Review: What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us
By Laura van den Berg
Dzanc Books
October 2009
194pp

Here’s the blurb from the publisher:

Containing work reprinted in Best Non-Required Reading 2008, Best New American Voices 2010, and The Pushcart Prizes 2010, the stories in Laura van den Berg’s rich and inventive debut illuminate the intersection of the mythic and the mundane.

A failed actress takes a job as a Bigfoot impersonator.  A botanist seeking a rare flower crosses path with a group of men hunting the Loch Ness Monster.  A disillusioned missionary in Africa grapples with grief and a growing obsession with a creature rumored to live in the forest of the Congo.  And in the title story, a young woman traveling with her scientist mother in Madagascar confronts her burgeoning sexuality and her dream of becoming a long-distance swimmer.

Rendered with precision and longing, the women who narrate these starkly beautiful stories are consumed with searching — for absolution, for solace, for the flash of extraordinary in the ordinary that will forever alter their lives.

The Short of It:

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us is a gem of a little book. Filled with stories about women who don’t settle, yet struggle to find their place in society. Honest and thoughtful in her delivery, van den Berg creates a world where beauty exists in everyday things.

The Rest of It:

How do I share the feeling that I am feeling right at this moment? Well, let’s give it a shot.

There are many wonderful stories in this collection and although each story contains its own set of memorable characters, they are all tied together by a common thread, people who are searching for that special “something” that sets them apart from the rest. The world is filled with people yet if you take a moment to really reflect on people in general, you’ll see how different and unique each person can be. This is what I noticed with this collection.

The author takes normal people, puts them in unusual situations or locales and then we see what they do with the cards that are dealt them. To me, this is an incredibly personal journey. A journey of discovery, yes, but it almost felt as I was lurking in a corner somewhere within these people’s lives. Listening to their conversations, anticipating their next move, etc. It’s a wonderful feeling to escape life for a minute and to just observe someone else.

My intent was to finish this book in one day. You can surely do that as it’s very short, but why would you? After reading the first story, you’ll figure out ways to make it last, as you won’t want it to end. I’ve been reading it for several weeks now and although I’ve finished it, I still find myself flipping through its pages.

What I especially appreciate, is that these stories are so different from what I’ve read before. Many of the stories center around monsters. Yes, Bigfoot and Loch Ness to name a few. Imaginary beings and things such as a tunnel  leading to the other side of the world. Reading this book is almost like being a kid again. For a brief while, you can immerse yourself in the story and not think about what is real and what isn’t.

I can’t pick a favorite story as they were all wonderful in different ways. There’s science and art and the beauty of language and foreign places. Oh, and the writing is wonderful too. I caught myself re-reading sections just because they were so well-written. You’ll just have to take my word for it. The book is great and it deserves a spot on your shelf.

This book was a Barnes and Noble Discover pick and I have to say that I’ve never been disappointed with one of their picks and this is her first book!

If you’d like to read more about Laura van den Berg, click here to visit her website.

Source: This copy was sent to me by the author, Laura van den Berg.

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21 thoughts on “Review: What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us”

  1. Great review Ti. You have me wanting to read this one as well. Those short books can fool you! I have come across severa books that have wanted to read slowly though I initially though that they looked short enough that I wold be through them in no time.

  2. After Rebecca’s glowing review, I ran out and bought this one. Of course, there it still sits on my shelf, but at least is one step closer to being read. This review has moved the book higher up the ladder.

  3. Well–I must say your review has piqued my interest on a book that I probably would not have picked up otherwise. Someday I hope I begin to really enjoy short stories.
    *smiles*

  4. Having just “discovered” the wonder of short stories via Jhumpa Lahiri, I’ve been on the lookout for other short stories that stand out. This sounds like it fits the bill.

  5. I’ve been seeing this book around and I have a new found love of the short story after reading Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout and Too Much Happiness by Alice Munro. This might just have to be my next short story collection. And monsters…wow! Thanks for the review!

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