By: Ali Elizabeth Turner
It’s not often that I read a book twice, at least not back to back, but I feel I would be remiss if I did not tell you about The Water Keeper, written by multiple New York Times best-selling author Charles Martin. It is published by Thomas Nelson, who has been publishing Christian books and resources since 1798.
It is a gritty treatment of a highly emotional topic, that of human trafficking. It is taut, fast paced, set in Florida’s Intracoastal Waterways, and one of the fascinating side benefits is that it frames the story within the context of boating.
You might say, “Yeah, well, I don’t boat, and why would I need to know anything about human trafficking?” My response would be that boating and dealing with water and currents and storms and wakes and chop and fuel and maritime law are the perfect way to illustrate the fierce love of a single parent who is up against an unspoken deadline searching for her daughter. It does one of the most skillful jobs I have ever seen of discussing fatherlessness and appealing to what Kathrine Lee, co-founder of Pure Hope Foundation refers to as the “hero’s heart.” Kathrine and her husband Michael have a ranch in Texas and a marvelous team that rescues and rehabilitates young women who have been trafficked, and I will tell you this much: there is not a trafficked girl alive on this planet that didn’t get entangled in the web of trafficking without having a longing for her daddy or her Daddy.
The Water Keeper goes into detail describing the tactics used by traffickers against both the girls and their families, and Mr. Martin has clearly done his homework. I had the privilege of hearing him and Kathrine discuss his book on a Facebook live event, and heard just what prompted him to dive into some dark waters in order to tell the tale in a redemptive way.
When Charles was on a book tour for a different book, he had reserved a second floor room in a medium grade motel, and was planning on crashing after a long day on the road. As he was heading toward the door of his room, a large man blocked his way and suggested that Charles join him in an immoral activity that Charles highly suspected involved young trafficked women. Charles was tempted to just haul off and hit the guy. Instead, he moved around him and decided that his next book would be a work of fiction based on fact, and he spent several months being schooled on a most horrendous subject by members of the Florida law enforcement community that specialize in going after human traffickers and rescuing their victims.
The Water Keeper is the result, and the first time I tore through it, desperate to see how it ends. I am half way through my second time, and as an author and someone who has personally encountered people who have been trafficked, I am captured once again. The theme is timeless: leaving the 99 and going after the one. The imagery is engaging, and the result is satisfying. It is not an easy read, so be forewarned. Get it and devour it. It will stretch you, and you’ll be glad you were stretched.