Wow, is Nathan Harris's debut novel, The Sweetness of Water, ever impressive! You can read an excerpt (with a delightful map as decoration) here and find many reviews on line. What I want to focus on is three main points which Harris makes in an interview at Literary Ashland.
First, his plot evolved organically. He discovered the story as he told it. Harris recognizes that a writer owes it to the reader to make picking up the book worthwhile, but that doesn't mean orchestrating "some huge plot twist." I guarantee that his surprises are real and they keep coming; but they are always in scale and believable. They feel natural, not contrived. That gives the novel a wholeness and internal integrity.
Second, the characters also developed organically. Harris got to know them better as the story unfolded. To quote him: "It's almost magical to find out where the story will go, following its twists and turns naturally, and finding the proper tools to burrow into the respective characters' mind that I must in order to progress things."
Third, the prose was always important to him—and to me as a reader. When meaning emerges from between the lines because of their music, that's writing that matters.
The Sweetness of Water is not exactly historical fiction, nor realism. It is mythic in some ways, but that's because it feels larger than life. One main character, George Walker, is an indelibly individual person, and two others, the brothers Prentiss and Landry, might as well be a constellation in the night sky.