While Elias Rodriques’s debut novel can be described as a meditation on memory, what makes it stand out from other novels is how Rodriques uses memory as a conduit for revealing and exploring identity ... an impressive debut about the intersectionality of identity and memory, revealing how where we live and who we love can embed themselves so deeply, there is no escape.
... poignant ... turns into an unexpected and inventive strain of what one might call millennial noir ... Each of Daniel’s interactions adds to a portrait of modern resignation while providing sly revelations that whisk the plot forward ... In some ways, Daniel embodies the noir antihero. He is aloof and cynical, and harbors a dark secret that ratchets up the suspense as much as his own investigation into Aubrey’s past does. Yet his character defies easy molds. The term 'intersectionality' hardly does justice to the cat’s cradle of his demographic markers and traumas ... Rodriques’s prose is as measured as it is nuanced. This gradually comes to seem less a stylistic choice than a means of survival for his protagonist: It isn’t until we meet Desmond that Daniel’s grip on language and self-modulation eases ... This and later scenes of dialogue with Desmond make for the novel’s strongest moments. As the two friends exchange hip-hop references, unsentimental confessions and ideas for 'all-Black heaven,' the familiar flow and biting wit of their banter help Daniel accept the inalterable nature of the past ... But toward the end, there’s an abrupt shift to a new narrator who suggests that Daniel and Desmond still lack 'the good sense to figure out what questions they need to ask to learn what they don’t know.' This removed perspective undermines the characters’ growth, along with virtues like resolve and hope. In keeping with noir cues — and a disillusioned generation — the future remains uncertain, beyond their control, subject only to forces as mutable as the Florida coastline.
...the novel breaks out into something far more interesting than a typical bildungsroman, a less clearly-charted story blossoming ... Rodriques brilliantly captures this sensation of old lives feeling excluded from 'new ones,' and how this is used to shape the narratives people that, like Daniel, tell themselves about their lives, which can be a very hard routine to extract oneself from ... The novel shuttles between his family history and Daniel’s current thinking, shaped by dialogue between characters. This is where Rodriques thrives—capturing real, genuine human speech, the cadence of how one speaks at home with old friends, versus in their new lives, away from the memories ... The novel at times drifts towards the kind of clichés that abide in fiction and coming of age stories—the need to get out, to make something of yourself, to escape the treacheries of a life you haven’t chosen. And yet, All the Water I’ve Seen is Running not only examines growing up, leaving home, changing, and then returning, but also examines how masculinity and maleness can ebb and flow depending on context ... In rhythmic prose that belies the seriousness of the topic, Rodriques examines what it is to reconsider male friendship in adulthood, to balance newfound beliefs and acceptances, and to understand that who someone was as a teenager isn’t the person they are now.