A Deep Dive Into Familial Relationships
Review: The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish
Two Dollar Radio, pp. 353
Cost: $16.99 (paperback)
In Katya Apekina’s novel The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, relationships are used to emphasize characterization and create drama within the story. In particular, the novel examines father-daughter relationships, mother-daughter relationships, husband-wife relationships, and artist-muse relationships. Told through numerous first person accounts in the form of narratives, letters, phone conversations, and interviews, Apekina provides the reader with an in depth, up-close look at the intimate intricacies of these relationships and their meanings. The unique structure of this novel allows the reader to see each character’s internal and external struggles and conflicts. These accounts in various forms help create strong characterization and drama within the story.
While the novel examines many relationships, the primary relationship explored is that between sisters Edith and Mae in the aftermath of the discovery of their mother Marianne’s suicide attempt. After Edith finds their mother hanging from the ceiling in their home and she is admitted to the hospital, Edith and Mae are sent from Louisiana to New York City to live with their estranged father, Dennis, a famous novelist. Edith resists the move while Mae tries to make the best of it. This strains their relationship, setting the groundwork for Edith to run away. Things turn sour however, when Dennis begins to look at Mae as her mother, his original muse. As Dennis’ interest in Mae increases, her mental health steadily declines, as the lines blur between herself and her impression of her mother.
Relationships are examined in relation to major events that occur throughout the novel. Edith and Mae’s relationship is at the forefront of the novel, the two sisters are almost always at odds with one another, leading to several instances of interpersonal conflict. The conflicts that the sisters endure work to characterize them. The reader is able to see the way each sister behaves and how they react to both each other and the world around them, creating a very clear picture of who each sister is and what their defining qualities are. This also allows the reader to learn more about the character of each person who interacts with either Edith or Mae as we see how they react to each of the sister’s strong personalities. One of Edith’s main goals throughout the novel is to travel back to Louisiana and free Marianne from the mental hospital in which she is being treated. Mae, however, wants to stay in New York City, creating a rift between the sisters.
These conflicts that arise also allow for the creation of more drama. With each sisterly quarrel or argument, the drama increases as the stakes are raised, eventually leading their relationship to a breaking point. Toward the conclusion of the novel, Apekina jumps forward in time, showing us the lives of Edith and Mae now that they are adults. Edith is married and starting a family, while Mae has turned the tables and is now using her experiences with her father as inspiration for her own art. To an extent this shows that the sisters’ relationship has been mended, showing even more personal growth that Edith and Mae have gone through along their journey.
This book takes a hard look at relationships, showing the ugly sides of people that sometimes rear their heads. The book shows that no matter how difficult relationships are, it is possible to overcome and move forward from them.
This book takes a hard look at relationships, showing the ugly sides of people that sometimes rear their heads. The book shows that no matter how difficult relationships are, it is possible to overcome and move forward from them. Without these conflicts that show the complexities of the characters’ relationships with each other, there would not really be anything holding my interest. The complexity of how everything weaves together is what really makes this book work, and shows Apekina’s mastery over her craft and ability to think innovatively and really immerse herself within the characters and world of her novel. Although this is a tragic, emotional book, it is a thrilling read from start to finish, a must read.