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The Chronology of Water: A Memoir Paperback – April 1, 2011

4.2 out of 5 stars 118 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"I've read Ms. Yuknavitch's book The Chronology of Water, cover to cover, a dozen times. I am still reading it. And I will, most likely, return to it for inspiration and ideas, and out of sheer admiration, for the rest of my life. The book is extraordinary." —Chuck Palahniuk, Pygmy

"I love this book and I am thankful that Lidia Yuknavitch has written it for me and for everyone else who has ever had to sometimes kind of work at staying alive. It’s about the body, brain, and soul of a woman who has managed to scratch up through the slime and concrete and crap of life in order to resurrect herself. The kind of book Janis Joplin might have written if she had made it through the fire - raw, tough, pure, more full of love than you thought possible and sometimes even hilarious. This is the book Lidia Yuknavitch was put on the planet to write for us." —Rebecca Brown, author of The Gifts of the Body

"The Chronology of Water’s central metaphor works beautifully: we all keep our heads above water, look around, and enjoy our corporeal life despite all the reasons not to; beyond that, the book is immensely impressive to me on a human level: the narrator/speaker/protagonist/author emerges from a seriously hellish childhood and spooky adolescence into a middle age not of bliss, certainly, but of convincing engagement and satisfaction." —David Shields, author of Reality Hunger: A Manifesto

"This intensely powerful memoir touches depths yet unheard of in contemporary writing. I read it at one sitting and wondered for days after about love, time, and truth. Can't get me any more excited than this." —Andrei Codrescu, author of The Poetry Lesson

"Flooded with light and incandescent beauty, Lidia Yuknavitch's The Chronology of Water cuts through the heart of the reader. These fierce life stories gleam, fiery images passing just beneath the surface of the pages. You will feel rage, fear, release, and joy, and you will not be able to stop reading this deeply brave and human voice." —Diana Abu-Jaber, Origin: A Novel

"Lidia Yuknavitch’s memoir The Chronology of Water is a brutal beauty bomb and a true love song. Rich with story, alive with emotion, both merciful and utterly merciless, I am forever altered by every stunning page. This is the book I’m going to press into everyone’s hands for years to come. This is the book I've been waiting to read all of my life." —Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild

From the Inside Flap

INTRODUCTION BY CHELSEA CAIN:: This is not your mother’s memoir. In The Chronology of Water, Lidia Yuknavitch expertly moves the reader through issues of gender, sexuality, violence, and the family from the point of view of a lifelong swimmer turned artist. In writing that explores the nature of memoir itself, her story traces the effect of extreme grief on a young woman’s developing sexuality that some define as untraditional because of her attraction to both men and women. Her emergence as a writer evolves at the same time and takes the narrator on a journey of addiction, self-destruction, and ultimately survival that finally comes in the shape of love and motherhood.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Hawthorne Books (April 1, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0979018838
  • ISBN-13: 978-0979018831
  • Product Dimensions: 0.8 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (118 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #17,199 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Beyond its clear, dazzling lyrical passages, beyond its fierce energy and unending optimism, there is so much to say about this confessional, bravely written memoir, and you can be sure that The Chronology of Water is an important book. Its themes -- womanhood, motherhood, stillbirth, women's reproductive rights, bisexuality, love and fatherhood, promiscuity and sexual violence, drug and alcohol abuse, sorrow and grief, hope, and survival -- are cultural and political talking points, significant because these issues ought to be discussed and must be heard. That Lidia Yuknavitch is brave enough to begin these discussions with her readers is well worth applauding, and I think it would be a shame and an oversight to think anything less of the importance, and relevance, of this book.
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Format: Paperback
This book is not pretty. It does not talk about an eating disorder. You will not like the protagonist/voice. This book knows no redemption. Finally, a book that can tell you what the world feels like on your nerves. This book tells you what it feels feels like to be a woman, to have a body that is as electric, as alive as any man's. This book is so spectacular in its ordinariness, it will give you permission to be so too. If you want to read a memoir that won't spoon feed you society's rhetoric on why good girls go bad, why girls eat their feelings, or try not to screw their feelings away, then read this. Read this book if you've ever felt ugly, or did things that were ugly. Read this book if you are lonely. Read this book because if you do not have the words for what happened to you, maybe Lidia Yuknavitch does.
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Format: Paperback
I might've liked this book when I was 15. It reads like it was written by a 15 year old. Here, let me tell it to you straight no chaser (if you think this is a clever turn of phrase, good news! It'll appear repeatedly in the book): I was so disappointed it made me angry.

I can deal with stories that are all style, no substance––as long as it's good style. The frustrating thing here is that there is obviously a ton of substance to be found in Yuknavitch's life but she tries too hard to play word games which aren't half as new or interesting as she thinks they are. The genuinely touching moments get lost in all that static. She proudly proclaims that she's a "weird" writer ("'Experimental' sounds dumb, and 'Innovative' sounds strangely snooty") who likes to break the rules of language, but none of that creativity is displayed here. It's not experimental and definitely not innovative to use the same tired, cliché phrase over and over again in a >300 page book, but I guess it could be weird. Or lazy. Or maybe just bad writing.

There are … dramatic pauses that would make any adolescent diarist proud. They happen … quite often. There are lots of run-on sentences I mean it's to convey the urgency and the wonder and the breathtaking beauty and drama and the whole everything of everything of it all but you know when it happens so often and watch out here's a wordbond I just made up wow isn't that cool and edgy and awesome and really my point is that after a while these blocks of text get exhausting and not in a good way. They lose their effect and it becomes a chore to slog through them.
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You know that feeling when you stand in front of a piece of abstract art--say a giant blue square. And everyone around you is remarking about the genius of it, the subtlety, the nuance, the provocative nature of that particular shade of blue--and all you are thinking is, "Oh. My. God. This is bulls***." That's what I was thinking as I was reading this book.

The fairly enlightened women in my book club selected this tome, so in a way, I was forced to read it. The first question I posed to the group was "Is anyone else having trouble connecting to, or caring about this woman?" Apparently they were not. I believe they may have been blinded by her particular shade of blue to notice that she is a self destructive, other's destructive name dropping narcissistic psychopath who barfs all over the page and consequently all over the reader.

No, Lidia, I am not impressed with your run-on sentences and words all smashed together in the "I know the rules, so I'm allowed to break them" style. No, Lidia, I am not impressed with your Unchronological storytelling that reads as if chunks of this book were written decades apart. No, Lidia, I am not impressed that you are 'brave enough' to tell your story honestly. In fact, I don't think you are honest, and that you are still side-stepping your pain by using literary device and writing razzle dazzle.

I'm going to read it to the end (and I'm a little angry about that), if for no other reason than to be able to knowledgeably argue the points outlined above to my book group. I'm two-thirds of the way in and am waiting to see if the author redeems herself and has some kind of personal transformation or revelation that could in any way indicate a reason that she wrote this, other than, "Lookit me. I'm in your face."

I see you.
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