The stories in The Disobedience of Water explore the boundary conditions between self and others. Social realities — racial and ethnic tensions, sexual harassment and abuse—provide the backdrop for struggles that ultimately take place in the heart. While Naslund’s characters accept that their inner tides cannot be brought into obedience, sometimes, in the act of recognizing the force of their own hopes, needs, and fears, they learn to navigate those waters.
These are, in the broadest sense of the word, love stories: of finding, discovering, and admitting love and forgiveness, whether a daughter’s love for her father in the face of perceived betrayal, or a wife’s love of her friend and her husband in the half-light of infidelity. In the long title story, which takes the form of a painfully revealing letter to an almost-lover, the narrator winds through swirling eddies of memory and language to deliver her present and past lives, and the loves that have informed them. Written with a masterful sureness of hand and heart, The Disobedience of Water will set a new milestone in Sena Jeter Naslund’s career as one of our most rewarding new writers of fiction.