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The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman

The Waterproof Bible

by Andrew Kaufman

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968192,875 (3.48)24
Rebecca has a most unusual problem: no matter how hard she tries, she can't stop broadcasting her feelings to people around her. Luckily, she's discovered how to trap and store her feelings in personal objects -- but just how much emotional baggage can Unit 207, E.Z. Self Storage hold? Lewis is grieving for his wife, Lisa, Rebecca's sister. Inconsolable, he skips Lisa's funeral, flies to Winnipeg, gets a haircut and meets a woman who claims to be God. At the wheel of a stolen Honda Civic is Aberystwyth, aka Aby, driving across Canada to save the soul of her dying mother. She is green, gill-nec… (more)

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Gift from Jessica Horvath (Renheim)

Andrew Kaufman's books are always a little strange, but this one surpasses the others (All My Friends Are Superheroes; Born Weird).

It begins in Toronto with Rebecca on the way to her younger sister's funeral, together with her brother-in-law Lewis. Rebecca has the unusual ability to project her feelings into other people; the stronger the feeling, the wider her range. Since childhood, she has taken to storing her strong emotions in objects, where they can be contained. This would be odd enough, but Rebecca and Lewis' car is nearly struck by another car driven by a green-skinned woman.

The green woman is Aby, an Aquatic: this is a whole species of humans who live in the ocean. They breathe through gills, though they can survive on land ("unwatered") as well, and they have their own belief system. Aby has come on land for the first time in her life on a mission to bring her mother, an ex-Aquatic, home.

Aby's mother, however, does not want to return to the ocean. She runs a hotel in Manitoba, near Winnipeg; the same hotel, in fact, where Rebecca's husband Stewart works as a clerk, building a boat in his spare time - though they are nowhere near the water, and in fact it is so dry that the town has called in rainmakers, an estranged father-son pair who use different methods.

Water runs all through this book: it's water damage in her storage unit that leads Rebecca to realize that throwing out the objects containing her feelings erases the feelings completely. Should she, then, throw out everything and start with a clean slate?

All the characters' stories converge, and there is, of course, a flood. As always, Kaufman has created something unique, but I was less interested in the Aquatic side of things than in Rebecca's predicament.


He wanted to travel but lacked any desire to arrive. (Lewis, 38)

"What's fate and what isn't? Where does it stop and where does it start? Is fate part of the story or the whole story?" (Stewart to Margaret, 103)

Not being able to hear meant he didn't have to listen. (Lewis, 191)

"Have you people never noticed there's a central flaw? No? Here comes the clue - the only difference between a happy ending and a sad ending is where you decide the story ends." (Lisa/God to Lewis, 195) ( )
  JennyArch | Jan 7, 2015 |
Like his cult novella All My Friends are Superheroes, the characters in this book are all people with very unusual traits, but which are treated as if they aren't anything out of the ordinary, living in a world which seems pretty much like our own, rather than a created fantasy universe. It is a very quirky, odd story but written about in a simple matter-of-fact way and is despite the weirdness is essentially a story about relationships. Rebecca has the quirk of whatever feelings she has, everyone around her can see them, so she attempts to hide them from the world which involves storing mementoes of her life. Her brother-in-law, Lewis is a pop star who meets a woman claiming to be God. Aby is (and this is where it gets very weird) an amphibian creature (one with gills and a greenish hue to the skin, but apparently looks like humans otherwise) who has come onto the land for the first time to find her mother, Margaret, who left the water for the land years ago and now runs a hotel with no guests. They have their own religion 'aquatics' that teaches that they are the chosen ones, saved from the Great Flood but given the ability to live on land and in water as a test of their faith, with anyone who choses life on land being damned. The book has various messages about religion and memories, which might have come across as trite had they not been presented in this imaginative way. Very sweet and enjoyable. ( )
1 vote sanddancer | Aug 11, 2010 |
Rebecca Reynolds and Lewis Taylor are in the back seat of a limousine on the way to her sister’s funeral (Lewis’s wife, Lisa), when they are almost T-boned by a white Honda Civic driven by a green woman with gills. Three pages in to the story we experience one of those little paradigm shifts in reality which tells the discerning reader that we’ve just left the planet as we know it.

Equally quickly, we learn that Rebecca transmits every emotion she feels to everyone around her so when she feels fear, guilt, anger, etc., this is projected into everyone in a radius relative to the strength of the emotion she feels. She has learned to conceal her feelings in everyday objects which she stores in locker #207 at the E.Z. Storage facility. Bereft by the loss of her little sister and with nothing at hand to channel her feelings into, she gives Lewis the full blast of her anger, grief, and intense hatred of him in the backseat of the limo - so much so that Lewis flees the car and starts flying aimlessly across the country, in great need of personal repair.

Aberystwyth, the green-gilled one, is attempting to drive to Winnipeg to save her mother’s soul. She is one of the race of Aquatics called the Hildafgod (I can’t reproduce the letters as Kaufman wrote them), who live in cities deep in the ocean’s canyons, a race which discovered they could breathe underwater when the Great Flood covered the earth with water. God, apparently, preferred water to things like mountains or fjords. They live much as we do, even evolving a theology with its moral dos and don’ts which, while different in its specifics, is similar in its aspects of control over its adherents.

Kaufman gives us doses of Aquatic spirituality and religion, over-achieving rainmakers, Rebecca’s ex-husband who builds a sailboat on the prairies, great sweeping questions about souls and owning our emotions, God in the guise of a bicycle courier but none of it seems silly. It seems, rather, possessed of tremendous sweetness without being the least bit treacly. It is, in the end, a story about recognising what’s important and keeping that close to your heart.
8 vote tiffin | Jul 3, 2010 |
The author writes about a number of related people who have relationship issues. They are all quirky (one character-Rebecca can project her emotions on to others and she keeps souvenirs of good and bad times in a self storage unit.) Rebecca's sister, Lisa dies, and before the funeral a number of actions change the course of several lives. Lisa's husband, Louis, runs away from the funeral and heads out to Winnipeg where he encounters a woman who says that she is God. Rebecca contacts her husband, Stewart, who left her and is now living in Manitoba and building a boat in the Prairies. Just when you, the reader, think that you have sorted out the issues that unite and separate the characters, Kaufman throws you a curve ball. He creates a race of "Aquatics"- entities who live under water, and can also exist on land. The green creature,Aby, driving recklessly in Toronto nearly crashes into the funeral limosine carrying Lisa's relatives. Aby has a mission and this plot line neatly intersects with the Lisa/Rebecca/Stewart/Louis relaitonships. This book is funny, creative( you learn a lot about the "Aquatic" culture) and a joy to read. The end is sorted out nicely for me and I highly recommend this book. I couldn't call it science fiction- but see for your self. ( )
2 vote torontoc | Apr 17, 2010 |
This was a delightful and strange read, very strange, wonderous strange!

From Random House: "A magical story of love and the isolation that defines the modern condition - Andrew Kaufman pulls off the near impossible and creates a wholly original allegorical tale that is both emotionally resonant and outlandishly fun.

Rebecca Reynolds is a young woman with a most unusual and inconvenient problem: no matter how hard she tries, she can't stop her emotions from escaping her body and entering the world around her. Luckily she's developed a nifty way to trap and store her powerful emotions in personal objects - but how many shoeboxes can a girl fill before she feels crushed by her past?

Three events force Rebecca to change her ways: the unannounced departure of her husband, Stewart; the sudden death of Lisa, her musician sister; and, while on her way to Lisa's funeral, a near-crash with what appears to be a giant frogwoman recklessly speeding in a Honda Civic.

Meanwhile, Lisa's inconsolable husband skips the funeral and flies to Winnipeg where he begins a bizarre journey that strips him of everything before he can begin to see a way through his grief… all with the help of a woman who calls herself God."

This novel explores how life's journey is full of twists and turns, encounters and accidents -- most of which remain unexplained and inexplicable. "If I hadn't met Rebecca and fallen in love with her, and then left her, I wouldn't be here, and I wouldn't be making this boat. So the boat wouldn't exist and neither would your question. Was it fate that I fell in love with Rebecca? And then that I left her? Or that I loved her, left her and then found this place and started building this boat? What's fate and what isn't? Where does it stop and where does it start? Is fate a part of the the story or the whole story?...I don't know. What about you?" p. 103. Answers to these questions and other life quandaries are thought by some to be found in the of the Bible...the word of God. Kaufman suggests that this idea needs to be reevaluated through Margaret's speech about the Aquatic Bible: "This book is full of lies....Beautiful, true, inspiring...But fiction. This book is filled with stories that can change your life, help you live, love, be loved. But these stories are not here to make us deny any part of ourselves. They are not here to bully us. The Bible teaches us that dying unwatered will curse your soul. How does that help us understand God? Or know God's love? It does not. It only keeps us in fear, leaving half of the grace God gave us unexplored and unused, something I feel God takes more as an insult than as a form of worship. Remember that the truth within yourself will always be greater than the truth found in these pages. These stories are here to guide us -- to help us find that truth, not to tell us what it is." p. 138 As for some great purpose in our lives, Kaufman states, "You idiot...there is no meaning. There's no plan. No script. It's not a movie. There's no lasting significance. No great reward. No right. No wrong. No punishment. No justice. There's no heaven or hell. Forget all that. There's no reason for any of this. It's all random. Everything's fucking random!" p. 163

Kaufman further reminds us that often we view our problems as insurmountable obstacles when in reality, they are insignificant. He invents a ritual for his "Aquatics" called litill. "When Aquatics are overwhelmed, they seek out the tallest object in view, lie on their backs, put their heads against it and look up. The ritual is called litill, and its purpose is to remind believers that they are actually quite small and, therefore, so are their problems." p. 116

Kaufman wants us to realize that although we have little control over the events in our lives, we have the power to determine our perception of it. "...the only difference between a happy ending and a sad ending is where you decide the story ends." p. 191 Further, we must decide whether to hold onto a past which is emotionally paralyzing or daringly stepping into the unknown. "Do you think it's cowardly, or courageous, to get rid of your past and start all over again?" p. 178... "You're about to become emotionally invulnerable...it will feel safe. It will feel like a good thing. But that's the problem. Who's gonna make themselves vulnerable if they don't have to? Who's gonna willingly make themselves weaker? But if you don't start feeling real emotions soon, you will quite literally become nothing...You need to start feeling something. Something meaningful." p. 240-241.

This is a short little book, but one designed to make us think and laugh. ( )
2 vote Scrat | Apr 5, 2010 |
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