Trial by Water

(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

It’s MORP Night in Trent, Massachusetts. MORP Night allows the sons and daughters of the prosperous upper-middle-class village to express their disdain for convention without posing a serious challenge to the comfortable bourgeois matrix which affords them such freedom. Just down the road from Trent lies its ideological and economic opposite—the working-class community of Medway. The rivalry between the two communities is intense, but the resulting antagonism is normally confined to athletic contests.

Suddenly, the barely restrained conflict slips its leash when a personal quarrel between Brian Rubio and Jamie Pitt over the affections of Veronica Thrane leads to tragedy. In the course of a violent confrontation on a lakeside dock, a car carries two relatively innocent bystanders to their death. Obviously, someone must be found responsible, and Brian Rubio is selected to stand trial for manslaughter.

In the medieval world it was not uncommon to bind suspected malefactors and throw them into a body of water in the belief that the guilty would float and the innocent would not. Obviously Brian Rubio will not be subjected to such an experience, but his own“trial by water” is just as deadly.

George Cuomo approaches his familiar tale through the eyes of Brian’s father, Forian, and Joyce Johnway. Johnway’s marriage is at an end, and she and the divorced Florian are in the early stages of relationship—relationship which is complicated by the fact that Joyce is not only a teacher at Medway High but also faculty advisor to Brian’s antagonist and chief accuser, Jamie Pitt. Cuomo weaves a complex tale and handles the difficult transition between two narrators with all the mastery of an exceptional storyteller. TRIAL BY WATER deals with every parent’s nightmare in a sensitive and compelling manner—it’s a mustread.