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Book Title

Bitter Water Opera

A Novel
Author 1
Nicolette Polek
In 1967, the dancer Marta Becket and her husband were traveling through Death Valley Junction when they came across an abandoned theater. Marta decided it was hers. She painted her ideal audience on its walls and danced her own dances until her death five decades later. 
In the present day, Gia has ended a relationship and taken a leave from her job in film studies at a university. She is sleeping fifteen hours a night and ignoring calls from her mother. In a library archive, she comes across a photo of Marta Becket and decides to write her a letter. Soon Marta magically appears in her home.
Gia hopes Marta Becket will guide her out of her despair. But is Marta—the example of her single-minded, solitary life—enough? Through precise, vivid vignettes, Bitter Water Opera follows Gia as she resists the urge to escape into herself and struggles to form a lasting connection to the world. Her search has her reckoning with a set of terrifying charcoal drawings on her garage walls, a corpse in the middle of a pond, a crooked pear sapling, and other mysterious entities before bringing her to Marta’s theater, the Amargosa Opera House. There in the desert, Gia finds one answer.
In this brief, astonishing novel, Nicolette Polek describes an individual awakening to faith while exploring our deepest existential questions. How do we look beyond ourselves? Where do words go? What is art for?

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5 x 7.5
An electrifying debut novel about art, solitude, family, and faith in a world without it

About the Author

Nicolette Polek is the author of Imaginary Museums (Soft Skull Press, 2020). She is a recipient of a Rona Jaffe Writers’ Award, and her work has appeared in the Paris Review Daily, BOMB, New York Tyrant, and elsewhere. She holds an MFA in Fiction from the University of Maryland, and a masters from Yale Divinity School. She is from Northeast Ohio.
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  • “Mesmerizing. Bitter Water Opera is a book dense and delicious with God-made language and violent emotion. This is an original for the twenty-first century.”—Fanny Howe
  • “A lush and dreamy ‘storybook-like’ novel, reminiscent of Leonora Carrington and Sylvia Townsend Warner. This is a work of subtle, spiritual intelligence.”—Elisa Gabbert
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