By Lewis Robinson
(Random House, Hardcover, 9781400062171, 256pp.)
Publication Date: January 13, 2009
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Lewis Robinson’s critically acclaimed story collection Officer Friendly was described by the San Francisco Chronicle as “eleven letter-perfect stories with the keen understanding of human nature readers expect to find in works by veterans like Alice Munro.” Now Robinson has written Water Dogs, a suspenseful, disquieting, and compulsively readable first novel that takes an unforgettable look at the delicate patchwork of a family.
Bennie knows that the details of his life don’t show well. A twenty-seven-year-old college dropout with stalled ambitions, he works at an animal shelter and lives with his bullheaded older brother, Littlefield, in their old family home on Meadow Island, Maine, a house that has fallen into disrepair since their father’s untimely death several years earlier.
When a massive blizzard hits the state one Saturday afternoon, Bennie, Littlefield, and a crew of roughneck war-game enthusiasts decide to play paintball at the local granite quarry. Bennie accidentally falls into a gully, landing in the hospital, and wonders if his life can get any worse. But when one of the players disappears during the storm and Littlefield becomes the main suspect in the disappearance, Bennie realizes that the game might have had much higher stakes. Then Littlefield takes off without a word of explanation, forcing Bennie to seriously question his loyalty to his enigmatic brother. With the guidance of his intrepid girlfriend, Helen, and his twin sister, Gwen, Bennie goes looking for answers, embarking on a journey that brings him closer to a truth he may not want to discover. What he finds will change his family and his life forever.
Written in prose as arresting and spare as the novel’s rural Maine setting, Lewis Robinson’s Water Dogs is a marvel of modern fiction, a book rich in empathy that follows one man’s path through the uncertainties of youth and loss toward self-discovery.
Lewis Robinson is the author of Officer Friendly and Other Stories, winner of the PEN/Oakland-Josephine Miles Literary Award. A graduate of Middlebury College and the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he received a Whiting Writers’ Award in 2003. He now teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine and coaches basketball in Portland, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Advance praise for Water Dogs
“Lewis Robinson is a terrific writer, and in Water Dogs he evokes the moods and landscapes of Maine as deftly as he examines the conflicts and alliances within a family. This is a smart, suspenseful, absorbing first novel.”
–Curtis Sittenfeld, author of American Wife
“Lewis Robinson writes with authority and grace about the complications of sibling love: jealousies, disappointments, old hurts, and blind devotion. The siblings in Water Dogs, despite their unusual circumstances, are thoroughly convincing, with an underlying sweetness that betrays the author’s big, beautiful heart.”
–Monica Wood, author of Any Bitter Thing
“The disappearance of a man during a snowstorm is just the first of many intriguing mysteries layered in Lewis Robinson's luminous novel. Among the other enigmas are the ways we find love, or lose it; the shifting tides of family loyalty; and the endless pull of home. Wonderfully rooted in its Maine landscape, Water Dogs is a compelling and poignant book.”
–Alix Ohlin, author of Babylon and Other Stories
“Lewis Robinson is an irresistible storyteller. I've spent some time in Maine and, well, apologies to all you hockey-playing, urchin-harvesting hard asses up there, it’s not my idea of Vacationland. But from the first sentence of Robinson’s wry yet headlong prose, I found myself devouring the place. This is a wonderful novel.”
–Sean Wilsey, author of Oh the Glory of It All