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Summary

One of President Barack Obama's Favorite Books of 2019

From the New York Times best-selling author of Beautiful Ruins, the first collection of short fiction from Jess Walter - a suite of diverse and searching stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all of them marked by the wry wit, keen eye, and generosity of spirit that has made him a bookseller and favorite

These 12 stories - published over the last five years in Harper's, The Best American Short Stories, McSweeney's, Playboy, and other publications - veer from comic tales of love to social satire to suspenseful crime fiction, from hip Portland to once-hip Seattle to never-hip Spokane, from a condemned casino in Las Vegas to a bottomless lake in the dark woods of Idaho. This is a world of lost fathers and redemptive conmen, of meth tweakers on desperate odysseys and men committing suicide by fishing.

We Live in Water is a darkly comic, heartfelt collection of stories from a "ridiculously talented writer" (New York Times), "one of the freshest voices in American literature" (Dallas Morning News).

©2013 Jess Walter (P)2013 HarperCollins Publishers

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Profile Image for Suzn F
  • Suzn F
  • 18-02-13

Interesting Collection of Short Stories

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.

8 people found this helpful

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  • Bonny
  • 08-04-13

We Live in Gritty Realism...

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.

4 people found this helpful

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  • Richard Delman
  • 25-02-13

Outrageously funny and inventive.

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.

17 people found this helpful

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  • Manifesta
  • 19-09-15

Devastating and graceful stories

This is Jess Walter's first story collection, and whether you're a fan of his novels, or coming to his work for the first time, this is a must read. The stories are generally sad, but leavened with humor, empathy-inducing characters, and universal truths. The first two stories, especially, broke my heart wide-open. Edoardo Ballerini's beautifully moderated narration adds immensely to the beauty of these stories. The final one, and autobiographical listing read by Walter himself, is the perfect finishing touch. An excellent collection that I know I will revisit.

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  • W Perry Hall
  • 23-06-15

Plunk yourself in the Fringes

I got a kick out of Jess Walter's set of intriguing stories. His writing seems to take you into the mind of the homeless, poor, alcoholics, addicts and non-violent convicts better than any writer I've read.

For the reader who likes momentary diversions in the fringes of society, plunk yourself in these.

2 people found this helpful

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  • Cora Judd
  • 05-04-15

Too short.

A collection of smart, funny stories. I was completely carried away by them and surprised when it ended. I felt like a kid being called in from playing; aw...so soon?

2 people found this helpful

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  • One Wendy
  • 26-06-21

I really enjoyed this book!

These stories portray unexpected protagonists and is very witty and clever. There where many unexpected twists which kept me engaged. I stumbled into the this book but it makes me want to read more from Jess Walter

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  • Kevin Crumpton
  • 16-04-21

Very dark stories

I love Jess Walter but found most of these stories very dark and depressing. The last story about Spokane read by Jess pretty much explains where his thoughts are these days.

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  • Shannaz
  • 03-02-21

Sad, funny, painfully reality

Beautiful narration, humorous, but such wrenching reality about the poor, disenfranchised, hopelessly lost segment of society that everyone above that level try to forget.

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  • bkotso
  • 13-06-20

not so much

I didn finish. I started it twice now I am trying to remember to not go there again