Citizen Reviews: When to Go in the Water

We continue our occasional series of customer reviews with Ben Paulson’s thoughts on the new novel from Larry Sutin. Larry will be at Magers & Quinn to read from his book on Saturday, June 6. See our events page for all the details.

When to Go in the Water by Lawrence Suttin
You won’t be sure, but you will think you’ve read this book before. There’s something familiar about it, something you can’t place, and that, dear reader, is because it’s all familiar. You have read it all before, in different places and at different times in your life. And yet, this book seems to be something new. Lawrence Sutin’s new novel When to Go in the Water contains a rich fusion of influences and it wears these influences unabashedly. When to Go in the Water tells the tale of Hector de Saint-Aureole, a Dickensian protagonist that meanders through his life and across the globe, writing a book of meditations on the nature of the world and his place in it. This narrative is interrupted sporadically throughout by descriptions of the responses of his imaginary readers, some of whom exist long after Saint-Aureole’s death. Sutin’s use of this framework allows him to playfully shift between characters and styles, alternating fluidly between whimsical fancy, coy nostalgia, and a sense of stark poignancy. Part Dickens, part Plascencia, and part Fitzgerald, When to Go in the Water is a meditation on the subtle erosions of existence and the unintentional effects of simply participating in life. And while you may find its pieces eerily familiar, the whole will be something wholly original and affecting.
Ben Paulson lives in St. Paul, where he obsesses about books, zombies and breakfasts.