The Waterproof Bible by Andrew Kaufman

DATE FINISHED: July 30th, 2012 

RATED: **** 

SYNOPSIS:  Rebecca has suffered since the day she was born with an overwhelming and uncontrollable ability to project her emotions – an issue she has finally resolved with a handy storage unit containing boxes of mementos, which keeps her excess emotions in check.  On the day of her sister Lisa’s funeral she suddenly realises she has lost touch with some of her feelings which she desperately needs and she realises it is time to deal with her issues – but how?  Aby is a little green around the gills.  Raised as a staunch Aquatic (the religion of an underwater civilisation which evolved following the Flood) she is breathing air for the first time as she crosses the country in a stolen car, on a mission to ‘rescue’ her landlocked, heretical mother Elizabeth before the opportunity is gone.  Elizabeth is running a little-visited hotel in the mountains aided only by Stewart, who in his spare time is building a boat and taking phonecalls from his troubled ex, Rebecca.  Oh, and Lisa’s husband Lewis has met a woman who tells him she is God, but God’s voice is not quite what he might have expected, and has some unforeseen effects…

THOUGHTS:

Stewart got out of the truck and walked into the wheat field he’d parked beside.  The stalks grew higher the deeper into the field he went. He continued walking. The stalks were slightly taller than his waist, but he still didn’t know what to say.

While overwhelming emotions is a problem most of us can already empathise with, it takes a little more suspension of belief to take at face value an Aquatic race living alongside our own (although unknown to most humans), and manifestations of God.  However, Kaufman’s first full-length novel builds on the success and quirky characterisation of All My Friends Are Superheroes; and the unreal/supernatural elements can be read as ‘real’ or metaphorical, as the reader prefers.  Think of it as a fable with a more complex plot structure and you won’t go far wrong.

The toast popped.  Rebecca watched as Lisa smeared forgiveness onto it.  She dumped two heaping spoonfuls of forgiveness into a mug and filled it with coffee.  Lisa carried the toast and the coffee from the counter to the table, setting both in front of Rebecca. She sat across the table and looked at her expectantly.  Rebecca took a tiny bite of the toast. The forgiveness was very bitter and she could hardly swallow.

I enjoyed this book, but not as much as Superheroes.  It is concisely written with some cleverly constructed imagery, lots of interesting characters and the converging storylines soon align neatly – a little too neatly, perhaps: the exposition of the Aquatic religion/philosophies outlining some of the story’s themes, and the signposting of how the stories might/would converge was sometimes a little too obvious, and there were times when I felt the (slightly new-age) message overpowered the story rather than allowing the story to expose the message implicitly.   On the other hand, I really did enjoy the story, the journey, the characters and the little moments of humour throughout.  And spirituality aside, at its core (like Superheroes) it is a love story, perfect if you are looking for a slightly off-beat, light and uplifting read.

FOLLOWING ON:  The spiritual fable element reminded me strongly of Illusions by Richard Bach.  An alternative version of life after the Flood is explored by Sam Taylor in The Island at the End of the World.  The use of the supernatural as psychological metaphor is a frequent motif in the fiction of Graham Joyce.

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