The Chronology of Water

Lidia Yuknavitch

I thought I would love this, based on recommendations. But I did have one friend say she wasn’t as entranced as she expected, and I found my reaction much the same. A memoir told in vignettes that roughly progresses chronologically, Lidia Yuknavitch grew up in an abusive, neglectful household, and her one escape was swimming. At the end of high school, she pursues a scholarship in hopes of escape, yet despite her success in securing her independence, she struggles with addiction and self-destructive habits for many years.

There are some really hard parts to read in this, most especially the one where Yuknavitch writes of causing a head-on car collision with someone she describes as “a 5′ tall brown skinned pregnant woman who had no English,” which she connects to her stillborn daughter, titling these pages “Collision as Metaphor.” Maybe I just picked this up at the wrong time to appreciate it, maybe I just can’t relate to that level of self-destructiveness. In the subsequent interview with the publisher, Yuknavitch says:

I never say in this book what happened to the woman I hit head on with my car. I have deferred that information purposefully. Because I want you to stay with me — me drunk driving across eight lanes of freeway traffic at midnight in my car — stay with me inside my own pain and grief and vodka breath and pee and barf — stay with me as the gunpowder smell from the air-bags fills the car.
         Sometimes we’re sad. And wrong-headed. And drunk. That’s all.