By Cole Miller
We Live In Water, written by Jess Walter, is a collection of short stories that was published on February 12, 2013 by the publishing company Harper Perennial. Walter, who is a former National Book Award finalist and winner of the Allan Poe Award, is also the author of six novels and a nonfiction book. Titles of his other works include, Beautiful Ruins, The Financial Lives of the Poets, The Zero, Citizen Vince, Land of the Blind, Over Tumbled Graves, and Every Knee Shall Bow. Walter Lives with his wife and children in Spokane, Washington.
We Live in Water is made up of a dozen different stories that vary in length. Some last only a couple pages while others last up to twenty pages or more. Walter uses these varying lengths of stories and themes like alcoholism, drug addiction, obsession, greed, dishonestly, homelessness, familial issues, abandonment, and poverty to capture the core of human emotion and suggest to the reader that people should not be judged based on their situations. Instead, there should be a level of empathy when considering the events that lead them to where they are now.
I really enjoyed reading this collection of short stories. Walter’s humor, which has been described by Meghan Farnsworth as “dark, witty, and hewn with quiet vulgarity,” is implemented in the stories and made it an interesting read. This stood out to me in his story “Don’t Eat Cat” which he sets in a futuristic post-apocalyptic world with zombified people. While using his sense of humor to drives his writing this story tells us about human nature and American culture. He writes, “Sure, the world seems crazy now, but wouldn't it seem just as crazy if you were alive when they sacrificed peasants, when people were born into slavery… when entire races tried to wipe the other races off the plant?” He combines his message that human beings have been destructive for centuries with a comedic narrative.
This book is for anyone who wants to read about issues relating to poverty, family, and the inner struggles of individuals while enjoying a dark comedic relief. This would be good for students and teachers to read because it gives Walter’s spin on the old saying, don’t judge a book by its cover. Instead he writes, “Whole worlds exist beneath the surface of the water. And maybe you can’t see down there… but there’s a part of you that knows.”