We Live in Water: Stories
From the New York Times bestselling 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 reader favorite—now available as a special Harper Perennial Olive Edition.
These twelve stories—originally published 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).
Harper Perennial Olive Editions are exclusive small-format editions of some of our bestselling and celebrated titles, featuring beautiful and unique hand-drawn cover illustrations. All Olive Editions are available for a limited time only.
Praise for We Live in Water: Stories
“Walter’s got a great ear and a genius for sympathy with America’s new dispossessed.” — Alan Cheuse, NPR's All Things Considered
“Walter is a bighearted man who excels at writing about other bighearted, if broken, men. That generosity of spirit coupled with Walter’s seeming inability to look away from the messy bits, elevates these stories from dirges to symphonies.” — New York Times Book Review
“Walter (Beautiful Ruins) writes-beautifully. . . . Darkly funny, sneakily sad, these stories are very, very good. The algorithm for this debut collection is straightforward: if you like to read, you’ll like this book.” — Publishers Weekly, starred review
“Jess Walter, who is revered for his novels, shows a gritty side in these clear-cut stories... Each word is perfectly placed...[Walter] brings his first story collection to a smashing end.” — Daily Beast
“Mr. Walter brings (his) outlook to short-story writing easily, and with a vengeance… His most bleakly funny, hard-edge book in years.” — Janet Maslin, New York Times
“This badass collection aligns itself... with Walter’s gritty, bighearted novels.” — Esquire
“[Walter] can mine the least scintilla of humor and wit from his characters’ broken lives--people whose dreams will surely not come true but who somehow keep trying.” — Shelf Awareness
“Brims with humanity. A-” — Entertainment Weekly
“Wildly entertaining and thought-provoking fiction from a prodigiously talented writer.” — Booklist
“This debut story collection from Walter proves he’s as skilled at satire and class commentary in the short form as in his novels…A witty and sobering snapshot of recession-era America.” — Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Deliver[s] unexpected laughs while playing with what it is we think we know…As a reader, I delight in Walter’s work. As a writer (humor me here), I curse. He’s so freakishly, fiendishly good, it isn’t fair.” — Seattle Times
“With a cineaste’s eye, [Walter] mov[es] the action at a terrific pace, such velocity and narrative swing…What he makes us understand is bracing, clear. Fiction or no, it is here we see Walter as trusted interlocutor, saying, let me show you, this is where we are now.” — The Oregonian (Portland)
“It is perhaps a grim and fatalistic vision that Jess Walter presents in We Live in Water, yet one that in today’s America seems all-too-recognizable; no, we may not all live in water, but at one time or another, we have all lived in Spokane.” — San Francisco Chronicle
“For over a year, I’ve been waiting for a story collection to floor me the way Alan Heathcock did with Volt. The 13 stories of Jess Walter’s We Live in Water come close.” — Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Black humor is what we expect from Jess Walter. What is different is that the stories give us a sense of the writer’s heart we haven’t gotten from the parade of bright novels.” — Newsday
“There’s a certain magic that comes with reading a good story. Even one that’s not about a magical time…[Walter’s] collection is full of tragic characters — the homeless, the drug-addicted and those who have lost everything to gambling debts. But it is not without humor.” — Across the Board
“Displays... fearless, unflinching prose in these short stories.” — Bookreporter.com
“…gritty, pitch-perfect collection…Walter wrings enlightenment from dark realities.” — People
“Incrementally, profoundly, brutally, [Walter] pulls back the curtain… We Live in Water is a great collection, in fact, and an important contribution to the literature of our region.” — Portland Herald
“Vintage Walter…quirky. And fun.” — USA Today