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The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish

4.11  ·  Rating details ·  998 ratings  ·  168 reviews
It’s 16-year-old Edie who finds their mother Marianne dangling in the living room from an old jump rope, puddle of urine on the floor, barely alive. Upstairs, 14-year-old Mae had fallen into one of her trances, often a result of feeling too closely attuned to her mother’s dark moods. After Marianne is unwillingly admitted to a mental hospital, Edie and Mae are forced to mo ...more
Paperback, 353 pages
Published September 18th 2018 by Two Dollar Radio
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Average rating 4.11  · 
Rating details
 ·  998 ratings  ·  168 reviews

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Obsession. Madness. Catharsis by fire. This is one of the darkest, most gorgeous books I’ve read in years - I truly hope it gets the literary attention it deserves. The title initially piqued my interest, then the blurb sold me. I rarely jump at a newly published debut but in this case, I’m glad I followed my instincts.

This book is deep. It is charged. It is uncomfortable and mucky. It is also impressive and addictive and thought provoking. Raised in Louisiana by their mother and sent as teens
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Mar 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read2019
I'm finally back to this book after including it in a book speed dating episode of the podcast last November. It had been long enough that I started over from the beginning.

It is difficult to express how much this book will suck you in, and how good it is, and then to remember it is a debut! I can't wait to see what she does next.

Marianne is the single mother of two girls - Edie (16) and Mae (14.) After the older daughter saves her mother from a suicide attempt, both girls go li
Feb 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A mother’s suicide attempt causes two young teenage daughters to reunite with their estranged father. So much is uncovered during this time where history is reevaluated and each character is affected in their own unique way.

This book is DEEPLY complex. With mental health playing a major factor in the murkiness of the all the relationships. The relationship between Mae and her father in particular is disturbing and unsettling. Nuanced with tender violence, what transpires quickly becomes a sicke
Lark Benobi
Mar 19, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Lark by: Doug
Ruthlessly gothic, but with just a dash of Jodi-Picoult-like familial feeling so that the story became somehow all the more troubling than if it had been purely gothic.

The novel reminded me of last year's magnificently terrifying horror film "Hereditary," which like this novel also features an artist-parent who tortures her children, plus a smidge of self-immolation.

But because this novel comes to me outside of a tidy genre framework, and because it instead just barely nudges into a "maybe thi
Dec 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
My first 5 star review of 2019 - and even though we're barely into February, this may prove to be my favorite book of the year - it will definitely be in my top 5. Astonishingly assured for a debut novel, it falls into none of the traps usually encountered by such. The structure is unique, the characters all unusual and compelling, the plot weaves back and forth in time with over 20 different narrators, yet one never loses track of where one is, or what is happening. Much like my favorite book o ...more
Dennis Jacob Rosenfeld
Dec 16, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: books-i-loved
Stunning. Absolutely stunning. I find it almost unfathomable that this is a debut novel. I can’t wait to see what comes next from Apekina.
Bonnie Brody
Oct 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I'm not sure how this book got onto my radar but I'm so thankful it did. It is a novel of depth and insight, examining the dynamics of a family plagued by loss and mental illness. The characters are fleshed out and the author, Katya Apekina, brings each and every one of them to life.

As the novel begins, Edie, 16 years old, and her sister Mae, 13 years old, are removed from their mother's care in Louisiana and sent to live with their father Dennis in Manhattan. Their mother, Marianne,
Dec 12, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Got to think for a minute....this book, these characters.....a debut novel? What?! The complexity, the depth, the darkness.
Lauren Dostal
Jul 15, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: independants
You are standing in the middle of a room. A girl approaches, presses your hand, and says, “I want to tell you a story.” She does not get very far when another girl enters from another door. She skips up, presses your other hand, and says, “Don’t listen to her. Listen to me.” Soon you are caught up in a tug-of-war, opposing versions of the same cruel story tugging you first right, then left, then right again. Your body is suspended in air, a forgotten token of their battling tales, and all the wh ...more
Carmel Hanes
Mar 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
"Sometimes it feels like you and I grew up in different houses."

"It's hard sometimes to know where you end and where others begin."

These quotes are a lens into this book for me. The format of this novel moves from perspective to perspective, and bounces between the past and the present. This can often result in a disjointed read, but in this case it worked beautifully to paint a portrait of events in a variety of hues. The main perspectives are Mae and Edith, two sisters
Sep 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2018, 2018-favorites
Hannah Gadsby (Nanette), who was raped at seventeen, asks why we aggrandize artists like Picasso— who was in a relationship with a seventeen- year- old— and whose legacy will only further perpetuate the dissemination of patriarchal views and abuse women have been forced to swallow throughout history. She says of art: “High art? I’m going to call it guys: Bullshit. High art, my arse. The history of Western art is just the history of men painting women like their flesh vases for their dick flowers ...more
Feb 28, 2019 rated it really liked it
Some people should never have children.

Imagine a couple, so passionately in love, but so mentally ill that it causes both of them to break with reality. The father a talented author, the mother his muse, two daughters collateral damage.

This is one of the darkest novels I've read in a while and I can't say I enjoyed it BUT it was propulsive. Told in short chapters with rotating multiple points of view (too many IMHO) the writing is undeniably good, the characterizations st
Oct 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
To borrow the famous Leo Tolstoy quote, “All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” And when mental illness is brought into the mix, the family tales become even more differentiated and unique.

The fragmented family in this propulsive debut are parents Marianne—who has barely survived a suicide attempt at the book’s opening—and Dennis, a legendary novelist who is an “emotional vampire”, sucking at the essence of those who love him to fuel his muse. T
switterbug (Betsey)
Oct 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This serious, heart-wrenching novel is a debut by a Russian-born writer, and the deeper you go, the “uglier,” or more disturbing it gets. It revolves around a family in Louisiana—it goes back and forth in time, but at its center are Eden and Mae, two sisters ages 12 and 14, unsettled by divorced parents. They are sent to live with their writer and former activist father, Dennis, in NYC after their poet mother, Marianne, attempts suicide and is sent to a psychiatric hospital.

The story of the fam
Jessica Sullivan
Whoaaaa, boy. This book goes to some dark places. I picked it up after seeing Ottessa Moshfegh recommend it in a recent article. It clearly fell beneath the radar in 2018, which is a shame because it’s quite good.

As far as families go, it’s hard to get more dysfunctional than this one. Teenage sisters Edie and Mae move in with their estranged father following their mother’s suicide attempt. This chain of events leads each girl down a very different path: Edie, loyal to her mother, ca
Lolly K Dandeneau
Jun 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
via my blog:
'Yes, mom dragged me with her to every terrible place.I needed to get as far from her as I could. She was consuming me. That day she tried to hang herself from the rafter in the kitchen, I’d been lying on the bedroom floor. My mind was a radio tuned to her station and her misery paralyzed me.'

In this gorgeous debut, sisters 16-year-old Edie and 14-year-old Mae’s lives are upended when their mother Marianne is admitted to St. Vincent’s (mental hospital) to ‘rest’ after
Oct 19, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Mental illness isn’t contagious. Not technically, anyway. Yet its impact has the potential to be as lethal as a debilitating virus, a plague that spreads and spreads until everyone in its wake is rendered all but decimated.

This is certainly the case with regards to Katya Apekina’s outstanding debut, The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish. It tells the story of two sisters, Mae and Edie, whom are forced to live with a father – Dennis, a prominent literary figure and counterculture activist – t
Mary Lins
Oct 22, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: complete
“The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish”, by Katya Apekina, starts with a BANG of a first chapter pushing the reader forward to learn more about sisters Edith (Edie) and Mae and their unusual childhood. Various first-person narrative voices will “bear witness” to the story of Edie and Mae’s parents, Marianne and Dennis, with Edie’s (Edith) point of view set in 1997 and the others from the future, almost like a deposition. The writing is highly compelling and riveting, and as the foreshadowing ...more
Jan 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019, heavy
This was fucked up in the best ways.
Sarah Etter
Oct 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
So much to admire here - a heartbreaking, gothic story at the core, with effective and brilliantly executed multiple narrators driving the story forward. A masterclass in fragmentation, organization, and pacing. A knockout. Apekina is one of the best writers we have.
Although it is hard to say I "enjoyed" this book (because of its content and subject matter) I will say that family can be glorious and beautiful and it can also be extremely damaging and dangerous. This is an exceptionally deep and poetic story about two young teen sisters, their mentally ill mother and estranged father. Traveling between past and present from multiple points of view, readers journey down memory lane, often addressing issues, feelings and trauma through beautiful narrative. My ...more
Jan 19, 2019 rated it it was ok
Promised myself not to read hype debut fiction because my dislike goes so deep. Told from multiple viewpoints but there’s only one narrative voice and that voice begs like me, like me, look what I can do. Renewing my promise because it’s unfair to me (the reader) to punish myself and unfair to the writer, to be both hyped and trashed. Back to nonfiction while I cool tf down.
Nov 28, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This is such a complex book. I loved it and hated it and couldn't put it down.
Tackles themes like individual memory, family memory, mental health, artistic temperament, and so much more.
Cassie (book__gal)
Oct 11, 2018 rated it it was amazing
An unsettling, slow burn. What an extraordinary debut from Katya Apekina and published by an indie press, Two Dollar Radio.

After 16-year-old Edie rescues her mother, mid-suicide attempt, she and her younger sister Mae are shipped off to New York to live with their father, Dennis, a famous writer who abandoned them many years ago. As the two girls must reckon with their new life, Edie remains suspicious of her father and loyal to her mother, locked up in a psychiatric hospital. Mae, h
Apr 01, 2019 rated it really liked it
A 5 star read for me up until the last few pages; it wasn't a precipitous fall, but just a relatively minor disappointment, your mileage may vary. The structure of the book was pure catnip for me - a large and rotating cast of narrators reflecting on the story from the past, the present (1997), and the future. Some of these narrators are minor characters in the story but pivotal to the plot, some are major, but the way the story unfolds through their collective eyes was the ideal way to tell thi ...more
Sep 18, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, poignant, and rich in both narrative and writing style. Very highly recommended.
Cassie Gutman (happybooklovers)
Sep 02, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: own
A beautifully written indie literary novel told in small vignettes, letters, and memories from all the characters in the story. There were so many layers to this story that it kept surprising and amazing me at the depth of character development.

CW: familial and child sexual abuse, suicide, mental illness (and treatment of it in historical context).
Sep 13, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: recent-reads
I want to explain this book to you so that it makes sense, but I'm not sure I can do it. We have two sisters that go to live with their father after their mother attempts suicide and is in a mental health hospital. The two sisters have never known their father. Mae, the younger of the two, is more open to the idea of staying with their father as their mother recovers. Edie, the older of the two, is certain that the only way for their mother to heal is to take her mom home.

The father is a writer
Casey M.
Feb 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This February, I did not have a book picked out, but I had a giant stack of books that I wanted to read. After I went to the library, I saw my mom reading this book. I was intrigued by the cover and title and asked my mom what it was about. When she told me, I decided to read it because it seemed like a different plot than what I am used to, and I wanted to try it out. She also told me that the way it was written was different than other novels I have read. This was the author’s first novel, and ...more
Elizabeth Arnold
Mar 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
4.5 stars. Dark, raw and haunting, this novel deals with the impact of a mother's suicide and a father's artistic obsession on the lives of their two teen daughters. Told from the POV of the daughters and several peripheral characters, the novel shows how we all can have wildly divergent perceptions of the same people and events in our lives. Edith, the oldest daughter, clings to her mentally disturbed mother, convincing herself that she can heal her, whereas her sister Mae clings even more desp ...more
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Katya Apekina has had stories published in The Iowa Review, Santa Monica Review, West Branch, Joyland, PANK and elsewhere, and has appeared on the Notable List of Best American Nonrequired Reading 2013. She translated poetry and prose for Night Wraps the Sky: Writings by and about Mayakovsky (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008), which was short-listed for the Best Translated Book Award. She co-wrote ...more
“That afternoon was the first time I felt... I don't know how to describe it exactly. My head was in Dad's lap and all the happiness that I'd missed was being compressed into that moment. I looked up at him and I was no longer me. I was Mom, but not as I knew her. This wasn't her forcing her darkness on me, like a bag over my head. No, this was something else. I'd become Mom from many years ago. Dad felt it too, I could tell. Maybe it would have lasted longer if not for Edie, talking and talking, pressing and pressing. She wanted to take me back to the other mother. The one in the mental hospital who needed me brought to her, tied and quartered, like a sacrifice.” 0 likes
“Rose looks at me anxiously, waiting for me to smile back. I do, but I wish she'd stop handing me a knife to cut her with. It's only a matter of time before I'm not able to resist.” 0 likes
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