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Dzanc Books is nonprofit press specializing in literary fiction and nonfiction. In addition to publishing activities, Dzanc Books also supports the Disquiet International Literary Program.

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, by Laura van den Berg

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What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, by Laura van den Berg


What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, by Laura van den Berg


Publication Date: October 1, 2009
Paperback: 205 pages
ISBN: 978-0-976717-77-5
Trim: 8.4 x 5.4


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Selected for Barnes & Noble's "Discover Great New Writers" program, 2009
Finalist for the ForeWord Magazine Book of the Year Award, 2009
Longlisted for The Story Prize, 2009
Shortlisted for the Frank O'Connor Award, 2010
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 botanist seeking a rare flower crosses paths with a group of men hunting the Loch Ness Monster. A disillusioned missionary in Africa grapples with grief and a growing obsession with a creature rumored to live in the forests of the Congo. And in the title story, a young woman traveling with her scientist mother in Madagascar confronts her burgeoning sexuality and her dream of becoming a long-distance swimmer.
Rendered with precision and longing, the women who narrate these starkly beautiful stories are consumed with searching—for absolution, for solace, for the flash of extraordinary in the ordinary that will forever alter their lives. 


"In her debut collection, What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us, Laura van den Berg finds the tension between science and magic and walks it like a tightrope. These stories find the common ground between myth and the human condition, exploring the inner lives of men and women who cross paths with the Loch Ness monster, or Bigfoot, or lemurs in Madagascar whose screams can turn a heart into stone. It is a fantastic and fascinating world, full of discoveries and moments of wonder, a book meant for the explorer in all of us. Any reader will be glad to have found it." —Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief

What the World Will Look Like When All the Water Leaves Us is a lovely, remarkable book, full of people who strive mightily to believe in things—Bigfoot, the Lochness and Lake Michigan monsters, a tunnel leading to the other side of the world, husbands, wives, lovers, parents—they shouldn't. But Laura van den Berg lets her characters believe, and believes in them, and makes us believe, and care, too. Calm, wry, and compassionate, somehow all at once, this book is impossible to resist, and I'd bet big money that we'll be talking about Laura van den Berg and her fiction for years to come." —Brock Clarke, author of An Arsonist's Guide to Writers' Homes in New England

"There is a special kind of magic in the writing of Laura van den Berg, a damp-eyed sorceress who blends the mythological with the everyday, buoyant playfulness with lacerating sadness. Each sentence reads like a beautiful bruise smeared across pages as pale as the bodies that so often strip off their clothes and tangle together in these tender, elegant stories." —Benjamin Percy, author of Refresh, Refreshand The Language of Elk

"Discussions about debuts often allude to promise, as if to imply that better things will come, but in this particular case, there’s no need to wait. Laura van den Berg’s talents are already fully formed, and spectacular. This collection has searing emotions, a technical virtuosity, and a lyrical ferocity that dazzle us with undeniable force. Breathtakingly, we follow her characters as they seek escape in far-flung locales, both real and imagined, searching for that rarest of species—the feeling that they belong." —Don Lee, author of Wrack and Ruin and Yellow


"van den Berg taps into her characters’ losses with an impressive clarity...these tales are the work of a notable author finding her voice." —Publishers Weekly

"Stunning, desolate, and unforgettable." —Booklist (starred review)

"These characters lose themselves, intentionally and otherwise, but they've got the courage to go about finding themselves, or changed versions of themselves, in the elegant process of drowning, cleansing, and rebirth." —The Believer

“The striking and affecting stories in Laura van den Berg’s recently published debut have a restless, adventurer’s spirit. They’re peopled with field researchers, scientists, and world travelers…And yet, their themes couldn’t be closer to home: fraught family ties, sexual longing, belief in the unknown.” —The Daily Beast

“…a young writer with talent to burn; the beauty of her writing is matched only by the fierce emotional empathy for her characters.” —The Courier-Journal

“The mysteries of science and the mysteries of the heart—perhaps nowhere have they been so proactively linked as in this debut short-story collection.” —Barnes & Noble "Discover Great New Writers" description