Watermark (House of Anansi)
In her new collection of short stories—already in its second printing—Christy Ann Conlin explores connections between water, life and death.
Conlin grew up in Turners Brook on the Bay of Fundy. Nowadays, she lives outside Wolfville. Her stories have been influenced by her oceanfront life and her reverence for water in all its forms.
“Every story has water in it,” explains Conlin, “whether it's the oceans, whether it's the sea mist, or hoarfrost, or a river, low tide, high tide, tears, saliva, a waterfall, a tidal river. So all the stories work with a metaphor of water and how water shapes us and how water shapes everything it touches. And so the stories are all connected that way.”
In this collection, water defines everything, including the characters and their motivations.
“All of the characters have ties to the Atlantic, and ties to the water, and the coast and a longing for home,” Conlin explains. “And there’s that sense of coming back to yourself or literally coming back and returning like a sailor at sea.”
But Conlin knows that you should never take your relationship with water for granted.
“We understood how to walk on the beach,” she reflects. “You did not walk on the beach when the tide was coming in in certain parts because you would die.”
So in these stories there’s nothing idealized, or saccharine, or touristy about the ocean or any other water. Yes, water is synonymous with home, but it’s also dangerous and deadly. A Ph.D. student stays overnight in a moored sailboat that might be sinking. A linguist eats “weird stuff out of the sea.” An unfaithful husband drowns.
“The ocean is harsh and unforgiving,” Conlin says. “When I hear people talk about, ‘oh, the ocean understands me,’ I'm like, ‘the ocean doesn't fucking understand you—the ocean will kill you.’”