I often give five-star reviews to books that I thought were great for their genre, even if they would not necessarily make my favorites list.
Jess Walter's collection of short stories, We Live In Water, not only deserves five-stars, but it makes it to my highly selective favorite books list.
Walter's collection is absolutely fantastic and I cannot believe that this is the first time that I have encountered his writing. A big THANK YOU to Amazon for putting, We Live in Water on their Kindle discount list a few months ago. It often pays to take a chance on a new-to-you author.
Walter's prose is often beautiful, but the stories in this collection are the polar opposite. Walter takes us to dark places filled with damaged characters. His stories are gritty, stark and haunting. You will feel uncomfortable reading this collection.
Pretty much none of his characters are like myself or people that I know. However, Walter's talent as a writer shines with his ability to make even the more difficult characters human and relatable. Every story felt like embarking on a different adventure into hell and I wanted a ticket for the ride.
I was most taken by his story Don't Eat Cat about a dystopian society where some of the citizens have decided that their lives would be better if they took a drug that turns them into zombies. This story is different from the rest in the collection. It is the only one that dips into the realm of fantasy. It features zombies, but not in a way that is conventional or like anything else I've seen in pop-culture. The story is overwhelmingly sad and unforgettable. In all of his stories, there a twist and an unexpected angle. I loved this constant element of surprise. Walters is a writer with a unique perspective.
Another stand-out was the very last story in the collection, Statistical Abstract for My Hometown of Spokane, Washington. I finished this story, unsure of whether or not it was fiction. It felt very much like a personal reveal of the author, who is from Spokane, a city that very much influences his writing. Many of the stories are set in or make mention of Spokane. Whether or not it's fiction, this last story is a hard one to read. It has amazing pacing, where it grows in steam and intensity. It's a listing of facts that read like a monologue in a play. It's so powerful.
It's safe to say that I'm now going to read everything that has ever been written by Walters. He completely blew me away.