Mae is 14, her sister Edie 16, when their mother tries to hang herself from a downstairs rafter of their Louisiana home. Mae, lying on her upstairs bedroom floor, senses what she is doing but does nothing to stop it. Edie arrives in time to save Marianne, who is committed to a mental health facility.
The girls are sent to New York to live with their father, Dennis, who walked away from the family 12 years prior. With Marianne as his muse, Dennis became a bestselling author; without her, he's blocked. He tries to provide stability for his daughters, and Mae finds comfort in the fresh start, away from the suffocation of an unnerving bond with her turbulent mother. Rebellious Edie, however, is fiercely protective of Marianne and wants nothing to do with this new life.
In The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish, Katya Apekina dives into the abyss of family history and examines some rather unsightly affairs. Within short, alternating entries from more than 10 first-person perspectives--primarily Mae and Edie's, along with letters, journal entries, therapy notes and conversation transcripts--Apekina captivatingly unspools the saga of Dennis and Marianne.
Dennis and Mae's relationship begins to spin into dysfunction as her uncanny resemblance to Marianne awakens his creativity. As Mae becomes disturbingly entwined with Dennis, Edie's drive to flee and rescue her mother becomes undeniable. Mae ultimately takes drastic measures of her own to find escape. Dark yet bitingly funny, Apekina's debut evidences depth well worth the ugly. --Lauren O'Brien of Malcolm Avenue Review