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A Novel by Keith Henderson — World Rights Available except in Italy & Germany

Acqua Sacra

Acqua Sacra Cover


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Acqua Sacra

Everything seems broken in Suzanna Ricci’s life. Only 42, her marriage to Len has disintegrated. Her relationship to their teenage boys, Robin and Logan, is in need of repair. Now her mother, “that martial soul,” wants her to restore the family home in Acqua Sacra, damaged by earthquake. And she doesn’t care how many trips from Montreal to their vivid Italian patria of Abruzzo her daughter has to make.

At least when Len, a dodgy accountant, encourages her to take a job with a Montreal law firm headed by a man named Robert Bliss, Suzanna feels hopeful of being freer of her ex. Until she realizes the crazy cost of disentangling herself, and not just from him or his “associates.”

Old World skepticism kicks at New World concerns in Acqua Sacra, Keith Henderson’s brisk new novel about private deception and public corruption. His cast includes an honest architect, a gutsy office clerk, the modern-day witch of a drained lake, and at least one (reformed) dirt-digging lawyer. But what is Suzanna to do when the mob and their extralegal cross-border political shenanigans invade her life? While Montreal’s underworld seems as full of venomous snakes and mean dogs as the Abruzzo mountains, Roman history, Italian mafiosi, dutiful Canadians, and migrant African workers collide, headlong and bizarrely comedic. At the centre of the crash, stunned and sheep-like, lies Suzanna.

Henderson, the author of The Roof Walkers, again delivers an entertaining and perceptive story in Acqua Sacra about the nature of personal responsibility, this time in an age of multinational delinquency. If Suzanna survives the wreckage, it’ll be by honouring the true meaning of “family” in any global village.

Critical Comment

“Thanks to a bizarre scene in which Suzanna is knocked unconscious by a sheep in Italy, the heroine may strike the reader as a metaphor for a world that’s had the wool pulled over its eyes, but, despite itself, is starting to see. Alluding to Psalm 51:8, she muses that things are undoubtedly broken ‘so that they may rejoice, probably in the mending, that small, humble fixing and repair people everywhere had to care about.’ Ultimately, Suzanna’s struggle and apparent misfortune serve as catalysts for new levels of awareness and growth, suggesting that things sometimes need to fall apart before they can be built back up, stronger than before.”

– Kimberley Bourgeois, The Montreal Review of Books, Fall, 2016

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“Keith Henderson illustrates an unknown Italy. The narrative moves smoothly between Suzanna Ricci’s urban Montreal and her ancestral town in Italy. Acqua Sacra is an exciting read.”
– Licia Canton, author of the short story collection Almond Wine and Fertility (published in Italy as Vino alla Mandorle e Fertilità) and founding Editor-in-Chief of Accenti Magazine.

Acqua Sacra is a compelling book, dealing with both personal and family issues, and more broadly political and commercial issues. Keith Henderson has created a pacey narrative written in the style of a good thriller, which takes in the harrowing effects of divorce, the feelings of failure and their effects on the family, along with Mafia involvement in the Canadian construction industry and all levels of Italian politics and commerce. It deals with corruption at every level and the difficulties of being an honest, caring individual in a world seemingly rotten to the core. An interesting, though sometimes worrying book for anyone who cares about our planet. I thoroughly enjoyed Acqua Sacra and do not hesitate to recommend it.”   

— Charles Remington, Readers' Favorite (5 Star Review), March, 2017

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“With Canada celebrating its 150th anniversary, many Canadians are thinking about what it means to be Canadian. Keith Henderson, MA (Eng.) 86, is certainly no exception. From 1993 to 2003 he led the now-defunct Equality Party, a Quebec provincial political party that represented anglophones. His career as a writer has likewise given him opportunity to reflect on Canadian national identity. Identity inevitably comes up in his latest novel, Acqua Sacra (DC Books, $21.95), a story of a woman who is torn between her floundering life in Montreal and her mother's demand to rehabilitate the family home in Italy. An earlier novel, newly relevant in light of Canada's sesquicentennial, explores the Fenian raids in the lead up to Confederation. The Roof Walkers (DC Books, $21.95) takes the form of official reports from a young Irish-Canadian spy operating in the 1860s. Henderson lives in Montreal, where he taught English for many years.”

Concordia University Magazine, Fall, 2017

Author Keith Henderson

Keith Henderson

Author Biography

Keith Henderson has published five other novels, (The Restoration, DC Books, 1994, The Beekeeper, DC Books, 1990, The Roof Walkers, DC Books 2013), Sasquatch and the Green Sash (2018), Mont Babel (2020). a collection of political essays from when he was Quebec columnist for the Financial Post (Staying Canadian, DC Books, 1997), and a prize-winning book of short stories (The Pagan Nuptials of Julia, DC Books, 2006). He led a small provincial political party in Quebec during the separatist referendum of 1995 and championed English language rights and the “poison pill” strategy of partitioning Quebec if ever Quebec partitioned Canada, positions covered in full length articles in the Los Angeles and New York Times as well as on CBS 60 Minutes.

49th Shelf

Acqua Sacra, Keith Henderson, 236 pp., 5.5 x 8.5, Novel, November 2016.

ISBN: 978-1-927599-37-2 (paper) . . . $21.95

ISBN: 978-1-927599-38-9 Bound*). . . $36.95

* This book is “perfect bound” with an add-on hand bound cover, no dust jacket.

Acqua Sacra Kindle Edition

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Reading | Performance | Acqua Sacra at the Blue Met

blue met 2017

Aq ital

Italian Translation

The Italian edition of Acqua Sacra translated by Fiorella Paris is available from Edizioni Kirke (Avezzano) at:

Acqua Sacra presentation in Rieti, Italy with Gianfranco Formichetti:

LIBRO ACQUA SACRA from Keith Henderson on Vimeo.

“In Acqua Sacra, we find ourselves in a somewhat uncomfortable position, work suspended in the house, a confrontation with the mother of the workers supposed to finish the job. But in exchange for prosecutorial immunity, Susanna becomes involved in a Canadian operation far beyond the scope of normalcy. Her unease about her situation is made clear in a precise psychological portrait Keith Henderson renders perfectly in a series of metaphors that act as a summary of Susanna Ricci’s self-assessment: her distaste for roller coasters, her vertigo at heights, her love of quiet, unhurried driving, her refusal to learn to ski. The final portions of the book intensify the shift toward crime novel. And here both the fantasy and reality of our times combine in situations that lend an entirely different and enriching flavour to so lively a book…. Truly a fine novel.”

— GIANFRANCO FORMICHETTI, City Councillor responsible for Cultural Matters, City of Rieti, Author of Vita di Antonio Vivaldi, Giunti Editore

See full review (in Italian) on the DC Books Blog.


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