Audie Award Finalist, Short Stories/Collections, 2014
We Live in Water, the first collection of short fiction from New York Times best-selling author Jess Walter, is a suite of diverse, often comic stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit and generosity of spirit that has made him one of our most talked-about writers.
In "Thief", a blue-collar worker turns unlikely detective to find out which of his kids is stealing from the family vacation fund. In "We Live in Water", a lawyer returns to a corrupt North Idaho town to find the father who disappeared 30 years earlier. In "Anything Helps", a homeless man has to "go to cardboard" to raise enough money to buy his son the new Harry Potter book. In "Virgo", a local newspaper editor tries to get back at his superstitious ex-girlfriend by screwing with her horoscope. And the collection's final story transforms slyly from a portrait of Walter's hometown into a moving contemplation of our times.
©2013 Jess Walter (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers
These are short stories by the author (and the narrator) of Beautiful Ruins. That was a great book and performance, and so is this, although the format is completeIy different. I once thought that T.C. Boyle was the master of the American short story: he still rules his roost, but Mr. Walter covers another territory, indeed. Most of these stories are about people who are what is often called "down and outers" in the Northeast of the U.S. Seattle, Spokane and Portland are the locales. The stories vary wildly from just a few pages to one which has three chapters. I found myself laughing so hard at many times that I had to take breaks from the book, to give my laugh muscles a rest, and to make the pleasure last longer.
There is no more doubt in my mind that Edoardo Ballerini is the finest narrator we have today. His range is so remarkable, his tone and his ability to shift among characters so seamless, his facility with serious fiction, funny stuff, and everything in between: I truly hope you enjoy him as much as I do. I hope he continues narrating for many many years.
It is really not possible to summarize these stories other than what I have just said. The stories are not unified, other than being generally sited where they are. Some are tiny, and some are so large that they encompass a new, futuristic world in which dinner at a good restaurant costs $5000. The big banks are now called Starbucks Financial Services and KFC-B of A. Society has been over-run by people called Zombies, who have become addicted to a drug which turns them into frightening monsters who eat cats, and yet are being trained to work at Starbucks (where a latte costs $60).
Before I read Beautiful Ruins I had never heard of Mr. Walter. Now I will look closely for anything he writes, whether Mr. Ballerini narrates it or not. Of course, my preference for the narrator is obvious. I can't compare him to any other narrator, and so I won't. I understand that Mr. Walter has become something of a cult figure in the world of people familiar with his work. I understand this immediately. The breadth and depth of his inventiveness and creativity are breathtaking. Just the ability to make the reader LOL repeatedly: this is something that very, very few writers can do. Mr. Walters makes it seem easy, and each moment of humor is delivered so perfectly by Mr. Ballerini that I just don't want to hear anyone else trying it. If you enjoy creativity, inventiveness and humor, you will love this audiobook. I guarantee it.
I believe a reviewer should finish a book before submitting a review. What do you think?
Walter is an accomplished author and he truly shines in this book. Some of these short stories are engaging and worthwhile. The stories explore parent/child relationships, familial love, romantic love and abandonment. Some of the stories are of broken down people who are trying...trying so much that one character says "Who isn't crazy sometimes?"
In "Don't Eat the Cat", the characters in the future must interact with others who have willingly become "Zombies", (violent, mindless, sexually depraved people) from using a very destructive club drug. A man goes into "Zombie Town" to seek out a lost love, leaving the reader anxiously awaiting the outcome.
The stories that stood out to me were thought provoking with a sense of irony that kept me wanting more.
Yet conversely I felt that a few of the stories were there only to complete the collection, pad the book; they let me down feeling quite unsatisfied and confused.
The reader was competent and added to this collection overall making this book worth the download. I'm really glad I listened.
Mother, knitter, reader, lifelong learner, technical writer, former library assistant & hematologist.
With this story collection, it's clear that we're no longer at the Hotel Adequate View with Jess Walter. I loved Beautiful Ruins and think it showed the incredible range of Walter's writing ability, but these stories show mainly gritty realism, those broken and dispossessed, maladjusted and malfunctional. Some of these stories are very short, too short for me to understand the characters in any depth. Some of them also end very abruptly, which left me with the feeling that they were more verbal "descriptions" than stories. With the last story, "Statistical Abstract For My Home Town, Spokane, Washington", Walter does a good job tying the collection together. While We Live in Water is perfectly adequate, it's just not my personal favorite from Jess Walter.
A compilation of stories about a bunch of losers...one worse than the other. Can't be bothered with them.
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