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We Live in Water


The first collection of short fiction by New York Times bestselling author, Jess Walter. Stories in We Live in Water range from comic tales of love to social satire and suspenseful crime fiction. It's a suite of diverse and searching stories about personal struggle and diminished dreams, all marked by the author's wry wit, keen eye, and generosity of spirit.  

Included in the collection: "Don't Eat Cat" and "Statistical Abstract of My Hometown, Spokane, Washington," both of which achieved cult status after their first publication online.



  • Pacific Northwest Booksellers Award
  • Long List Story Prize
  • Frank O'Connor International Short Story Prize.



"Darkly funny, sneakily sad, these stories are very, very good. You know the way Web sites recommend books by saying if you liked this, you'll like that? The algorithm for this debut collection is straightforward: if you like to read, you'll like this book." -- Publishers Weekly (starred review)


"With a signature blend of wicked humor and heartbreaking tenderness, Walter's intense stories speak directly to the contemporary American experience... Wildly entertaining and thought-provoking fiction from a prodigiously talented writer." -- Booklist (starred review)


"Straightforward and funny ... A witty and sobering snapshot of recession-era America." -- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)


"Mr. Walter brings (his) outlook to short-story writing easily, and with a vengeance ... his most bleakly funny, hard-edge book in years."

-- New York Times, Janet Maslin


"Each word is perfectly placed ... Walter's semiserious ode, "Statistical Abstract for my Hometown of Spokane, Washington" ... brings his first story collection to a smashing end." -- Daily Beast, Jane Ciabattari


"Walter's got a great ear and a genius for sympathy with America's new dispossessed." -- NPR, Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered


"Terrifically crafted, sometimes funny, and often heartrendingly grim ..." -- Boston Globe, Ethan Gilsdorf


"Captivating ... devastating ... funny because it's true, and horrible because it's true, and funny because it's horrible, and so on, forever. Fortunately, 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, Allison Glock

"Stories that twist and plumb, delivering unexpected laughs while playing with what it is we think we know ... Walter has emerged as one of the country’s most dazzling novelists ... so freakishly, fiendishly good, it isn’t fair." -- Seattle Times, Ken Armstrong

"A slender, clean, and beautiful collection ... Walter allows his characters, particularly in the way they speak (and the street dialect they employ), to show us, rather than tell us, about them." -- Bookslut, Noah Charney

"A bad-ass collection ... gritty, big-hearted." Esquire, Ben Percy

"Jess Walter is as talented a natural storyteller as is working in American fiction these days ... the admirably intentioned to the downright brilliant ... these stories have both zip and heart, muscle and soul." -- Washington Post, Michael Lindgren

"The economy of dialogue, the snap, the reserves the characters summon in hopes of making a go of it yet, bespeak a serious generosity on the part of the author. Walter loves these guys, and it shows ... The standout story is the title piece, whose sadness and brutality and slow march toward quiet disaster had me in physical terror." -- The Oregonian, Nancy Rommelman

"Walter is a kind of William Kennedy of the Northwest, training his eye on the forlorn locales and hard-luck losers rolled over by the American economy on its way down ... 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, Marion Winik

"Brims with humanity. A-" -- Entertainment Weekly


"Gritty, pitch perfect ... wrings enlightenment from dark realities." -- People

"Funny, insightful and thought-provoking." -- The Spokesman-Review, Carolyn Lamberson

"A great collection, in fact, and an important contribution to the literature of our region." -- Portland Mercury, Alison Hallett

"Walter nails the characters, nails the individual downward spirals and nails these uncertain and often unkind post-modern times ... trenchant and true observations of a society that is not taking care of its own." -- Bellingham Herald, Barbara Lloyd McMichaels

"Vintage Walter ... Quirky. And Fun. Buy." -- USA Today

"Though he offers flashes of humor, he seems most at ease and in command when he's working in a naturalistic, contemporary setting, one that he can describe with effectively spare prose, and in an empathetic yet unsparing voice." -- San Francisco Chronicle, Adam Langer

"Dark, comedic ... The stories in We Live In Water aren’t cautionary tales so much as satire on the pure, sorry foolishness of humankind — how clueless yet hopeful we can be, even when we’re at fault." -- Miami Herald, Connie Ogle

"Along with Richard Ford, he has perhaps the sharpest eye in American fiction for the messiness, and craziness, of contemporary life ... These stories, crafted, as always, in his swift, elegant, urgent prose, make Walter worthy to stand with the best around." -- Winnipeg Free Press, Rory Runnells