pp.

Publication Date: May 8, 2018

Conversation Starters from

1. In Trouble the Water, we meet three characters trying to move on with their lives after suffering trauma. How do their traumas affect their personalities? How do their pasts affect their interactions with others?

2. Abby never wants to be beholden to anyone or to rely on anyone. Her independence means everything to her. Do you think this makes her more sensitive toward the cause of Abolition?

3. Discuss how parents are portrayed in this novel.

4. Friedland depicts a broad cross-section of women in her story: society belle, governess, mother, sister, charity case. What roles were open to women in the 1840’s in America? In England? What do you think Abby’s family hoped would happen to her when they sent her to America?

5. How do friends and friendships define this story?

6. Did you learn some things about the history of the pre-Civil War South that you had not known prior to reading the novel? What did you learn?

7. How, or how not, is historical fiction important to understanding our history?

8. Secrets play a determining role in the lives of key characters. Discuss.

9. Abby is a character that readers want to see succeed. What makes Abby so compelling?

10. The ending is a surprise. Did you see it coming? What do you foresee for the boys?

11. Why do you think Friedland chose the title of her book? How does it relate to the novel as a whole?