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

( 8 )

Overview

"What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us is a lovely, remarkable book, full of people who strive mightily to believe in things—Bigfoot, the Lochness and Lake Michigan monsters, a tunnel leading to the other side of the world, husbands, wives, lovers, parents—they shouldn't. But Laura van den Berg lets her characters believe, and believes in them, and makes us believe, and care, too. Calm, wry, and compassionate, somehow all at once, this book is impossible to resist, and I'd bet big money that ...

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Overview

"What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us is a lovely, remarkable book, full of people who strive mightily to believe in things—Bigfoot, the Lochness and Lake Michigan monsters, a tunnel leading to the other side of the world, husbands, wives, lovers, parents—they shouldn't. But Laura van den Berg lets her characters believe, and believes in them, and makes us believe, and care, too. Calm, wry, and compassionate, somehow all at once, this book is impossible to resist, and I'd bet big money that we'll be talking about Laura van den Berg and her fiction for years to come." - Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

"In her first collection Laura van den Berg creates a series of remarkable characters each of whom is striking out for territory unknown, plunging into an uncharted sea. I love the exhilarating sense of adventure in these stories, how they make the world seem larger, and how van den Berg maps our familiar pains in strikingly new ways. What The World Will Look Like When All The Water Leaves Us is a dazzling and original debut." - Margot Livesey, author of The House on Fortune Street and Eva Moves the Furniture

"There is a special kind of magic in the writing of Laura van den Berg, a damp-eyed sorceress who blends the mythological with the everyday, buoyant playfulness with lacerating sadness. Each sentence reads like a beautiful bruise smeared across pages as pale as the bodies that so often strip off their clothes and tangle together in these tender, elegant stories." - Benjamin Percy, author of Refresh, Refresh and The Language of Elk

"Discussions about debuts often allude to promise, as if to imply that better things will come, but in this particular case, there’s no need to wait. Laura van den Berg’s talents are already fully formed, and spectacular. This collection has searing emotions, a technical virtuosity, and a lyrical ferocity that dazzle us with undeniable force. Breathtakingly, we follow her characters as they seek escape in far-flung locales, both real and imagined, searching for that rarest of species—the feeling that they belong." - Don Lee, author of Wrack and Ruin and Yellow

“Laura van den Berg finds the tension between science and magic and walks it like a tightrope. . . . It is a fantastic and fascinating world, full of discoveries and moments of wonder, a book meant for the explorer in all of us.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

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 inpersonator.  A bontanist 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.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers
The mysteries of science and the mysteries of the heart -- perhaps nowhere have they been so provocatively linked as in this debut short-story collection. Filled with explorers, researchers, and dreamers, the eight stories in this volume depict the universal quest for discovery and closure - and the lack of satisfying answers that all too often defines the human condition.

\ \ In the first story, "Where We Must Be," a would-be actress takes a job in a remote theme park, dressing up as Bigfoot. Her interactions with those seeking an encounter with the legendary beast are juxtaposed with her connection to a man who is truly running out of time. "Inverness" follows a botanist who, as she copes with a failed romance, travels to Scotland to discover a rare plant, only to meet a man who has devoted his life to plumbing the watery darkness in search of the Loch Ness monster.

\ \ In the title story, a 17-year-old girl travels with her mother, an expert on primate habitats, to Madagascar. The mother wants to expand her daughter's horizons, but the more time they spend together, the more lost the daughter feels. Van den Berg's protagonists are often young, smart, and damaged by the people they love. And yet their motivation to forge ahead prevails, giving her characters, and her stories, resonance and stature. \ (Holiday 2009 Selection)
Publishers Weekly
In her affecting debut collection, van den Berg taps into her characters’ losses with an impressive clarity. Each of these stories is meticulously crafted, and often the protagonist is recovering emotionally from a staggering life’s blow. In “Goodbye My Loveds,” two siblings are reeling from the death of their parents, scientists fatally snake-bitten in the Amazon; a sister leaves college to take care of her 12-year-old brother and recognizes the need to suppress her own needs in order to help her brother face their new lives. In the beautifully elegiac “Where We Must Be,” a failed actress gives up on L.A. and finds work as Bigfoot in a theme park; her love affair with a young neighbor dying of cancer underscores the preciousness of time’s passing. In the title story, a young woman learns to face her fears while spending time with her scientist mother observing endangered lemurs in Madagascar. These tales are the work of a notable author finding her voice. (Oct.)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780976717775
  • Publisher: Dzanc Books
  • Publication date: 10/1/2009
  • Pages: 194
  • Sales rank: 610,856
  • Product dimensions: 5.46 (w) x 8.60 (h) x 0.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Laura van den Berg was raised in Florida and earned her MFA at Emerson College. She is the recipient of scholarships from the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the winner of the 2007 Dzanc Prize. Her fiction has appeared in The Indiana Review, The Literary Review, American Short Fiction, One Story, StoryQuarterly, and The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2008.

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Table of Contents

Where we must be 9

Goodbye my loveds 33

We are calling to offer you a fabulous life 59

Inverness 79

The rain season 107

Up high in the air 125

Still life with poppies 149

What the world will look like when all the water leaves us 175

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 8 )
Rating Distribution

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(3)

4 Star

(4)

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Sort by: Showing 1 – 7 of 8 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 7, 2013

    These stories have a perfect mix of the strange and the intimate

    These stories have a perfect mix of the strange and the intimate ordinariness of character lives. Some have more bizarreness than others, but always the right amount. The best aspect of these stories, though, is the subtlety of the emotions. The emotion is always there, and you can always feel exactly what the message is through what the character is feeling, but it isn't crassly articulated. Pressed, I'm not sure I could articulate it myself. Instead, I just sat back after reading each story and knew I got it (whether or not what I got was what was intended).

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  • Posted May 4, 2010

    One of my favorite books of 2010

    None of the stories are cheery or uplifting.The characters in each story are just trying to survive. They are not your typical characters and the settings are not either. You find yourself getting lost in the stories and the characters become close friends. You savoir every word and have the foresight to know that soon it will all end. You finish one story and then feel like you couldn't possibly like the next story as much as the last, but you do. You finish the book and you feel like going back to the the beginning and doing it all over again. I have never lost myself so throughly in a story or book and thought I might never went to come back to reality again. I look forward to more stories from her.

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  • Posted February 23, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    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 w

    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 it.

    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.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 21, 2010

    Laura van den Berg's "What the World will Look Like...": Fascinating Stories.

    I started reading Laura van den Berg's "What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves" at Barnes and Noble. As soon as I got home, I read the rest of it. Characters become obsessed with scientific quests; partners are unfaithful. Interesting stories for mature readers.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 14, 2010

    Not your book about global warming! But, about the depths of the human spirit.

    This book is filled with so much symbolism and imagination! All the water leaving us is a horrific idea, yet what would happen if we could let go and just float? A facinating read, funny, touching characters all faced with monumental decisions and no good solutions... water has varying weight, depth and boyancy and the human spirit can rise or fall dpending on a turn of a page, or not.

    Again, I am not fond of the short story, yet the two books I have just finished (Olive Kitteredge being the other) are just that. This one left me stunned at the author's ability to see into the human condition and it made me more hopeful even as I felt the devistation of impossible circumstances. It is just this unique characteristic that causes humans to forge on even in the face of disaster. All of us are faced with difficult choices, with the best of intentions and little more than hope to guide us, we must choose, and then live by that choice. Even in the face of adversity mankind moves forward.

    While this book may seem depressing at times, it soars in the end. Take the time to let it flow over you. Congratulations to Laura van den Berg!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2010

    Definitely worth picking up

    I picked this up on a lark and am so glad I did. The first and last stories were easily the standouts, especially in terms of originality and captivation. The downside is that the stories almost began to feel like a template after a while, with each one being being like the last. In the author's effort to create a theme it was almost a little too much. However, with that said, I still couldn't put it down and defintely would recommend it to others looking for something a little different but something also plaintive and somber.
    A great first effort by this author. I look forward to seeing what she'll do next.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 8, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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