The Waterproof Bible

19 Mar

I had promised a review of Tinkers this month, but when I committed to attending this month’s book club meet hosted by my intern, I quickly changed tracks and started in on Andrew Kaufman’s The Waterproof Bible. Mr. Kaufman first grabbed my attention back in the early 2000’s when I attended a Coach House reading event at the Jane Bond (in my old neighborhood of Waterloo). He was reading an excerpt from his first book entitled All My Friends Are Superheroes, and within a mere second or two, another Kaufman fan was born.

Like his previous work, this book speaks to the similar theme of ordinary people exhibiting extraordinary physical and or emotional abilities, and what occurs as their lives are put under a magnifying glass. The result is an array of perplexing and fantastical events…a continuous stream of absurd, yet delightful encounters between the characters as their individual stories unfold.

Straight away we are introduced to Rebecca Reynolds, a woman incapable of containing her true feelings from the world. Every emotion she feels, is automatically projected onto others. Attaching special meaning to particular things, she currently rents a storage unit that is full from top to bottom with these items. Rebecca has just lost her younger sister Lisa, and on our first introduction, she is harbouring (and projecting) large quantities of hatred for her brother-in-law Lewis. There are several reasons why she hates Lewis, the main reason being he was unable to save her sister.

Lewis is the widowed husband of Lisa, and when we first come to know him, he is reluctantly battling his own demons. Lewis recognizes that he should be immersed in grief, and yet he’s struggling to feel all that he is supposed to. After a bizarre and unexpected encounter with an amphibian woman, Lewis decides to surrender to his ambiguous feelings, and ditches his wife’s funeral and adopts a nomadic lifestyle instead.

We soon come to realize that Rebecca has an estranged husband, Stewart, who is currently residing in an unfrequented Inn situated in the random locale of Morris, Manitoba. Stewart is inflicted by pangs of grief, doubt, uncertainty etc. He is still grappling with the estrangement from his wife Rebecca, and has taken to devoting all of his time and energy to the construction of a boat…in a place that is currently suffering from an extended drought.

The amphibian woman is on a personal quest of her own. She is seeking to be reunited with her land dwelling Mother, the Mother who deserted her as a child so that she could live like the humans and breathe hot air, instead of water, through her gills. Her Mother Margaret, who just happens to be the owner of the Inn, has become Stewart’s confidant, and only source of emotional support. Stewart cannot seem to put his finger on it, but he suspects that there is something unusual about Margaret. For one, her age is completely unknown to him. Margaret could be anywhere between her late thirties to mid seventies…and what could be the cause of her unearthly green skin tone?

With multiple narratives, and no shortage of quirky and humorous plot twists, The Waterproof Bible is a sheer delight to read. My only complaint, is that the somber topics in the narrative are not given their due when it comes to the finale of the book. Like a typical feel good film, the ending sees all of the characters achieving their happy outcome. Although the wrap up was a bit too sentimental and polished for me, I thoroughly enjoyed the momentous climax of the book…not to mention the aquatic back story, replete with aquatic biblical references and a fictional language only spoken by those that live beneath the surface of the Atlantic ocean. There is much to be enjoyed within the pages of this book…and I recommend you dig in for yourself.

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