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Half an Inch of Water

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A new collection of stories set in the West from "one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary writers" (NPR) Percival Everett's long-awaited new collection of stories, his first since 2004's Damned If I Do, finds him traversing the West with characteristic restlessness. A deaf Native American girl wanders off into the desert and is found untouched in a den of rattl A new collection of stories set in the West from "one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary writers" (NPR) Percival Everett's long-awaited new collection of stories, his first since 2004's Damned If I Do, finds him traversing the West with characteristic restlessness. A deaf Native American girl wanders off into the desert and is found untouched in a den of rattlesnakes. A young boy copes with the death of his sister by angling for an unnaturally large trout in the creek where she drowned. An old woman rides her horse into a mountain snowstorm and sees a long-dead beloved dog. For the plainspoken men and women of these stories--fathers and daughters, sheriffs and veterinarians--small events trigger sudden shifts in which the ordinary becomes unfamiliar. A harmless comment about how to ride a horse changes the course of a relationship, a snakebite gives rise to hallucinations, and the hunt for a missing man reveals his uncanny resemblance to an actor. Half an Inch of Water tears through the fabric of the everyday to examine what lies beneath the surface of these lives. In the hands of master storyteller Everett, the act of questioning leads to vistas more strange and unsettling than could ever have been expected.


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A new collection of stories set in the West from "one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary writers" (NPR) Percival Everett's long-awaited new collection of stories, his first since 2004's Damned If I Do, finds him traversing the West with characteristic restlessness. A deaf Native American girl wanders off into the desert and is found untouched in a den of rattl A new collection of stories set in the West from "one of the most gifted and versatile of contemporary writers" (NPR) Percival Everett's long-awaited new collection of stories, his first since 2004's Damned If I Do, finds him traversing the West with characteristic restlessness. A deaf Native American girl wanders off into the desert and is found untouched in a den of rattlesnakes. A young boy copes with the death of his sister by angling for an unnaturally large trout in the creek where she drowned. An old woman rides her horse into a mountain snowstorm and sees a long-dead beloved dog. For the plainspoken men and women of these stories--fathers and daughters, sheriffs and veterinarians--small events trigger sudden shifts in which the ordinary becomes unfamiliar. A harmless comment about how to ride a horse changes the course of a relationship, a snakebite gives rise to hallucinations, and the hunt for a missing man reveals his uncanny resemblance to an actor. Half an Inch of Water tears through the fabric of the everyday to examine what lies beneath the surface of these lives. In the hands of master storyteller Everett, the act of questioning leads to vistas more strange and unsettling than could ever have been expected.

30 review for Half an Inch of Water

  1. 4 out of 5

    lark benobi

    I enjoyed every story in the collection. A mix of themes, stories of journeys that may or may not involve spiritual elements, of families in conflict, or of a test of some kind; all set in a harsh and beautiful landscape. The stories seem to both begin and to end mid-stream, and yet, to be entirely whole, exactly right. One aspect about this collection that I really love is the way each story merges the physical world with the spiritual world in an unexpected way. The tone of the stories never wa I enjoyed every story in the collection. A mix of themes, stories of journeys that may or may not involve spiritual elements, of families in conflict, or of a test of some kind; all set in a harsh and beautiful landscape. The stories seem to both begin and to end mid-stream, and yet, to be entirely whole, exactly right. One aspect about this collection that I really love is the way each story merges the physical world with the spiritual world in an unexpected way. The tone of the stories never wavers from the concrete, and yet miraculous things occur in the minds of the protagonists. Even life and death feel like two sides of the same river where you can cross back and forth with relative ease and without fear. "A High Lake" is a story where this easy travel from life to death and back again happens quite overtly, and where it is central to the story theme, and it was my favorite story. But there is the same, true kind of magic in each one of these stories.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Betsy Robinson

    This is my sixth Percival Everett book, the second short story anthology, and this one works as a continuing story with repeating characters. Unlike all of the other books I’ve read so far, these stories are more traditional and literary, not humorous, all occupying the same Western (Wyoming, Colorado) terrain: ranches, rivers, fishing, flowing meadows. Rough-living people with softness inside. There’s a lot of warmth here. “Little Faith” feels like an homage to one of my other favorite authors, This is my sixth Percival Everett book, the second short story anthology, and this one works as a continuing story with repeating characters. Unlike all of the other books I’ve read so far, these stories are more traditional and literary, not humorous, all occupying the same Western (Wyoming, Colorado) terrain: ranches, rivers, fishing, flowing meadows. Rough-living people with softness inside. There’s a lot of warmth here. “Little Faith” feels like an homage to one of my other favorite authors, Kent Haruf. Complete with no quotation marks on the dialogue. (All the other stories use quotation marks.) It is a quiet Western story. Stillness within a tense drama to find a lost little girl. It left me with a sigh. An interesting aside: in one of Everett’s other books, a protagonist points out that unless a character is identified as black, readers assume he’s white. The first reference to the veterinarian in this story being black doesn’t come until page 10: [Wes, a client, says to Sam, the vet:] You know, being a black vet out here. I have to admit it, I had my doubts. About what exactly? Whether you’d make it. You mean fit in? I guess that’s what I mean, yeah. Wes, I grew up here. Grade school. High school. I’ve never fit in. I probably will never fit in. I accept that. Everett is black and writes black characters, so I now assume his people are black unless otherwise identified as white. He’s reversed my assumptions and I love it! I also love that his stories are not about being one race or another; race is just a fact. And you get to feel what the person living inside feels about the outside and its interpretation or lack thereof by others in a way that I’ve never read before. “Stonefly” is a quiet fish-out-of-water story about dealing with pain. A mood piece. “A High Lake” is a warm end-of-life story about an independent woman. Tension, release, catharsis, gasp. “Exposure” took my breath away. It was a father/daughter story that is at once so obvious that I can’t believe nobody else has written some version of this, and so rare that I’m contemplating buying a copy of this book just to own this story. (I’m reading a library copy.) “Wrong Lead” is a title with many possible meanings. A rancher gives riding lessons to fearful people and they learn a lot more than he acknowledges saying. Even though this is a domestic relationship story, Everett gives it so much more grit than this kind of material usually delivers. “The Day Comes” left me with chills racing up and down my body. It started out like such a dry Western story, and then calmly everything turned. Well done. “Finding Billy Whitefeather” feels like it might be a mystery, but it’s not. I won’t say more and ruin it. I will say that at the end, I threw my head back and said (not laughed): “Ha ha.” “Liquid Glass” is the first Percival Everett story that hasn’t worked for me; it felt like a failed exercise that he couldn’t figure out. Would love to hear other opinions on this one. And finally there’s “Graham Greene,” a story about a man who just tries to do the right thing.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Paul Secor

    Each year, I see the candidates for major literary awards and prizes and I never see Percival Everett's name mentioned. I don't understand this, but the awards and prizes aren't mine to give out, so I'm probably not intended to understand. In the meantime, Mr. Everett's writings flow on, as inexorably and purely as one day flows into the next. He has my gratitude for that.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jen

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. I kind of figured out the ending before it happened, but Levar Burton can read me the phone book and I would listen with complete attention and rapt silence. Good story too. Kind of sad, but sweet too. 3.5 stars, rounded up for the sweetness of the narrator. Not sure, if he thought the son could have been dead, why he didn't check obituary records. Just saying.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Madeline

    this is the first work I've read of Percival Everett's. I feel like I've discovered a diamond mine.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Zoe's Human

    An interesting story if a bit predictable. I suspect LeVar Burton's narration makes a big difference. He's a brilliant storyteller, and I think I would enjoy anything a bit more for him reading it.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Chrysten Lofton

    4.8⭐ Graham Greene by Percival Everett (Via Half An Inch Of Water) On this, the sixth installment of Sticher podcast's LeVar Burton Reads , we're gifted with Graham Greene by Percival Everett. This story was just so beautifully, humorously, tragically human. I just love that part of it, that this could have happened to me. As a matter of fact, this is the sort of shit that happens to me. It really challenges the reader to look at motivations of the protag and the supporting characters. There was 4.8⭐ Graham Greene by Percival Everett (Via Half An Inch Of Water) On this, the sixth installment of Sticher podcast's LeVar Burton Reads , we're gifted with Graham Greene by Percival Everett. This story was just so beautifully, humorously, tragically human. I just love that part of it, that this could have happened to me. As a matter of fact, this is the sort of shit that happens to me. It really challenges the reader to look at motivations of the protag and the supporting characters. There was also a story within a story, in my opinion. Because of the way this story ends, it causes you to look back at one of the supporting characters, and envision her history in your mind. Now that you have all the pieces, you can sort of look at her and think about why she did all the things she did, and what caused her to set this protagonist in motion. And because this is a short piece, that whole aspect is yours to imagine. I think that settings often manifest as a character themselves in small town stories, reservation stories, and short stories. The cast of players are all enjoyable. They're all familiar. They really brought in that realism and humanness. I think I might have to look at this author, he's got a fluid, enjoyable voice that comes off as effortless. Another great read via LeVar Burton Reads. **Note** Read on the dates listed, in the year 2017 - back dated to exempt from the goodreads challenge

  8. 5 out of 5

    Patty

    Excellent stories. I wish there were 50 more.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Campbell

    I came across this author by way of LeVar Burton's excellent "LeVar Burton Reads" podcast, in which he reads a short story, 'Graham Greene', taken from this anthology. I don't read much short fiction but that might have to change if I can find more like this; this was just great. I'm very much looking forward to reading some of this author's longer fiction.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    The short story Graham Greene found in this collection is refreshing, not only in how it's told but that it is set on a Wyoming Arapaho reservation. The story subverts your expectations and details a story about Roberta, an 102 year old woman, who is looking for her son before her death. She claims she has not seen him in decades and entreats Jack, who had worked on a water project on the reservation years ago, to find him. Given a picture, but few additional details, Jack goes out into the comm The short story Graham Greene found in this collection is refreshing, not only in how it's told but that it is set on a Wyoming Arapaho reservation. The story subverts your expectations and details a story about Roberta, an 102 year old woman, who is looking for her son before her death. She claims she has not seen him in decades and entreats Jack, who had worked on a water project on the reservation years ago, to find him. Given a picture, but few additional details, Jack goes out into the community to search for him. Not only does Jack make some assumptions about the son, but so do people who see the picture he has (hence the name of the story). The ending is bittersweet and you will think back to Roberta's motivation for the favor and why she specifically asked Jack to do it. This story was another great LeVar Burton Reads podcast selection.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Lillian

    These short stories grew on me the further I read into the collection. The ending of "Finding Billy White Feather" was so satisfying. It's one of those stories that seems to be meandering nowhere and then suddenly the last two sentences snap it all into place. "Liquid Glass" was another standout for me ... a lovely little ghost story about how wrong those "simple" fixes can go.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Matthew

    This is a great collection of short stories by an author I had never read before. It looks like about half of them were previously published and half were knew, but unless you were a regular subscriber to places like Virginia Quarterly Review or Callaloo, you probably missed them the first time. The stories are not exactly "inter-related," but they are all set in the same rural area of Wyoming, so characters in one story will re-appear in others -- especially Sam Innis, the African-American large This is a great collection of short stories by an author I had never read before. It looks like about half of them were previously published and half were knew, but unless you were a regular subscriber to places like Virginia Quarterly Review or Callaloo, you probably missed them the first time. The stories are not exactly "inter-related," but they are all set in the same rural area of Wyoming, so characters in one story will re-appear in others -- especially Sam Innis, the African-American large animal veteranarian who stars in the first story "Little Faith," and then appears to treat every character's horse in every other story throughout the collection, but doesn't get any further character development as he delivers twin foals or whatever. Most of the individual stories were excellent, but asides from the setting, they really weren't all the same "kind" of story, which was a little disconcerting. Some of the stories were of the "uncanny" or "magical realism" variety, like the first story "Little Faith" where atheist Sam meets up with his friend, an elderly Native American named Dave and they discuss the soul (Sam and Dave: Soul Men. Get it!?!) Later, after Dave dies, and Sam is on a rescue mission when he is bitten by a rattlesnake. Sam has a vision/hallucination/spiritual encounter with Dave, who might offer to heal him after chiding him for accepting help despite his atheism. ("You think you're having a vision, are you? Your not a spiritual person. Yet here you are hallucinating stereotypes.") Others are straight realism, like the second story "Stonefly," about a young teenager coping with growing up after his older sister got drunk and drowned. So, after reading the first two stories, you begin to realize that you don't actually know -- story to story -- if it's the type of story where magical, uncanny things might happen or not. So, later on, when very mysterious things start happening in "Finding Billy White Feather" (does Billy really even exist?) or "Liquid Glass" (is that headless body walking by a practical joke or an actual monster?) we are left even more unsure than the characters what the "rules" of the world are. And sometimes the answer appears to be magical, and sometimes it doesn't. Don't know if this variety led to a better or worse reading experience. Four Out of Five Times I Had To Look Up "Farrier" Before I Could Remember What It Meant

  13. 4 out of 5

    Christina Sohn

    I had been searching awhile for a book that was able to carry me away to another place and time, and I was lucky to have found this collection. While it is not a science fiction or fantasy novel, Percival Everett’s short story collection attains this transporting quality in its own way. Set in the West, the stories deal with the threat of the wilderness, the overcoming of loss, and the divide between generations. Throughout all of this, the narratives are infused with a magical quality that resi I had been searching awhile for a book that was able to carry me away to another place and time, and I was lucky to have found this collection. While it is not a science fiction or fantasy novel, Percival Everett’s short story collection attains this transporting quality in its own way. Set in the West, the stories deal with the threat of the wilderness, the overcoming of loss, and the divide between generations. Throughout all of this, the narratives are infused with a magical quality that resists sentimentality but embraces hope. If I were to adhere to literary tradition, I would identify Everett as Hemingway in the rugged West. In many ways, Everett’s prose seems reflective of the lone Western landscape -- unadorned and yet often able to fill one with feeling. I can try and pull out lines that affected me, but they may seem overly simplistic when taken out of the context of Everett’s tautly written passages of dangerous trips through ravines or battles to capture wild trout. I’ll note a few favorites, however, that occur in more contemplative moments in the stories. In “A High Lake,” as a woman and her horse travel further into the forest, Everett writes, “In fact she felt light; her bones did not speak to her.” When a boy looks up at the sky, he thinks that “for all he knew the snowflakes were stars, and he smiled.” This magical element of transformation and hope was one of my favorite aspects of Everett’s work. There is a brisk, mordant humor that keeps the collection grounded in realism—but those moments of fantasy and the supernatural were what lingered with me after I finished the collection.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Zeke Gonzalez

    To be honest, I thought I was going to hate this collection, but that's probably because I find the cover so bland and off-putting. However, it was actually a really nice collection of rustic stories that center around encounters with animals or spirits that create a symbolic (and physical) conflict for an emotional or spiritual problem. Namely, these stories address disillusionment, life and death, and the power of nature. It's a sincere and thoughtful collection, with glimpses of wry humor and To be honest, I thought I was going to hate this collection, but that's probably because I find the cover so bland and off-putting. However, it was actually a really nice collection of rustic stories that center around encounters with animals or spirits that create a symbolic (and physical) conflict for an emotional or spiritual problem. Namely, these stories address disillusionment, life and death, and the power of nature. It's a sincere and thoughtful collection, with glimpses of wry humor and the faintest touch of the supernatural and surreal to bind it all together. The flatness and sobriety of Everett's tone, and his proclivity for inconclusive endings, is shared among these stories, and rather than detracting from the stories, it adds to the sense that they occur across the same Western landscape (in fact, several of the stories share characters). All things said, I enjoyed these stories and I think that the collection's title is a reference to the saying "You can drown in half an inch of water," which is absolutely perfect.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Andre

    Full disclosure; I am truly a fan of Percival Everett's writing, so I tend to be a bit biased when it comes to his work. Although I enjoyed this collection of stories, I can't say there was anything special about this book. His prose was ordinary and the stories, while showcasing a holistic approach to life didn't generate enough vibrancy to make the assemblage sizzle. I found each one pleasurable enough, but not adequately memorable. The stories leave you with things to ponder, but some definit Full disclosure; I am truly a fan of Percival Everett's writing, so I tend to be a bit biased when it comes to his work. Although I enjoyed this collection of stories, I can't say there was anything special about this book. His prose was ordinary and the stories, while showcasing a holistic approach to life didn't generate enough vibrancy to make the assemblage sizzle. I found each one pleasurable enough, but not adequately memorable. The stories leave you with things to ponder, but some definitely have that unfinished feel. I still would recommend this book to those who like short stories and good writing.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lauren Magee

    Everett depicts a fascinating portrait of the American West. His stories are simple but deeper meaning peeks around every corner. He dabbles in issues of race, aging, alcoholism, divorce, and adolescence while telling stories of very realistic characters. His characters will dip in and out of multiple stories, creating a full view of a town which I enjoyed. He dips into a little bit of fantasy, but he is careful not to tip too far in. I really enjoyed all of the characters and stories, I just al Everett depicts a fascinating portrait of the American West. His stories are simple but deeper meaning peeks around every corner. He dabbles in issues of race, aging, alcoholism, divorce, and adolescence while telling stories of very realistic characters. His characters will dip in and out of multiple stories, creating a full view of a town which I enjoyed. He dips into a little bit of fantasy, but he is careful not to tip too far in. I really enjoyed all of the characters and stories, I just always wish the stories were longer. I want to know what happens to these characters, and that isn't a bad thing.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Charity

    it is thrilling to find authors that you know you'll follow forever, especially as that becomes a less frequent occurrence as one gets older. HOLY HELL PERCIVAL EVERETT. your stories have such beautiful landscape, such gentle nuance of characters, and then just when you think you're reading a story about something in Wyoming, the lid completely blows off and the supernatural takes over. i don't even usually read short stories, and could NOT put this down. i can't wait to explore his novels.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Alan

    What a find, one of the most intriguing authors I've found in a long time. These stories are tightly constructed and you feel like you've read a novel by the end of each one.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Dan Plonsey

    I found this collection of stories by the author of Erasure (one of my favorite books) to be mysteriously disappointing. Set in the West (one town in Wyoming, it appears), each story features a central character whose moral uprightness is highly correlated to knowledge of cars and/or horses. This character successfully negotiates a rite of passage, which culminates in being rewarded with modest supernatural affirmation and/or the respect of family member and/or community. Perhaps written in an a I found this collection of stories by the author of Erasure (one of my favorite books) to be mysteriously disappointing. Set in the West (one town in Wyoming, it appears), each story features a central character whose moral uprightness is highly correlated to knowledge of cars and/or horses. This character successfully negotiates a rite of passage, which culminates in being rewarded with modest supernatural affirmation and/or the respect of family member and/or community. Perhaps written in an attempt to explore the qualities of western life that Everett obviously loves, I found these stories to be too formulaic to enjoy.

  20. 5 out of 5

    William

    This is so far from my usual interests. I picked it up because I read half of an interview with him and he made a joke that I liked. This collection was excellent. The stories varied a lot, but all were good in their own way. Some were about black dudes in present day Wyoming, others relating heavily to reservations in the area as well. Writing was beautiful too. Pick this up.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Kathleen

    "The coming cold weather didn't trouble her; it was not even unwelcome; it was simply a fact. your horse steps in a puddle, his hoof gets wet. It's not a good thing, it's not a bad thing, it's just a thing. She remembered her husband saying this from time to time."

  22. 5 out of 5

    David

    Beautiful, deceptively simple writing. The beauty is more in the sound than in the images ("The late morning sun was still behind him, but the shadows of the sage were beginning to shorten") you can almost hear that last section strike a major, go to minor, and resolve to major chords. Most of the stories have an every-day mysticism to them.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Bexa

    These were all so entertaining. I'm glad that Everett's work was recommended to me, because I've enjoyed it.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Allison Strauss

    What a surprise! Empathetic, imaginative short stories of diverse, realistic characters in the contemporary American West. Has a sense of magic without employing fantasy.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Cori

    I'm wondering whether I should skip LeVar's intros to the stories. I think he builds them up too much and then when I'm not as amazed as he is I'm disappointed. They're good stories. And he reads them well and there's good sound design. But this wasn't the edge of my seat always guessing story he promised.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Troy Zaher

    “Graham Greene” - 4.5 stars Other stories - unread I only read one story in this collection as an audiobook on LeVar Burton Reads, but I plan to read the rest of the collection as well at some point. Graham Greene is a short story about a 102 year old Native American woman from the Midwest, asking a man to go searching for her lost son before she passes away. This was deep and thoughtful. It really made you question what the characters were actually thinking when they made took various actions. Th “Graham Greene” - 4.5 stars Other stories - unread I only read one story in this collection as an audiobook on LeVar Burton Reads, but I plan to read the rest of the collection as well at some point. Graham Greene is a short story about a 102 year old Native American woman from the Midwest, asking a man to go searching for her lost son before she passes away. This was deep and thoughtful. It really made you question what the characters were actually thinking when they made took various actions. There are many interpretations that you could take away from this story. For me, I took it as a story about coming to terms with loss, and learning to be there for someone in the way they need. *spoilers* I’d like to think Berta hoped that the protagonist was someone her son would’ve grown up to be. Sending him on a search for her son, was tryin to have him find the essence of her son, in order to allow him to take her son’s place by her side as she passed.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Magen

    This was a fascinating tale and one of the few short stories I would aruge is complete as is. Everett likes to play with reader's assumptions and while I knew that going in (thanks to LeVar Burton), I was still greatly surprised by the ending. The story itself was well-written and thus vivid and complex. I am glad I listened to this story. As always, the LeVar Burton Podcast audio version was exceptional, with the exception of the commercial break in the middle of the story. There is so much dept This was a fascinating tale and one of the few short stories I would aruge is complete as is. Everett likes to play with reader's assumptions and while I knew that going in (thanks to LeVar Burton), I was still greatly surprised by the ending. The story itself was well-written and thus vivid and complex. I am glad I listened to this story. As always, the LeVar Burton Podcast audio version was exceptional, with the exception of the commercial break in the middle of the story. There is so much depth these audiobook versions add to the stories, it makes me not want to read stories any other way. LeVar is a great narrator and the sound effects are excellent. If you haven't tried his podcast yet, I encourage you to do so.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Norman

    Percival Everett is a writer whose style and content are truly unique. An African American writer whose books deal with race in such a subtle and oblique way that it would be easy to make the mistake that he does not deal with race at all. In his stories the nature and geography of the American West, are essential elements. Horses turn up a lot in Everett's writing, not as metaphors, but as real beasts against whom humans can be more clearly seen. Half an Inch of Water is a pleasure to read.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pjo Riley

    Incredible western settings and complex, earthy characters, so real in their glorious and fallible humanity. At times also a bit otherworldly, which is a human way to look at life. I picked this from a display at a local indie bookstore and am floored by the storytelling and the quality of the writing. I will be rereading this (something I hardly ever do) and will put Percival on my list of authors to buy.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Sian Griffiths

    Everett writes Wyoming as only an insider could, filling each story with characters who feel like they just rode in out of life, stopping to give their horses a bit of rest before heading out again. Fortunately for the reader, they will find no rest in these conflict-driven situations, but they do again and again reveal beautiful moments of humanity. This collection is like a master class in how to write short stories. So good.

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