Troubled Waters - Mary Annaise Heglar


Southern Fiction | African American & Black | Women's Fiction | Nature & the Environment | Historical Fiction

In this intimate portrait of two generations, a granddaughter and a grandmother come to terms with what it means to heal when the world is on your shoulders.


The world is burning, and Corinne will do anything to put out the flames. After her brother died aboard an oil boat on the Mississippi River in 2013, Corrine awakened to the realities of climate change and its perpetrators. Now, a year later, she finds herself trapped in a lonely cycle of mourning both her brother and the very planet she stands on. She’s convinced that in order to save her future, she has to make sure that her brother’s life meant something. But in the act of honoring her brother’s spirit, she resurrects family ghosts she knows little about—ghosts her grandmother Cora knows intimately

Cora’s ghosts have followed her from her days as a child desegregating schools in 1950s Nashville to her new life as a mother, grandmother, and teacher in Mississippi. As a child of the Civil Rights movement, she’s done her best to keep those specters away from her granddaughter. She faced those demons, she reasons to herself, so that Corinne would never know they existed. Cora knows what it feels like to carry the weight of the world—and that it can crush you.

When Corrine’s plan to stage a dramatic act of resistance peels back the scabs of her family wounds and puts her safety in jeopardy, both grandmother and granddaughter must bring their secrets into the light to find a path to healing and wholeness.

In heartfelt, lyrical prose based on her own family’s history, Mary Annaïse Heglar weaves an unforgettable story of the climate crisis, Black resistance, and the enduring power of love.


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Troubled Waters is an absorbing story of a young woman’s journey towards an act of redemptive protest after growing up amidst the climatic and racial traumas of southern Mississippi. Mary Annaïse Heglar has a gift for evoking landscapes and drawing characters. And her descriptions of food are so vivid that one can almost catch the smell of biscuits baking in the kitchen of the protagonist’s strict but loving grandmother.”

—Amitav Ghosh, international bestselling author


"Heglar's spirited debut novel layers a story of climate change activism in 2014 Mississippi with a parallel narrative of the 1950s civil rights movement . . . Heglar writes intriguingly of the long trail of injustice faced by subsequent generations of Americans. Readers of message-driven fiction will appreciate this."

— Publishers Weekly

"Weaving together generational trauma, untold stories of the civil rights movement, and an exploration of the impacts of environmental trauma and climate change, Heglar packs a wallop in this lyrical, powerful story of Black women, family love, endurance, and the power of place."

— Library Journal



Mary Annaise Heglar


Mary Annaïse Heglar is known for her essays that dissect and interrogate the climate crisis, drawing heavily on her personal experience as a Black woman with deep roots in the South. Her work has appeared in New York MagazineThe NationThe Boston GlobeVoxRolling Stone, and other outlets. They have also been featured in collections like All We Can SaveThe World As We Knew ItThe Black AgendaLetters to the Earth, and Not Too Late. Mary hails from Birmingham, Alabama by way of Mississippi and she is based in New Orleans.

Instagram: @mary.heglar
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