When their mother attempts suicide, Edie and Mae are forced to move from their childhood home in Louisiana to New York to live with their estranged father, Dennis, a former civil rights activist and literary figure on the other side of success. The girls, grieving and homesick, are at first wary of their father’s affection, but soon Mae and Edie’s close relationship begins to fall apart―Edie remains fiercely loyal to Marianne, convinced that Dennis is responsible for her mother’s downfall, while Mae, suffocated by her striking resemblances to her mother, feels pulled toward their father.
The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish is brilliantly structured, with multiple characters narrating the events of the novel. The main voices are Edie's and Mae's; Edie's chapters are written in the present tense, set during the girls' stay in New York, while Mae recounts the events from the future, looking back at their lives with the gift of retrospection. It's an unusual technique that Apekina uses to stunning effect, creating a kind of narrative tension that propels the novel forward ... The Deeper the Water the Uglier the Fish resembles a Southern Gothic novel — but with a contemporary twist. There's nothing derivative about it, though. The structure, characters and storyline are all refreshingly original, and the writing is nothing short of gorgeous. It's a stunningly accomplished book, and Apekina isn't afraid to grab her readers by the hand and take them to some very dark and very beautiful places.
Apekina’s decision to structure the novel as a kaleidoscopic whirl of perspectives is perfect ... Apekina’s inventiveness with structure and sentence marks the book’s every page, and the result is a propulsive and electrifying look at how family—and art—can both break people and put them back together again. A dark and unforgettable first book.
The novel attempts, with mixed success, to address many topics—such as mental illness, civil rights, family trauma, and sexual and artistic consent. Though there are some loose threads at the end, Apekina has nevertheless written a confident, piercing novel