On the novel Things We Found When the Water Went Down

From Poets & Writers

“Tegan’s novel is organized as a series of artifacts,” says Black Balloon associate editor Julie Buntin. “Reading Things We Found When the Water Went Down is a process of discovery, of excavation, and it’s precisely this narrative ambition that makes the book such a perfect fit [for the Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize]. I had the sense while turning the pages that I was in the presence of something new.”


Praise for the short story “Things We Found When the Water Went Down”

2013 Tobias Wolff Award judge Marjorie Sandor says:

“This story took me completely by surprise. I waded into its waters gingerly at first, paying attention to the detritus bobbing against the narrative: newspaper clippings, maps, tiny notes and a lost mother’s self-portraits from a mental institution. At some point, I found I couldn’t look up from its pages, couldn’t turn away from the journey of a young woman coming to terms with her mother’s mysterious rhythms: the vanishing, the coming back, only to vanish again. And something else: just beneath the story’s finely rendered realism and its net of strange documents, there lay a deeper undercurrent, a mythic feel. Is this a contemporary version of the old tale of the selkie, the seal-woman pulled up one day into a fisherman’s net, who lives on land with him, even bears his children, but finally, must return to the sea? Translucent prose, a masterful structure. So masterful that I forgot all about it. It became an element to live in—like water, or light—along with the narrator, as she plotted her coordinates, then ripped up her map and kept on searching.”


And Sam Slaughter of The Review Review has a few kinds words:

“Embedded in a story about a daughter’s strained and confusing relationship with her mother are documents—maps, letters, pictures—that all add to the story. What struck me at first glance as annoying won me over quicker than I would have thought. Swanson’s prose, as contest judge Marjorie Sandor says, takes on a “mythic feel.” Readers are pulled into the floodwaters of this story early on and are not released until the very end, when all you are left with is the feeling that something very interesting just happened and it is going to take some time to figure out what exactly that was.”






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