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From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called "wickedly good" (Kansas City Star), "cinematic and charged" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and "studded with delights" (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called "wickedly good" (Kansas City Star), "cinematic and charged" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and "studded with delights" (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning "Amapola" and his now-classic "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice. Suffused with wanderlust, compassion, and no small amount of rock and roll, The Water Museum is a collection that confirms Luis Alberto Urrea as an American master.


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From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called "wickedly good" (Kansas City Star), "cinematic and charged" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and "studded with delights" (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea From one of America's preeminent literary voices comes a story collection that proves once again why the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea has been called "wickedly good" (Kansas City Star), "cinematic and charged" (Cleveland Plain Dealer), and "studded with delights" (Chicago Tribune). Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Urrea reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning "Amapola" and his now-classic "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice. Suffused with wanderlust, compassion, and no small amount of rock and roll, The Water Museum is a collection that confirms Luis Alberto Urrea as an American master.

30 review for The Water Museum

  1. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    What a wonderful use of language to express emotions and setting this author has. Sympathetic characters all, trying but failing to push back against cultural boundaries. Loved the first story, Mountains without numbers. There is something so melancholy and realistic about this one. Scenes like this are probably happening in dying towns all over America, people stuck in their lives remembering when their lives seemed much fuller. Loved to Mr Mendoza, with his use of humor and magical realism, onc What a wonderful use of language to express emotions and setting this author has. Sympathetic characters all, trying but failing to push back against cultural boundaries. Loved the first story, Mountains without numbers. There is something so melancholy and realistic about this one. Scenes like this are probably happening in dying towns all over America, people stuck in their lives remembering when their lives seemed much fuller. Loved to Mr Mendoza, with his use of humor and magical realism, once again what once was, is no more. The sous chefs, I adored, so cliched and amusing. Done so well. Water Museum, an apocalyptic of a world running out of water. Almost seems not to fit, but it does because once again something that is gone is mourned. What is not remembered proves frightening. Such a wonderful collection. ARC from publisher.

  2. 4 out of 5

    David Schaafsma

    "So this was New Year's Day. This was sunlight. Seventy-eight degrees. This was the sound of the barrio awakening from the party: doves mourning the passing of night, pigeons in the dead palm trees chuckling amid rattling fronds, the mockingbird doing car alarm and church bell iterations in Big Angel's olive trees in front of the house. Junior pulled the pillow over his head — it was those kids with their Big Wheels making all that noise."--Urrea I am proud to say Luis Urrea is a friend and coll "So this was New Year's Day. This was sunlight. Seventy-eight degrees. This was the sound of the barrio awakening from the party: doves mourning the passing of night, pigeons in the dead palm trees chuckling amid rattling fronds, the mockingbird doing car alarm and church bell iterations in Big Angel's olive trees in front of the house. Junior pulled the pillow over his head — it was those kids with their Big Wheels making all that noise."--Urrea I am proud to say Luis Urrea is a friend and colleague, and am grateful that he gave me a copy of this book, though it took me a couple of years to read it! I am a fan of his writing, including The Devil’s Highway, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize(in non fiction), Tijuana Book of the Dead (poetry) and his magnum opus, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, a fictional portrait of his great-aunt Teresita. He’s the bomb, as he would say, right out of 1986, but I think he is only getting stronger as he writes, even as he enters his sixties. His “Amapola” won an Edgar award in 2010 from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story. I saw that the book was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner award. I actually listened to a free audio version (on Hoopla) of Luis reading the collection, which I recommend, though I reread passages I loved in the hardcover version along the way. This short story collection, 13 stories, some of them also from other Urrea collections, features an amazing range of writing, from scary to tender, about male violence, about racial tension, divorce, and recovery, about growing up, and first kisses. And water scarcity in a tale set in the not too distant future. Luis told me, “people think of me as a political writer because I write about border issues, and they invite me to comment on these things, but I think of myself primarily as a spiritual writer,” and I agree. Luis writes about racial conflict between Hispanic and Anglo and between Native American and Anglo peoples, but he is more likely to end his stories in song than any rage. He celebrates beauty; he cares about wonder, often with a sense of humor, whether it is the moment young boys discovered GIRLS in “Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush,” or the feel of water on skin in “The Water Museum.” “Amapola” is a bit of a frightening departure. An Anglo teen boy falls in love with a beautiful Mexican girl, naïvely oblivious to the source of her family’s wealth. There is real terror in this story, which could initially be seen as any boy’s nightmare meeting with his girlfriend’s parent. . . . who has discovered he is having sex with said daughter! And, worst case scenario, is a dangerous man. Thrilling and scary. The title story, “The Water Museum,” came about as an invitation from Chicago’s National Public Radio affiliate, WBEZ, that invited several authors to create fictions about water politics. This powerful and sad story, looking at scarcity from a bored teen’s perspective in the near future, has a family visit the Plains Water Museum, where the kids experience a swamp, and rain, neither of which are familiar to them. They are nervous, uncomfortable, a little frightened. All they know is drought. One student begs, “Stop it, Miss! Oh, stop the rain!” “Mr. Mendoza’s Paintbrush,” about a Mexican graffiti artist from Urrea’s ancestral home, is joyous, and very funny, featuring a graffiiti artist in a small rural village. It’s about growing up, with friends, and learning a lesson: “Girls. We had discovered girls. And a group of these recently discovered creatures was going from the preparatory school’s sweltering rooms to the river for a bath. They had their spot, a shielded kink in the river that had a natural screen of trees and reeds and a sloping sandy bank. Jaime and I knew that we were about to make one of the greatest discoveries in recent history, and we’d be able to report to the men what we’d found out. . . “We inserted ourselves in the reeds, ignoring the mud soaking our knees. We could barely contain our longing and emotion. When the girls began to strip off their uniforms, revealing slips, then bright white bras and big cotton underpants, I thought I would sob.” But lest you think this is merely some teen boy fantasy, just wait til you see what Mr. Mendoza does to the boys when he finds them spying. . . . “The Sous Chefs of Iogua” is an often funny story that focuses in part on the coming together of cultures in a Mexican restaurant in a small Iowa town. The Mexicans can’ pronounce the English, the Americans can’t pronounce the Spanish, and so on. It’s a sad story of the difficulty of assimilation. Farm work is drying up, and some people open restaurants in the small town. Some locals suggest Italian! The locals want “American” food. Frustrations erupt, sadly. “God. Damn. It. Look here. This is my country. We been here, working this land forever. We made our lives here. We planted our crops here. We had our children and buried our loved ones here. Right here! Is it too goddamned much to ask that somebody pay the slightest fucking attention to our traditions and history and stop wrecking everything? Could you learn the language? Could you cook a simple meal that anybody from here would recognize as real food? Am I asking too much?” “Yeah, jefe. That’s what Geronimo said.”—Urrea, “The Sous Chefs of Iogua.” Two brief stories are studies in grief, "White Girl," and "Carnations." In the final story, “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses,” a white man, Bobby, whose marriage to Don Her Many Horses’s sister shows powerfully the possibilities and limitations of cross-cultural love. She’s dead, and he returns with her body to the rez to mourn with her family. The community does not welcome him, for they blame her drinking, her unhappiness on him and his taking her from the reservation. But Bobby loved his wife, and needs to grieve. In the end, Bobby and his brother-in-law briefly connect in their loss, in the cross-cultural language of grief and loss. Wonderful writing, across the board, with sweetness and humor and deft observation. Loved it.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Jana

    For whatever reason, when I started this book of short stories I was not 100% focused. I could tell the writing was excellent, but the stories just weren't grabbing me. It was the audible version, this happens to me sometimes. However, along came the eponymous story, and I realized that this was brilliant in every way. Very timely and moving. The final story: Bid Farewell to her Many Horses, may have made me cry. So...I started reading them again in reverse order back to the beginning. They are s For whatever reason, when I started this book of short stories I was not 100% focused. I could tell the writing was excellent, but the stories just weren't grabbing me. It was the audible version, this happens to me sometimes. However, along came the eponymous story, and I realized that this was brilliant in every way. Very timely and moving. The final story: Bid Farewell to her Many Horses, may have made me cry. So...I started reading them again in reverse order back to the beginning. They are so much better when one pays attention! I am very interested in stories of Mexico and Mexican people and many of them touch on this. But all of them put me in another world where I lived for awhile. The best thing that stories can do, right? And I do recommend the audio version. It is read by the author and he does an excellent job. Can't wait to meet him in Petoskey this September.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kasey

    I devoured this book and want to go back and take my time going through it again, letting each story linger with its beauty and its insight. There is a common thread tying these pieces together - how we care for, or don't care for, each other, including the way in which we use this planet and how that may look down the road. As someone who lives in a drought state, "The Water Museum" has been hard to shake. These stories are beautiful not because of flowery language or happy endings, though Urrea I devoured this book and want to go back and take my time going through it again, letting each story linger with its beauty and its insight. There is a common thread tying these pieces together - how we care for, or don't care for, each other, including the way in which we use this planet and how that may look down the road. As someone who lives in a drought state, "The Water Museum" has been hard to shake. These stories are beautiful not because of flowery language or happy endings, though Urrea certainly does know how to craft a sentence. They are beautiful because of their deep honesty, their cutting reality, and the way they will not let you off the hook. They are short stories at their best.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Tuck

    urrea should be the mega million seller of books he's written,not some dead hackish lady, or some uk twat and her owls and stuff. it was a delight to revisit (some of these stories were in his first book Six Kinds of Sky: A Collection of Short Fiction ) mr. mendoza and his biting paint brush graffito in our rural and dying mexican town, and the professor and the indian somewhere in southeast wyoming shooting the dear wife's already dead volvo. plus too there are stories taken from previous publis urrea should be the mega million seller of books he's written,not some dead hackish lady, or some uk twat and her owls and stuff. it was a delight to revisit (some of these stories were in his first book Six Kinds of Sky: A Collection of Short Fiction ) mr. mendoza and his biting paint brush graffito in our rural and dying mexican town, and the professor and the indian somewhere in southeast wyoming shooting the dear wife's already dead volvo. plus too there are stories taken from previous published akashic noir series Phoenix Noir and San Diego Noir that are deliciously dirty and rough, and as always, funny! but some new stories too , 'water museum" and 'sous chefs..' that are firsts here first (why didnt subtitle just say "stories new and old" or something?) that enforce more than ever that urrea is as humane, creative, and hilarious as sherman alexie's skindians, steinbeck's wine bums, twain's miners, marquez's retired generals, rushdie's border trolls. for short story lovers, for bedtime readers, and laughoutlouders...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Donna

    Short stories aren't my favorite books to read. I'm working on a reading list, where reading a collection of short stories is required. I chose this one because I've read this author before and liked his style. I really enjoyed the first two stories in this book. I was thrilled that I was actually liking it, ... that is when it started unraveling for me. I didn't enjoy the rest of them as much. But I loved the writing. I like how he addresses cultural differences and how life is as an illegal in Short stories aren't my favorite books to read. I'm working on a reading list, where reading a collection of short stories is required. I chose this one because I've read this author before and liked his style. I really enjoyed the first two stories in this book. I was thrilled that I was actually liking it, ... that is when it started unraveling for me. I didn't enjoy the rest of them as much. But I loved the writing. I like how he addresses cultural differences and how life is as an illegal in America. I like how he offers food for thought.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Natalie Serber

    I'm sitting in the catbird seat. Late to the party, having never read anything by Luis Alberto Urrea before, I now have a trove of his novels, stories, poetry and nonfiction to look forward to! It wasn't love at first sight. His stark story, "Mountains Without Number," the first in his new collection, "The Water Museum," didn't seduce me. It's the story of a dying town near Idaho Falls, all the young people have wisely moved away and the remaining aged residents meet up at the diner each morning I'm sitting in the catbird seat. Late to the party, having never read anything by Luis Alberto Urrea before, I now have a trove of his novels, stories, poetry and nonfiction to look forward to! It wasn't love at first sight. His stark story, "Mountains Without Number," the first in his new collection, "The Water Museum," didn't seduce me. It's the story of a dying town near Idaho Falls, all the young people have wisely moved away and the remaining aged residents meet up at the diner each morning to reminisce about the fulgent past. But, hold the phone, the second story, "The Southside Raza Image Federation Corps of Discovery," grabbed me at the first paragraph: "So this was New Year's Day. This was sunlight. Seventy-eight degrees. This was the sound of the barrio awakening from the party: doves mourning the passing of night, pigeons in the dead palm trees chuckling amid rattling fronds, the mockingbird doing car alarm and church bell iterations in Big Angel's olive trees in front of the house. Junior pulled the pillow over his head — it was those kids with their Big Wheels making all that noise." Right away I know I'm in the hands of a trustworthy narrator, someone with keen and questioning vision who will bring to life this urban San Diego jungle with his muscular, lush language and varied sentences. Junior is a closet reader who doesn't fit in with the immigrant community in which he grew up, nor with the white kids at the community college. A friend steals a canoe and when the two set off on an adventure, one says, "Louie and Clark, homes. Like, let's go discovering." They steer the canoe through a fetid slough polluted with runoff from a slaughterhouse, around upended shopping carts and a washing machine, they see people staring at them from the shore, "Gaunt, haunted faces. Silent Mexican men hiding from the border patrol." The story, like many in this collection, does not end happily for Junior and his friend. Borders inform this collection as the stories navigate the tenuous connections between class, cultures, families and individuals. In "Amapola" a white teenager falls in love with a beautiful Mexican girl, much to the chagrin of her sinister, wealthy father who, when he smiles, looks like a "moray eel in a tank." What starts out as sweetly innocent takes a very dark and violent turn as the source of the family's wealth is revealed. In the laugh-out-loud story, "The Sous Chefs of Iogua," racial tensions between Latino and white community members in a small Iowa town are explored through language and food. When a Latina makes a generous and almost successful attempt at cooking a Thanksgiving meal but ruins it with a misunderstanding of mashed potatoes and gravy, an old farmer loses it and delivers a rant about food, and heritage and respect and tradition. He's frustrated and embarrassed by his outburst, by his emotions, for on a deeper level, this old man is grieving over the death of his wife, he, like all of us, wants to feel known. Juan, the man across the table speaks up. '"Yeah, Jefe," he finally said. "That's what Geronimo said.'" The eponymous, "Welcome to the Water Museum," is a lovely, lyric, dystopian story about an arid future where school children are taken to a museum to hear recordings of rain and frogs, to feel a quick spritz of mist on their faces. They are so used to drought, the water mystifies and frightens them. Loss reverberates throughout the collection. Two brief stories are studies in grief, "White Girl," and "Carnations." Though each only a few pages, their shadows loom large, intensifying the tone. In "Taped to the Sky," a man whose wife has left him takes his grief on the road. He steals his wife's Volvo and drives across the country seeking violence and love to feel alive, then self-medicating to numb his pain. "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," closes the collection with another grieving husband. Bobby, a white man, comes back to his wife's reservation to bury her. The community does not welcome him, for they blame her drinking, her unhappiness and her death on her departure from the reservation. But Bobby loved his wife and Urrea unflinchingly portrays his determination to grieve among those who will always see him as an outsider. Bobby stays in the uncomfortable borderland, and in the final paragraphs, an opportunity for communion arises, between Bobby and his brother-in-law, the two are connected in their loss, the two find a way to comfort one another through the universal language of pain. Like Urrea, we care deeply for his characters. He writes with compassion and humor and with a nod to the creeping darkness within us all.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Jeff Scott

    Luis Alberto Urrea's new book, The Water Museum, is extraordinarily well timed. As California undergoes the "mega-drought" it is a fitting reference to dry places where water is hard won. Urrea shares the story of those that live in these water-scarce lands. Perhaps a few years ago, these concepts may seem foreign to many readers, but now many more can make the connection here. Some of these short stories are continuations of themes found in Urrea's previous work Into the Beautiful North, but mo Luis Alberto Urrea's new book, The Water Museum, is extraordinarily well timed. As California undergoes the "mega-drought" it is a fitting reference to dry places where water is hard won. Urrea shares the story of those that live in these water-scarce lands. Perhaps a few years ago, these concepts may seem foreign to many readers, but now many more can make the connection here. Some of these short stories are continuations of themes found in Urrea's previous work Into the Beautiful North, but most are completely original. They cover a landscape of sorrow, hardship, and resignation. These are the stories of people out of place, in dust strewn lands, with the thirst for something that goes beyond water. My favorites stories added an element of magical realism such as Mr. Mendoza and his paint brush, the life experience inside the head of a soldier in Chamtla, the dream of water in The Water Museum (very Ray Bradbury), and the sorry of separateness in Her Many Horses. Urrea shines the most when he is stretching his genre. He cares about people and it shows in his writing. We see their stories, the strife, and hardship. However, it is the magical realism aspects of the story that are truly fantastic and memorable. The imagination and power is very focused here. Favorite passages: Mountains, too, are doomed to die. But it is their curse to die more slowly than anything else on earth. To weaken and fall, mile by mile, carrying their arrowheads into the gullies, and with them the gemstone skeletons of the old ones, and the great stony spines of the elder giants. Even these are mere infants to the falling mountains. All falling as grit on the flats. Tiny hills for ants to climb. p8 It wasn't like Junior only hung with white people now. But he didn't see much Raza, he'd be the first to admit. Not socially. That's why you leave home, right? Shake off the dark. p. 35 We were in the car in ten minutes. We sped out of the foothills and across town. Phoenix always looks empty to me when it's hot, like one of those sci-fi movies where all the people are dead and gone and some vampires or zombies are hiding in the vacant condos, waiting for the night. The streets are too wide, and they reflect the heat like a Teflon cooking pan. Pigeons might explode into flame just flying across the street to escape the melting city bus. p. 39

  9. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    This book of short stories "grew" on me as I became more familiar with author's style. I did wish that I knew more about Spanish and the Mexican culture. I think I would have gotten even more out of it if I had. Different stories had me crying or laughing out loud. Always a good sign.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mark

    What a terrific collection and Urrea does an excellent job narrating. Looking forward to meeting him, at Booktopia Petoskey.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kalen

    I read this slowly so it wouldn't end but eventually it did.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Guy

    "Urrea's writing is wickedly good." That's a blurb from the jacket of one of his books. For some reason it has stayed with me. This is one of my favorite writers. I think the first work of his that I read was The Hummingbird's Daughter. I loved it. It's a fictionalized account of the life of Urrea's actual great-aunt Teresita. He researched historical records and family accounts for years before he had it all down in print. It is story telling at its best. Urrea is not only a novelist. He writes "Urrea's writing is wickedly good." That's a blurb from the jacket of one of his books. For some reason it has stayed with me. This is one of my favorite writers. I think the first work of his that I read was The Hummingbird's Daughter. I loved it. It's a fictionalized account of the life of Urrea's actual great-aunt Teresita. He researched historical records and family accounts for years before he had it all down in print. It is story telling at its best. Urrea is not only a novelist. He writes non fiction (The Devil's Highway was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize.) The Water Museum is a collection of short stories. He also writes poetry and memoirs and has won numerous awards. Some of the stories in The Water Museum have appeared in other publications. Some were written specifically for this collection. All are excellent. "Amapola" appeared in Phoenix Noir and won an Edgar award in 2010 for best mystery short story. I would urge anyone who has not read this author's work to give him a try. I doubt you will be disappointed.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Judy King

    Can I have special dispensation to give this book seven stars instead of just five? I finished the Water Museum last night. I had bought it some time ago ( I think I pre-ordered) from Audible. I LOVE his work, but I especially love it when he is reading it, and yet because I am not a fan of short stories, AT ALL, I'd not started it, until I saw that the book had put Urrea and this book into the short list, the top five for the PEN/Faulkner. Then I binge read (listened) to the 13 stories and love Can I have special dispensation to give this book seven stars instead of just five? I finished the Water Museum last night. I had bought it some time ago ( I think I pre-ordered) from Audible. I LOVE his work, but I especially love it when he is reading it, and yet because I am not a fan of short stories, AT ALL, I'd not started it, until I saw that the book had put Urrea and this book into the short list, the top five for the PEN/Faulkner. Then I binge read (listened) to the 13 stories and loved each more than the one before and the one after....They are fabulous.... My normal complaint is that just as I get involved with the characters it is over. That wasn't the case here. He wrapped each up so well that I was satisfied (like after a great meal satisfied) with each story and with the resolution. It is a GREAT read, and worth it at any price. No wonder it's made that short list for this award; this man is golden. In fact, I may start over today, and listen to the entire book again...I'm missing it already.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Norton

    Book, it's not you, it's me! These stories were very compelling, well written, smart. Because I have met the author, I could almost hear him reading aloud. But, well, the failed American Dream has never been my favorite subject. So I give it 5 stars for quality and 2 stars for how much I identify with it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Emlyn Johnson

    Like any collection, some of these stories resonated with me more strongly than others. That said, every story immediately drew me into the world it created, whether it was a world I wanted to inhabit or not. With a few nods to magical realism, most of these stories are of the slice-of-life variety, opening a momentary window into the current situation of each character. Most of these individuals are grappling with trauma - external, self-inflicted, current, past, all kinds - and you can't help Like any collection, some of these stories resonated with me more strongly than others. That said, every story immediately drew me into the world it created, whether it was a world I wanted to inhabit or not. With a few nods to magical realism, most of these stories are of the slice-of-life variety, opening a momentary window into the current situation of each character. Most of these individuals are grappling with trauma - external, self-inflicted, current, past, all kinds - and you can't help but root for them to have a change of luck, a change of heart, a change of habit, or some kind of positive resolution. Some stories suggest that change may be possible (and not always for the better), but in general they are left unresolved when that brief window closes. This collection creates an empathetic and nuanced portrait of these characters and builds vivid worlds with beautifully efficient language.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Kara

    I became interested in The Water Museum after reading the starred review it received from Kirkus. Upon further basic Internet investigation, I learned that Urrea is indeed an accomplished craftsman of contemporary literary fiction. Since I read a lot of literary fiction each year, these facts were enough to recommend the work as one likely to reward my time and effort. Indeed, I was ultimately glad I discovered Urrea's writing. In this story collection, his narratives and the characters that peo I became interested in The Water Museum after reading the starred review it received from Kirkus. Upon further basic Internet investigation, I learned that Urrea is indeed an accomplished craftsman of contemporary literary fiction. Since I read a lot of literary fiction each year, these facts were enough to recommend the work as one likely to reward my time and effort. Indeed, I was ultimately glad I discovered Urrea's writing. In this story collection, his narratives and the characters that peopled them were subtly rendered in skillful prose appropriate to that intended subtlety and the thematic depth maintained. While I found it worthwhile reading, I did not find it a particularly outstanding work among those released last year. It was just a bit over-hyped, IMHO. One relative weakness I observed of Urrea's work that compared negatively with other quality lit fic was a tendency of his writing to veer extensively into pretty vague lyricism when the subtlety and style could have been preserved with more precise language as well as definite, dramatic resolution of the plots. <--The stories are not particularly fast-paced or even memorable as such, by the way, dear reader. I apologize for my poor writing here; I thank you for reading my thoughts and hope they prove somehow useful to some of you. Note: I received a free copy of this work in a Goodreads giveaway in order to encourage my posting of an honest review upon completion.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jeremy

    (3.5) Urrea's non-fiction book The Devil's Highway had a lasting and influential impact on me. This collection certainly has its share of successes, most notably the Edgar winning "Amapola" and "The Southside Raza Image Federation Corps of Discovery". Urrea mines the voice of misguided youth in very funny and poignant ways.The approach is reminiscent of Junot Diaz's Oscar Wao or Oscar Casares's "Chango". Many of the other stories just reach a pleasing but not essential status. At least two featu (3.5) Urrea's non-fiction book The Devil's Highway had a lasting and influential impact on me. This collection certainly has its share of successes, most notably the Edgar winning "Amapola" and "The Southside Raza Image Federation Corps of Discovery". Urrea mines the voice of misguided youth in very funny and poignant ways.The approach is reminiscent of Junot Diaz's Oscar Wao or Oscar Casares's "Chango". Many of the other stories just reach a pleasing but not essential status. At least two feature Native American characters, thus indirectly juxtaposing them with the Chicano experience in a fascinating way.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Mark Folse

    Urrea is the Mark Twain of El Norte, a shrewd, skeptical observer of life who is not afraid to turn over the rocks to find what lurks beneath, and yet can find humor in the darkest places. (Viva El Atomico!) Toss in a steaming side of H.L. Menken and you have the most astute and talented chronicler of the living history of his people and the lands they inhabit. Here he ventures further afield to include ecology and another cultural collision, this between Natives and whites. If you are not in te Urrea is the Mark Twain of El Norte, a shrewd, skeptical observer of life who is not afraid to turn over the rocks to find what lurks beneath, and yet can find humor in the darkest places. (Viva El Atomico!) Toss in a steaming side of H.L. Menken and you have the most astute and talented chronicler of the living history of his people and the lands they inhabit. Here he ventures further afield to include ecology and another cultural collision, this between Natives and whites. If you are not in tears at the end of this book, there is something deeply wrong with you. Perhaps you should seek the GOP nomination.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Thekelburrows

    With his story collection The Water Museum, Luis Alberto Urrea displays truly wonderful writing at the sentence-level. These sentences link together to form moving narratives that ask important questions about race in America and what it means to be human. Impressive on all levels.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Janet

    I am reminded of Junot Diaz as I sit here with the urban dictionary on my lap. Read for Booktopia Petosky

  21. 4 out of 5

    Angela

    Into the Beautiful North was one of the best novels I read last year so I was looking forward to reading more from this author. This collection was good but not great. The only stories I would read again are "Amapola" and "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses." I have two complaints about The Water Museum. First is that it almost feels like a half-assed novel. The stories are quite similar in voice, theme, setting, and character. In fact, some stories feature the same characters. An author as talented Into the Beautiful North was one of the best novels I read last year so I was looking forward to reading more from this author. This collection was good but not great. The only stories I would read again are "Amapola" and "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses." I have two complaints about The Water Museum. First is that it almost feels like a half-assed novel. The stories are quite similar in voice, theme, setting, and character. In fact, some stories feature the same characters. An author as talented as Urrea could've made this work as a novel instead of giving us fragments of what seems like (mostly) one story. My second complaint is that I didn't care for the narration. The protagonists are full of testosterone and broken dreams. The slang (Mexican and English) seems forced at times; and things like writing "WTF," references to musicians and lyrics, comparing the CGI in the titular Water Museum to the movie Avatar, and noting that a teenage girl is so technologically primitive that she writes letters instead of using Facebook immediately makes the writing seem dated despite its recent publication date. Many of the stories are about low class Mexican Americans and bring up topics like citizenship, culture, crime, gangs, and dealing drugs. Urrea does a great job at humanizing characters that aren't very likeable, but ultimately this book isn't for me.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Meade

    I was not sold on this collection until I got to "Chametla." Up until that point I liked the writing, which is an impressive blend of Donald Ray Pollack's gritty sense of place with the magical realism of Marquez and Morrison, but nothing really floored me. The above mentioned story, however is very strange and vivid. Though short it is replete with powerful imagery. It's a sad little diorama about what a beautiful and sad mess we are in life and in death. By the time I got to the titular story, I was not sold on this collection until I got to "Chametla." Up until that point I liked the writing, which is an impressive blend of Donald Ray Pollack's gritty sense of place with the magical realism of Marquez and Morrison, but nothing really floored me. The above mentioned story, however is very strange and vivid. Though short it is replete with powerful imagery. It's a sad little diorama about what a beautiful and sad mess we are in life and in death. By the time I got to the titular story, "Welcome to the Water Museum," I was in love. The story is set up by a two page story earlier in the collection called "Carnations." That very short story is a simple and effective little story that achieves its aims and is a moving tale about a family's grief. The titular story, however is an incredibly versatile story. It is foreboding and scary, it makes a museum of all of our childhoods. It is a warning, it is a plea. It is all these things without being didactic or pedantic. It is about human needs and desires and its perfect. It is really astounding how much the writer achieves in such a small space.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kristi Thielen

    I was unfamiliar with this writer until I found this book in my home library – it had been read by my husband. Completely enjoyed these stories. Urrea’s world is one of Hispanic, Native and Anglo people in the west and southwest; people whose lives intersect in ways that are both ordinary and transformative. Some of what transpires is his stories seems deceptively simple and then becomes eerie, or profound or moving in unexpected ways. Many characters live on the edge of a knife blade, dealing w I was unfamiliar with this writer until I found this book in my home library – it had been read by my husband. Completely enjoyed these stories. Urrea’s world is one of Hispanic, Native and Anglo people in the west and southwest; people whose lives intersect in ways that are both ordinary and transformative. Some of what transpires is his stories seems deceptively simple and then becomes eerie, or profound or moving in unexpected ways. Many characters live on the edge of a knife blade, dealing with poverty, loneliness, law-breaking. They remain resilient. My favorites: Mountains Without Number about Frankie, the woman who runs the only diner in town and wonders about what might have been in her life, as she dutifully provides a sense of community to her patrons . . . people whose lives are simple and repetitive and in need of the rituals and sustenance Frankie gives them. Also Mr. Mendoza’s Paint Brush about an enigmatic graffiti artist who may be a supernatural force that both puzzles and entertains those around him. Well worth reading and I intend to look for more of his work.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Sami Frankel

    This collection of short stories about the lives of people living near the border between the United States and Mexico highlights the brilliance, beauty, and diversity of Luis Alberto Urrea's writing. The stories touch on issues of race, sex, immigration, poverty, violence, love, and so much more, and every line seems to speak volumes on what it means just to be a human. I listened to this on audio, and despite Urrea's narration--which was certainly well-done--I found it hard to stay engaged. Tha This collection of short stories about the lives of people living near the border between the United States and Mexico highlights the brilliance, beauty, and diversity of Luis Alberto Urrea's writing. The stories touch on issues of race, sex, immigration, poverty, violence, love, and so much more, and every line seems to speak volumes on what it means just to be a human. I listened to this on audio, and despite Urrea's narration--which was certainly well-done--I found it hard to stay engaged. That the stories were not connected to each other detracted from my overall experience, though I think that was more a factor of the format in which I read it than anything else. These are stories I would like to come back to, perhaps a bit more slowly, and perhaps on the page. There is a depth to them that I wasn't able to access in the audio version, but I am incredibly impressed with Urrea and look forward to reading more of his work.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jasonlylescampbell

    I really enjoyed these short stories. They cover lots of ground. Some of my favorites were The Southside Raza Image Federation Corps of Discovery about Junior and Shadow. Hilarious and very touching too. Junior is the smart kid who helps everyone else in school. He and Shadow are going to the beach and Shadow asked him "What are we reading next in Mr. Hitler's class?" Mr. Hitler. Junior snickered. That friggin' Shadow. "We're reading about Lewis and Clark." Anyway, later Shadow comes riding up w I really enjoyed these short stories. They cover lots of ground. Some of my favorites were The Southside Raza Image Federation Corps of Discovery about Junior and Shadow. Hilarious and very touching too. Junior is the smart kid who helps everyone else in school. He and Shadow are going to the beach and Shadow asked him "What are we reading next in Mr. Hitler's class?" Mr. Hitler. Junior snickered. That friggin' Shadow. "We're reading about Lewis and Clark." Anyway, later Shadow comes riding up with a canoe on his car, he stole it from some white kids class so they could go on a Lewis and Clark adventure. ... My other favorite was The Sous Chefs of Iogua. Its about immigrants living in Iowa who got Mexican resteraunts going but aren't getting much crowd in their small town (especially since there is two of them) so the locals are trying to get them to switch to burgers or itallian cuisine. It is very funny, laugh out loud, but also has a major punch and has round characters.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Jimmy

    Beautiful writing. But not the most interesting prose. Short stories don't always do it for me. Frankly, they can be hit or miss. Every now and then I like to read a new short story collection, and I've been pleasantly surprised with some. But with The Water Museum, I had a hard time staying interested in the stories. Perhaps it was too high caliber for me. Perhaps it was the fact that the short stories were somehow loosely connected to one another, a loose thread somewhere, but not enough to rea Beautiful writing. But not the most interesting prose. Short stories don't always do it for me. Frankly, they can be hit or miss. Every now and then I like to read a new short story collection, and I've been pleasantly surprised with some. But with The Water Museum, I had a hard time staying interested in the stories. Perhaps it was too high caliber for me. Perhaps it was the fact that the short stories were somehow loosely connected to one another, a loose thread somewhere, but not enough to really keep me interested. I had a hard time placing the setting of the stories...specifically, the time period. It's probably done on purpose to keep the reader guessing, but the vagueness was lost on me. I'm sure some will find this collection of short stories intriguing, and others will find them a haphazard dive into the water museum.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jeaninne Escallier Kato

    Having been taught by Mr. Urrea in a recent workshop for writers, I know that the stories in this analogy reflect his true genius. National Public Radio nailed it when they said that he is a monster storyteller with a rock and roll heart. He loves that description. Every story in the Water Museum oozes with time, place, character and soul. Luis is a deeply feeling human being who can artfully tell a story from a true place in his compassionate heart. Even when he critiqued my work, he came from Having been taught by Mr. Urrea in a recent workshop for writers, I know that the stories in this analogy reflect his true genius. National Public Radio nailed it when they said that he is a monster storyteller with a rock and roll heart. He loves that description. Every story in the Water Museum oozes with time, place, character and soul. Luis is a deeply feeling human being who can artfully tell a story from a true place in his compassionate heart. Even when he critiqued my work, he came from a place of magic. He envisioned where I could take my work, not why my work is not good enough...yet. Luis's joy for life also bursts out of every word, sentence and paragraph. His stories are like enjoying all the colors and nuances of a great painting. Pick up any of his many novels and you will want to read them all.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Beth Finke

    Downloaded this audio book when I found out author Luis Urrea is giving a presentation at the Salzer Library in Chicago (I live in Chicago) and then...kismet! The author was interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross yesterday, too. Between hearing him on Fresh Air and then hearing him read his stories himself in the audio version of The Water Museum, I feel like I know him personally. His library appearance is tonight, and I'm going! This book is one I think might be better to listen to than to Downloaded this audio book when I found out author Luis Urrea is giving a presentation at the Salzer Library in Chicago (I live in Chicago) and then...kismet! The author was interviewed on Fresh Air with Terry Gross yesterday, too. Between hearing him on Fresh Air and then hearing him read his stories himself in the audio version of The Water Museum, I feel like I know him personally. His library appearance is tonight, and I'm going! This book is one I think might be better to listen to than to read in print, Urrea's voice really makes his short stories come alive. Afraid people reading it in print might get bogged down by the sameness of each story, so many set in the Southwest and kind of dire. As a Midwesterner, my favorite of all the tshort stories is the one called "The Sous Chefs of Iowa."

  29. 4 out of 5

    Scott Sanders

    If you don't yet know the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea, here is a good place to start. The Water Museum is a superb collection, diverse in form, tone, geography, and subject. There are touches of the fantastic, but mostly gritty realism adroitly handled. Ranging from the mean streets of San Diego to the poppy fields of Mexico to the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, the stories explore young love, sense of place, gang mentality, racial divides and reconciliations, climate disruption, immi If you don't yet know the writing of Luis Alberto Urrea, here is a good place to start. The Water Museum is a superb collection, diverse in form, tone, geography, and subject. There are touches of the fantastic, but mostly gritty realism adroitly handled. Ranging from the mean streets of San Diego to the poppy fields of Mexico to the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, the stories explore young love, sense of place, gang mentality, racial divides and reconciliations, climate disruption, immigrant culture, and other gripping themes, all rendered brilliantly by a master of American vernacular. Once you've heard Urrea's voice on the page, you'll want to go on and read The Hummingbird's Daughter, Queen of America, The Devil's Highway, and his other compelling books.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Vince

    4.5 stars. Most collections of short stories include some that are a disappointment and make you wonder how they made past the editor. The Water Museum is rare in that there are simply good stories, better stories, and great stories; not a throwaway in the bunch. The half-star deduction is merely for the previous publication of a few of these short stories in Urrea's 20002 collection. No double-dipping, Luis! The writing and storytelling here are typical Urrea. Honesty and beauty that you feel in 4.5 stars. Most collections of short stories include some that are a disappointment and make you wonder how they made past the editor. The Water Museum is rare in that there are simply good stories, better stories, and great stories; not a throwaway in the bunch. The half-star deduction is merely for the previous publication of a few of these short stories in Urrea's 20002 collection. No double-dipping, Luis! The writing and storytelling here are typical Urrea. Honesty and beauty that you feel in every sentence on every page. I only wish there were more than the thirteen included here. While I enjoyed reading them all, the standouts for me were The Sous Chefs of Iogua, Welcome to the Water Museum, and Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses.

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