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Sunday, February 14, 2010

Book Review: The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman

Andrew Kaufman is one of my favourite writers, even though he’s only written one book, All My Friends Are Superheroes. But that changes this month with the publication of his second book, a novel called The Waterproof Bible—and I’m meaning that what’s changed in the number of books published, not my fandom.

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The Waterproof Bible backcover has one of those descriptions that either impresses you or frightens you.

A magical story of love and the isolation that defines the modern condition - Andrew Kaufman pulls off the near impossible and creates a wholly original allegorical tale that is both emotionally resonant and outlandishly fun.

Rebecca Reynolds is a young woman with a most unusual and inconvenient problem: no matter how hard she tries, she can’t stop her emotions from escaping her body and entering the world around her. Luckily she’s developed a nifty way to trap and store her powerful emotions in personal objects - but how many shoeboxes can a girl fill before she feels crushed by her past?

Three events force Rebecca to change her ways: the unannounced departure of her husband, Stewart; the sudden death of Lisa, her musician sister; and, while on her way to Lisa’s funeral, a near-crash with what appears to be a giant frogwoman recklessly speeding in a Honda Civic.

Meanwhile, Lisa’s inconsolable husband skips the funeral and flies to Winnipeg where he begins a bizarre journey that strips him of everything before he can begin to see a way through his grief… all with the help of a woman who calls herself God.

What the hell, right?

This is a book about what we think about before we die: who has a score to settle, who needs to say farewell, who needs forgiveness, who needs forgetfulness. In the case of The Waterproof Bible the characters are all tied in some way to the death of Lisa.

Lisa’s husband Lewis needs to deal with his grief through flight. Flight in a twofold way in that he chooses flight vs. fight and flight as in he jumps on an airplane to get far away. Far away from himself, I believe.

Lisa’s sister Rebecca has so much emotion that she doesn’t know what to do with it. She’s a woman with a lot of baggage. As she physically and metaphorically lets go, she’s able to come to terms with herself. 

Lisa’s brother-in-law Stewart is estranged from Rebecca and is living somewhere in the middle of the Prairies, where he’s building a boat. Landlocked and oh so misguided, or so it seems.

Margaret and Aby are two Aquatics whose lives intersect with the other three. Aquatics are those who are meant to live underwater, according to the laws of the Aquatic Bible. But Margaret has chosen another path, much to the chagrin of her daughter Aby who, in making her way to her mother’s home on the Prairies, has a run-in (in the literal sense) with Rebecca and Lewis. Oh and Margaret runs the hotel where Stewart works and is building the boat.

I know it’s all bizarre, but truly, this is my favourite book of 2010.

Kaufman writes literary fantasy the way that Gabriel Garcia Marquez writes magical realism. Where indeed is the line? The Waterproof Bible is a crazy, magical story of love—the beginning, middle and end—and life—the beginning, middle and end. I loved it.

Andrew Kaufman’s writing is completely sensible, even with the greenskined Aquatics floating around on the Prairies. Andrew, thank you so very much for giving us a second book that rivals the first. It’s lovely and brilliant.

I hardly even re-read books, but this one is back in the nightstand pile.


The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman
Published by Random House in ebook and hardcover on Feb 23, 2010.

Thank you for the advance copy!

I was once an English and literature major, but hardly ever read novels anymore. If this is, as you suggest, even remotely comparable to the magicalness and beauty of Gabriel Garcia Marquez (one of the few authors I have read and reread many times), then I might go back to literature. Thanks!

This actually sounds very intriguing. I’m not a big reader either but when I see something that catches my eye I can blow through it quick. Coming from you, I may go out and get it.

Yes please do! Kaufman is worth reading.

Tony, I would suggest going out and picking this up. You won’t regret it. I promise you that.

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