Things We Found When the Water Went Down
In this dark and ethereal debut novel, a young woman tries to make sense of strange artifacts and unsettling memories in an effort to find her mother—missing since being accused of murder
When brutish miner Hugo Mitchum is found murdered on the frozen shore of a North Country lake, the local officials and town gossips of Beau Caelais are quick to blame Marietta Abernathy, outspoken environmental activist and angry, witchy recluse. But Marietta herself has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Living on an isolated island with her father, Marietta’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Lena, begins sifting through her mother’s journals and collected oddities in an attempt to find her. While her father’s grief threatens to consume him and her adoptive aunt Bea reckons with guilt and acceptance, it is the haunting town outcast Ellis Olsen who might have the most to lose if Lena fails to find her mother.
A Nordic eco-noir shot through with magical realism, Things We Found When the Water Went Down examines power, identity, and myth in a story that asks us to explore what it means to heal—or not—after violence.
In Swanson's impressive experimental debut, a man's murder leads to a sordid aftermath in a rural mining town. After Hugo Mitchum is found face down by rangers in a near-frozen swamp, his death is ruled a homicide. Mitchum was a nasty, abusive miscreant since adolescence who loathed Marietta Abernathy, which, in addition to the fact that his body is discovered near her home, makes her the prime suspect. After Marietta, known as "the Obsessive Collector of Ephemera," is taken into custody for questioning, she escapes and vanishes soon after. Then her daughter, Lena, discovers a steamer trunk full of memorabilia from her mother's frequent travels. The circuitous narrative branches out to include details about Marietta and Lena's lives, the area's dark lore, and a bevy of clues imparted through a collage of newspaper headlines, interviews, illustrations, footnotes, memories, and typewritten letters. By the second half, the parts crystallize into a legacy of sexual abuse and a chronicle of revenge. The result is a darkly provocative assemblage ripe with quirky characters and undertones of horror, with allegorical notes grounded in the landscape upon which the citizens live and thrive. This gloomy and atmospheric mystery works on multiple levels.