Gamble, Terry

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Born in Pasadena, CA; married Peter Boyer; children: two. Education: University of Michigan, received degree.


Home—San Francisco, CA. Agent—c/o Author Mail, HarperCollins Publishers, 10 East 53rd St., 7th Floor, New York, NY 10022. E-mail—[email protected].


University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, member of English advisory board.


Phi Beta Kappa.


The Water Dancers (novel), William Morrow (New York, NY), 2003.

Also author of short stories, poetry, and essays for literary journals.


Another novel set in Michigan.


Born in Pasadena, California, and a fifth-generation member of her family to spend summers in the resort town of Harbor Point, Michigan, Terry Gamble described herself on her home page as a "strange, pale child" who spent most of her childhood under the piano or on a closet shelf reading books. "Literature, I soon learned, was about transformation and transcendence—a cheap and relatively risk-free exit strategy to an otherwise tedious life." Her childhood summers led to a passion for northern Michigan and its stories. As she told Oakland Tribune writer Diane Weddington, "I was the youngest and… often felt invisible.…I came to understand what it means not to be noticed, and it helped me to understand those who are never noticed." It was these feelings that helped her create the disenfranchised heroine Rachel Winnapee in her first novel, The Water Dancers. Gamble added on her home page, "I have always written. Encouraged early on by magnificent grade school teachers and, later, by equally magnificent high school teachers and college professors, I have found the greatest joy in the process of discovery through writing. As Anne Morrow Lindbergh wrote, 'Writing is thinking. It is more than living, for it is being conscious of living.'"

The Water Dancers is a saga that covers the lives of two families from 1945 to the 1970s. Rachel, an orphaned Native American of the Odawa tribe, is taken in as a "charity case" by the wealthy March family just as World War II is ending. The Marches have suffered the loss of one of their sons in the war, and when their other son, Woody, returns home after losing a leg, Rachel is given the task of being his nurse. The unintended outcome, however, is that Rachel and Woody fall in love, and Rachel becomes pregnant. Woody's mother, Lydia, desperate to preserve the family's reputation and have her son marry the high society Elizabeth, spirits Rachel away before Woody knows she is pregnant. Rachel raises her son, Ben, alone, and Woody is led to believe that Rachel abandoned him. He marries Elizabeth and has another son. Rachel encounters Woody again in 1956, and he learns of his son Ben and the truth of Rachel's departure. The novel then skips ahead to 1970, when Ben returns home from the Vietnam War. He encounters his half-brother and the truth of his heritage in a dramatic conclusion.

Depending on the critic, The Water Dancers received differing reactions. A Publishers Weekly reviewer, for instance, found the plot too "melodramatic," and a Washington Post Book World writer said that although the story is sometimes "fresh," it also becomes "contrived at times." On the other hand, New York Times Book Review contributor Betsy Groban called "Gamble's voice … fresh and assured." Cincinnati Enquirer reviewer Jim Knippenburg remarked that Gamble "draws all her characters so skillfully and with such depth that no matter how much you'd like to take sides, it's impossible," while Library Journal writer Debbie Bogenschutz praised the author's "well-drawn characters and engaging prose." Booklist reviewer Joanne Wilkinson appreciated Gamble's portrayal of prejudice and elitism in her story, noting that The Water Dancers launches "a searing indictment of prejudice, all the while demonstrating a restrained, understated lyricism."



Booklist, May 1, 2003, Joanne Wilkinson, review of The Water Dancers, p. 1577.

Cincinnati Enquirer, July 22, 2003, Jim Knippenburg, "Water Dancers Avoid Cliche."

Kirkus Reviews, May 1, 2003, review of The Water Dancers, p. 627.

Library Journal, May 1, 2003, Debbie Bogenschutz, review of The Water Dancers, p. 155.

New York Times Book Review, June 22, 2003, Betsy Groban, "Books in Brief: Fiction," p. 24.

Oakland Tribune (Oakland, CA), June 12, 2003, Diane Weddington, "Gamble's Water Dancers Bridges Class Gap in Resort Town," p. 1.

Publishers Weekly, April 14, 2003, review of The Water Dancers, p. 46.

San Francisco Chronicle, May 25, 2003, Heidi Benson, "Gamble Took a Chance," p. M2.

Washington Post Book World, June 29, 2003, "Novels and Stories That Tour Exotic Worlds, from the South Seas to St. Louis and Queens," p. T7.


Terry Gamble Home Page, (October 11, 2004).