Book Review – We Live in Water

We Live in WaterWe Live in Water by Jess Walter

My rating:  (4 / 5)

I really like short fiction. Especially weird, creepy, dark short fiction that makes you really uncomfortable yet oddly happy and satisfied at the end. You know, where your skin is crawly but you want to do a happy bounce anyway.

This collection of shorts (and a couple probably qualify as mediums – or novellas – rather than shorts) is set in the Pacific Northwest, with Spokane as the primary center of activity. I have a friend who lives in Spokane. I’ve known her for years. And I’ve learned more about Spokane from reading this book than I ever have from knowing her. Thanks, Alisa (I am just kidding, obviously. Besides, I don’t think she reads my reviews. So Damnit Alisa, you should have taught me more about Spokane. Hrmph.)

I actually learned a lot more than I ever wanted to know about Spokane, but much of it made me laugh.

“On any given day in Spokane, Washington, there are more adult men per capita riding children’s BMX bikes than in any other city in the world.”

This book is home to a host of fascinating characters. There are zombie girlfriends,

“You don’t really want my side of the story. You don’t want to understand me, know me, to crawl inside of my head. You don’t want to feel the things I’ve felt. You just want to know that one thing: why.

Fine. Here’s why: Her. I did it all for her.”

tweaker buddies,

“Another part of Bit’s unifying urban theory is sprinklers, that you can gauge a neighborhood’s wealth by the way people water. If every house has an automatic system, you’re looking at a six-figure mean. If the majority lug hoses around, it’s more lower-middle class. And if they don’t bother with the lawns… well, that’s the sort of shitburg where Bit and Julie always lived.”

corrupt con men,

“Make them want to give you the thing you’re taking.”

creepy stalkers,

“Who isn’t crazy sometimes? Who hasn’t driven around a block hoping a certain person will come out; who hasn’t haunted a certain coffee shop, or stared obsessively at an old picture; who hasn’t toiled over every word in a letter, taken four hours to write a two-sentence email, watched the phone praying it will ring; who doesn’t lay awake at night sick with the image of her sleeping with someone else?”

and all kinds of strange and unusual father figures.

“A hole opened up and he had to know what was inside it. So he picked and picked until the hole was huge, and then everything sort of… fell in, him, his wife, his kid, and this fragile life they’d built at the edge of this hole. And that’s why he was here, because he’d begun wondering if maybe his father hadn’t fallen in the same hole -”

Okay, none as evil as Dexter, but still… some pretty bizarre examples of human psychology.

And that’s essentially what ties this book together. All of us have hidden little dark parts inside of us. Some of them are small. Some of them are big. Some we get comeuppance for, and some we don’t. And that is pretty much how it goes for the characters in these stories, which are primarily driven by their people rather than their plots. Each is a little glimpse into the darkness of the human psyche, and each one is it’s own little rather terrorizing ride.

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