A review of

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

by Laura van den Berg

Central question: What do we look for when we’re lost?
Partial list of main characters: I, a Bigfoot impersonator; I, an orphaned bookstore worker and older sister; Denver, an orphaned younger brother; Joyce, a young divorcée working at the Mask Market; Darnel, owner of the Mask Market and Bali frequenter; I, a botanist stationed in Scotland; I, etymologist adulterer; the Loch Ness monster; Partial list of settings: Northern California, Boston, Inverness, the Congo, Chicago, Paris, Madagascar; Representative sentence: “I couldn’t imagine ever making my way through the lanes of a swimming pool again; I had grown used to the expanse of the ocean, that sensation that I could, at any moment, vanish within it.”

1. Mythical/Elusive/Almost-Extinct Creatures

Throughout the pages of this story collection, strange beasts lurk in jungles and lakes and minds: shadowy, sought-after, difficult to catch. On the actual-to-mythical spectrum, these creatures fall between real (lemurs in Madagascar, the mapinguary in the Amazon) and believed to be real (the Loch Ness monster, the Congo’s river-stopping sasquatch known as the mokele-mbembe, a giant Lake Michigan water snake called mishegenabeg). A woman channels Bigfoot, “lumbering through the forest, more alone than any human could grasp,” because when she’s in bestial character, “everything real about my life blacks out.” She’s not the only one who craves escape: characters pursue legends and rare specimens in attempts to flee their own tangled realities. This cast of creatures helps the stories explore what we believe, what we fear, and how we try to “bridge the unbridgeable.”

We hope you enjoy this excerpt.

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—Nina MacLaughlin

Nina MacLaughlin lives in Somerville, Massachusetts, and works as an apprentice to a carpenter.

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