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The Chronology of Water: A Memoirby Lidia Yuknavitch
2012 Oregon Book Award for Readers' Choice
Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir, The Chronology of Water, is fierce and voluptuous. Intimate and expansive. Hard, hard stuff presented in gorgeous language. I picked it up on impulse, read the first line, and was crying before I reached the end of the opening segment. There's heartbreak in here, yes. There's rage and triumph. But what really brings tears to my eyes when I read is beauty.
The Chronology of Water was not what I was expecting or hoping for. It was more beautiful, poetic, and painful than anything I've read in a long time. I picked it up looking for debauchery and depravity; I found breathlessness.
"I'm not sure I've ever had such a powerful, complex reaction to a book. The Chronology of Water is astonishingly beautiful, and, as a writer, Yuknavitch is a force. Her writing hits you, hard. It rocks you. She knocked me over with passages so brilliant, so true, I had to reread them over and over until I could bear to let them go in order to move on to the next paragraph." Megan Zabel, Powells.com (Read the entire Powells.com review)
"It didn't surprise me that as soon as I finished Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir, The Chronology of Water, I broke out in a fever. Maybe lingering late-season germs were to blame, but I'm also convinced that this bold and highly unconventional book — hot, gritty, unrelenting in its push to dismantle the self and then, somehow, put the self back together again — gets not just under a reader's skin but seeps all the way into her bloodstream." Debra Gwartney, The Oregonian (Read the entire Oregonian review)
Synopses & Reviews
This is not your mother's memoir. Lifelong swimmer and Olympic hopeful Lidia Yuknavitch accepts a college swimming scholarship in Texas in order to escape an abusive father and an alcoholic, suicidal mother. After losing her scholarship to drugs and alcohol, Lidia moves to Eugene and enrolls in the University of Oregon, where she is accepted by Ken Kesey to become one of 13 graduate students who collaboratively write the novel, Caverns, with him. Drugs and alcohol continue to flow along with bisexual promiscuity and the discovery of S&M helps ease Lidia's demons. Ultimately Lidia's career as a writer and teacher combined with the love of her husband and son replace the earlier chaos that was her life.
"The floodgates of Yuknavitch's (Real to Reel) powerful memoir burst open with the birth of her stillborn daughter and from there the events of her life 'swim in and out between each other, ithout chronology.' Yuknavitch is a former competitive swimmer and she repeatedly returns to the image of life's fragments being swept along, as if by a current. After a childhood spent fearing her abusive father and furious at her alcoholic mother for failing to protect her and her older sister, Yuknavitch received a swimming scholarship to Texas Tech, which she loses after her second year when she became addicted to alcohol and drugs. Married briefly to an artist, she ends up at the University of Oregon, part of a fiction workshop taught by Ken Kesey, her writing fueled by the recent loss of her daughter. It takes another failed marriage before she realizes that mutual respect between a man and a woman is possible. This isn't a memoir 'about' addiction, abuse, or love: it's a triumphantly unrelenting look at a life buoyed by the power of the written word. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Flooded with light and incandescent beauty, Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water cuts through the heart of the reader. These fierce life stories gleam, fiery images passing just beneath the surface of the pages. You will feel rage, fear, release, and joy, and you will not be able to stop reading this deeply brave and human voice." Diana Abu-Jaber, author of Origin: A Novel
"I love this book and I am thankful that Lidia Yuknavitch has written it for me and for everyone else who has ever had to sometimes kind of work at staying alive. It's about the body, brain, and soul of a woman who has managed to scratch up through the slime and concrete and crap of life in order to resurrect herself. The kind of book Janis Joplin might have written if she had made it through the fire — raw, tough, pure, more full of love than you thought possible and sometimes even hilarious. This is the book Lidia Yuknavitch was put on the planet to write for us." Rebecca Brown, author of The Gifts of the Body
"This intensely powerful memoir touches depths yet unheard of in contemporary writing. I read it at one sitting and wondered for days after about love, time, and truth. Can't get me any more excited than this." Andrei Codrescu, author of The Poetry Lesson
"From the moment I picked up The Chronology of Water, I couldn't put it down, and I thought about it long after I'd finished. Rarely do you find talent like Lidia Yuknavitch's. Reading this book is like diving into Yuknavitch's most secret places, where, really, we all want memoir to take us, but it so rarely does. The reader emerges wiser, enlightened, and changed." Kerry Cohen, author of Loose Girl: A Memoir of Promiscuity
"I've read Ms. Yuknavitch's book The Chronology of Water, cover to cover, a dozen times. I am still reading it. And I will, most likely, return to it for inspiration and ideas, and out of sheer admiration, for the rest of my life. The book is extraordinary." Chuck Palahniuk, author of Pygmy
"The Chronology of Water's central metaphor works beautifully: we all keep our heads above water, look around, and enjoy our corporeal life despite all the reasons not to; beyond that, the book is immensely impressive to me on a human level: the narrator/speaker/protagonist/author emerges from a seriously hellish childhood and spooky adolescence into a middle age not of bliss, certainly, but of convincing engagement and satisfaction." David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto
"Lidia Yuknavitch's memoir The Chronology of Water is a brutal beauty bomb and a true love song. Rich with story, alive with emotion, both merciful and utterly merciless, I am forever altered by every stunning page. This is the book I'm going to press into everyone's hands for years to come. This is the book I've been waiting to read all of my life." Cheryl Strayed, author of Torch
About the Author
Lidia Yuknavitch is the author of three works of short fiction: Her Other Mouths, Liberty's Excess, and Real to Reel, as well as a book of literary criticism, Allegories of Violence. Her work has appeared in Ms., The Iowa Review, Exquisite Corpse, Another Chicago Magazine, Fiction International, Zyzzyva, and elsewhere. Her book Real to Reel was a finalist for the Oregon Book Award and she is the recipient of awards and fellowships from Poets and Writers and Literary Arts, Inc. Her work appears in the anthologies Life as We Show It (City Lights), Forms at War (FC2), Wreckage of Reason (Spuytin Duyvil). She teaches writing, literature, film, and Women's Studies in Oregon. Her first novel is forthcoming from Hawthorne Books.
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