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

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3.97  ·  Rating details ·  1,078 ratings  ·  155 reviews
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 impersonator. A grieving missionary becomes obsessed with a creature rumoured to live in the forests of the Congo. And, in the title story, a young woman travelling with her scientist mother in Madagascar confronts
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Paperback, 194 pages
Published October 1st 2009 by Dzanc Books
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ModCloth
Jan 27, 2010 rated it it was amazing
The day after my 22nd birthday, I had one of those serene, emphatic moments people write about in books. You know when the world around you seems to freeze, and all you’ve ever done in life and all you are going to do, becomes suddenly clear. For me, this moment came while Christmas tree shopping with my parents. In the midst of the New England countryside, all those questions my twenty-something self struggled with so incessantly just didn’t seem to matter anymore. It was a quick, fleeting mome ...more
Mike Ingram
Jul 13, 2012 rated it really liked it
Some of the stories can get a little samey, but that tends to be a risk with story collections, particularly ones like this where the author has made an effort to create thematic links between the stories (explorers, monsters, bodies of water). And to be fair, I read this pretty quickly, whereas with story collections I'll often read one or two at a time.

A lot of really beautiful writing, and stories that manage to be inventive without being gimmicky. That's a tough line to walk, as I've seen so
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Ryan Werner
These stories have within them what I love--A struggling actress as a Bigfoot impersonator! A guy who quits his life to look for the Loch Ness Monster!--but I was left a bit unmoved at the end of them most of the time. I would have loved to cut ten-to-fifteen pages from each of these, trimming down the constant descriptive language and reforming it into fewer lines that are more concise and clever, making the revelations less soft, having the characters make harder left turns every once in awhil ...more
Christine
Apr 03, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought a copy of this book after reading and loving the story "Where we must be". I read it online and then heard her read it. The other stories in the collection did not disappoint. Van den Berg's voice is fresh and unique. I love her characters: unsure, vulnerable, exploring who they are. There's often a parallel story that threads, twists through the narrative, enriching and enhancing the main story. I've ordered her other books - she has just become 'one to watch' - for me.
An Tran
Jun 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
If I was going to define who I want to be as a writer, if I had all of the ability of my dreams, if I could convey my stories in precisely the manner that I have always hoped to, I would say to throw Laura van den Berg, Lauren Groff, and Steven Millhauser into a blender. I don't think this actually sounds so odd.

Laura van den Berg's craft is one of poetic elegance. Readers are immediately haunted by her characters, whose loneliness resonates in tune with every human being's deepest and most priv
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Kasey
Dec 25, 2013 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I spent most of the day hate-reading this book. Its repetitive structures (of plot, imagery, relationships) were frustrating and plodding. and yet there were occasional moments of sweetness where something genuine peeked out from behind the undergraduate writing-workshop cleverness. Maybe that's why I kept going. van den Berg's stories are variations on a single theme: educated, lonely white woman encounters primitive-mythological (Balinese death mask, Bigfoot, Loch Ness monster). There's always ...more
Jenny (Reading Envy)
Jun 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I snapped this up after I'd read her first novel. There is a bit of sameness to these stories, but it's almost a challenge of how many of the same elements she can pack in and still make it feel different. Scientist parents, death, and being alone, so alone.

Oh yeah and lake monsters. I will be looking for her other books!

"All bodies of water look the same to me now, places to get lost in."

"I'm only thirty-three and yet I feel like I've been walking the earth for hundreds of years."

If you like br
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Ethel Rohan
May 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing
This is an extraordinary story collection that remains on the ever-growing stack of 'books I love' on my writing desk. Laura van den Berg is a skilled storyteller with a keen and compassionate eye. I read riveted, loving the strange and wonderful places van den Berg's stories took me and the deeply human lives they showed me. I returnto these rich, imaginative stories often, both for the pleasure as a reader and for the instruction and inspiration as a writer.
Tara
Nov 12, 2009 rated it it was amazing
I envy the fact that this author found her voice at such a young age--sophisticated, smart, worldly, but tender, too. I look forward to her next book.
Carla
Dec 27, 2018 rated it really liked it
Outstanding collection of short stories that are often obscure, but truly thought provoking. Unique settings, exquisite writing. The characters in the stories leap out of the page they are so real! Some stories kind of end hanging, with little resolution. Frankly I didn't care as they were quirky and invigorating!
Kate
Jan 09, 2019 added it
This book made me contemplate how perhaps folks should read their potential partner’s short stories before falling in love so that they might save themselves years of disappointment.
Jen
Jan 20, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: short-stories
This is a gorgeous collection of short stories that all take place in and around various bodies of water. Most of the stories explore independence from the people we love, in various ways: people who want to be free but can't leave their loved ones; people who have lost loved ones and aren't sure they like their freedom; people who choose to walk away; people who choose to stay though a part of them wants to walk away. They also explore themes of searching, usually for mythical creatures or thin ...more
Heather Shaw
Nov 18, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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 and Sewanee Writers' Conferences, the 2009 Julia Peterkin Award, and the 2009-2010 Emerging Writer Lectureship at Gettysburg College. The winner of the Dzanc Prize, Laura’s first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, was published by Dzanc Books in October 2009 and selected by Barnes & Noble as a Holiday Discover ...more
Anita
Feb 28, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Beautiful, quiet lonely short stories, often with understated endings. All vaguely astonishing and well written. I read these because I loved The Isle of Youth. The last story in particular caught my attention - I hadn't read any writers other than me who had any sort of fascination with indri and then to my surprise within the last year I read the last story of this collection and an Anna Kavan novel, both of which featured indri. In this one, the indri were motifs, more for atmosphere than a c ...more
Rachel
Dec 18, 2009 rated it liked it
Shelves: stories, 2009
"Up High in the Air," "Where We Must Be" and "Still Life With Poppies" were all stunning, cinematic, enormous, moving without being maudlin - pitch-perfect portraits of desire and loneliness and absurdity. At times I wanted the absurdity to be amplified; van den Berg's language is very straightforward in most stories, and I found myself remembering images more than paragraphs. This line, however, from the end of "The Rain Season" rang in my head for a week:

"I concentrate on the scent, but it van
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David
Jan 16, 2013 rated it it was amazing
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 an ...more
Bryn ((B2/B.P))   Ryeosomniac~~
This is the first book I have won through Goodreads give away, thanks Goodreads This was a quick and easy read, which I enjoyed a lot.

Iloved it how in such a small amount of time the author could make you really feel for the characters. On the downside since there is only a small amount of time, there are many unanswered questions at the end of each story.

All up this was a really good read, and I am looking forward to seeing what Laura Van den Berg does next.
Natalie
Apr 12, 2018 rated it liked it
The characters have very different lives, yet were very similar emotionally, so the stories felt very connected. Each woman had an unhappiness that she had to sit with, which is very relatable, and I liked that despite their disappointments or pain there comes across a sense of inner fortitude. I enjoyed the interesting turns each story took, and having a female-character-driven story collection. It was a bit melancholic, or contemplative, with the kind of characters that stick in your head.
Emily
Jan 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
So beautiful--Laura van den Berg made me realize I enjoy reading short stories. Some of the emotional space she covers--and the observations she makes about her characters flaws, especially in terms of perception and communication--is absolutely mind blowing in a Virginia Woolf kind of way.
Jacki Donnelly
May 20, 2009 rated it really liked it
What a great first book for Laura! I am so excited for her as a friend and as an author. The stories in her book were unique and adventureous! The characters were complex and developed. She makes you feel for their sorrows and share in their joy. I cannot wait to read her next novel
Christopher Alonso
Apr 05, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
Damn, what a great collection of stories. Two themes I loved in this one -- the presence of water in every story, whether it's a lake, the sea, the rain, and the sense of wanting, whether it's wanting to be someone else or somewhere else. I'm definitely going to read more of her work.
Dzanc
Oct 31, 2009 rated it it was amazing
A BARNES AND NOBLE DISCOVER GREAT NEW WRITERS OFFICIAL 2009 HOLIDAY SELECTION.

"van den Berg taps into her characters’ losses with an impressive clarity."
—Publishers Weekly

"Stunning, desolate, and unforgettable."
—Booklist (starred review)
LaTanya McQueen
I knew of Laura's name before I ever met her, and I've been following her work in journals for quite some time. I'm excited for her collection coming out by Dzanc press and look forward to reading it.

Vivienne Strauss
Feb 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Every story in this book was incredible!
Tammy Parks
Jan 05, 2016 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars. Great short story collection. Sad and a little strange, but not too strange. Lots of heavy imagery, full of people struggling, almost drowning, in loss and sorrow.
Sarah
Dec 28, 2009 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
A superb collection of stories, more like 4.5 stars than 4. What a terrific way to end my reading year!
Jcmagill
Jan 01, 2010 rated it really liked it
Several variation on the theme of pursuit. Each story is an evening read. I am still thinking about what it means.
Thekelburrows
Feb 10, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Pitch-perfect stories that artfully capture the complexity and nuance of everyday life and relationships.
Elaine
Dec 10, 2009 rated it really liked it
My review as appears in The Short Review.

How amazing and ironic that these stories invoking vast bodies of water – the Loch Ness, the Atlantic, the Mozambique Channel, Lake Michigan (at its deepest, it’s a 1000 feet, did you know?) – should contain characters with such deep thirst. In the title story, a mother goes in search of lemurs while a teenage daughter tries to figure out what she wants to do with her life. In Inverness, a scientist tracking down near-extinct twin flowers (the linnaea bor
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Emily
Oct 09, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2018-books
I had crept past this title a few times at my library over the last year, and decided to save it for a time when I needed atmospheric short stories to soothe my mind. My first experience with van den Berg's work was when I read Find Me in early 2016. I really enjoyed the book and wanted to be sure I would read more of her work in the future.

The characters in the collection What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us seem to be deep but are rarely distraught or consumed by rage. Th
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short stories 1 6 Jun 28, 2010 09:32AM  
  • Reasons for and Advantages of Breathing
  • How They Were Found
  • This Is Not Your City
  • May We Shed These Human Bodies
  • In the Devil's Territory
  • Once the Shore
  • Music Through the Floor
  • Tunneling to the Center of the Earth: Stories
  • Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls
  • Tongue Party
  • Safe as Houses
  • Birds of a Lesser Paradise: Stories
  • Flying Leap
  • Death Is Not an Option
  • What He's Poised to Do: Stories
  • More of This World or Maybe Another
  • Famous Fathers and Other Stories
  • AM/PM
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Laura van den Berg was raised in Florida. Her first collection of stories, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, was a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection and a finalist for the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award. Her second collection of stories, The Isle of Youth (FSG Originals, 2013), received the Rosenthal Award for Fiction from the America ...more
“Winds shake the leaves and for a moment I smell smoke. I concentrate on the scent, but it vanishes into the aroma of rain and tree bark, the way one life can collapse into another and different people can stir within the same body, like bats thrashing inside a secret hollow.” 5 likes
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