“Remarkable. This novel draws a parallel between missing/murdered Indigenous women and violence against the environment — all within a body-on-page-one murder mystery. It’s heavy lifting, but makes a lasting impression.”
— Christie Olson Day, Gallery Bookshop & Bookwinkle's Children's Books, Mendocino, CA
In this dark and ethereal debut novel, a young woman tries to make sense of strange artifacts and unsettling memories in an effort to find her mother—missing since being accused of murder
When brutish miner Hugo Mitchum is found murdered on the frozen shore of a North Country lake, the local officials and town gossips of Beau Caelais are quick to blame Marietta Abernathy, outspoken environmental activist and angry, witchy recluse. But Marietta herself has disappeared under mysterious circumstances.
Living on an isolated island with her father, Marietta’s sixteen-year-old daughter, Lena, begins sifting through her mother’s journals and collected oddities in an attempt to find her. While her father’s grief threatens to consume him and her adoptive aunt Bea reckons with guilt and acceptance, it is the haunting town outcast Ellis Olsen who might have the most to lose if Lena fails to find her mother.
A Nordic eco-noir shot through with magical realism, Things We Found When the Water Went Down examines power, identity, and myth in a story that asks us to explore what it means to heal—or not—after violence.
About the Author
TEGAN NIA SWANSON is an advocate, educator, artist, gardener, and UU-Buddhist, most at home while in or near large bodies of water, or walking under the canopies of many trees. Things We Found When the Water Went Down is her first novel.
A Library Journal Most Anticipated Fall Debut
“In this wide-ranging magical realist eco-noir debut, a young woman on an isolated island investigates her mother’s disappearance and the violent secrets that lurk behind it.” —The New York Times Book Review
"Swanson writes with nuance and care—clearly as someone who has devoted a part of her life to understanding the processes of healing and trauma . . . Swanson’s prose is stunning, mysterious, and intricate." —Sarah Neilson, Shondaland "A powerful, polyphonic story of survival and healing that gives in return as much as it asks." —Dana Dunham, Chicago Review of Books
"Things We Found When the Water Went Down is an ethereal, mixed media mystery novel about what we lose when the strongest, most vulnerable among us are made to disappear." —Eileen Gonzalez, Foreword Reviews (starred review)
"Intriguing and inventive . . . Swanson's novel explores themes of violence against women, small town prejudice, and corporate disregard in fascinating and unexpected ways that fans of stylish, experimental fiction will appreciate." —Booklist
"You’d be hard-pressed to find a more uniquely formatted book this year. Digging through strange artifacts uncovered by the protagonist, you’ll uncover small-town and familial secrets in this beautifully examined, feminist, and compelling can’t-miss book." —Audrey Kohler and Susan Post, BookWoman, Publishers Weekly
"Atmospheric . . . Though Swanson’s novel includes news stories, police interviews, and other elements of a detective story, it resists easy categorization. Swanson shifts from footnoted just-the-facts police interviews to lyrical prose poems to visual collages; the cast of characters is similarly diverse . . . An inventive and beguiling debut." —Kirkus Reviews
"Tegan Nia Swanson's debut is a multi-faceted excavation of inherited trauma in both the spiritual and physical world that asks if regrowth is possible after immolation and offers no easy answers. In shifting forms and propulsive language, she captures the impossibility of history, the fierce pride of so-called otherness, and the dream of a gentler world. Immersive, heartbreaking, and cathartic." —Julia Fine, author of The Upstairs House
"With the inspiration of passion and heightened attention (which some define as prayer) to her characters and setting, Tegan Swanson has written something entirely original and utterly fearless. Things We Found When the Water Went Down is an unforgettable literary experience that is more akin to being sucked down through a tube into a slightly different reality than it is to 'reading' a book. On this journey, the traveler’s heart stills, quickens, dives, ascends, and with each page, becomes wiser. I’ve never quite read anything like it. This book is a joy and an illumination." —Rick Bass, author of The Watch, The Hermit's Story, and All the Land That Holds Us
"Is Tegan Nia Swanson a novelist, poet, collagist, puzzle-master, or sorceress? Is this book a northern noir or an eco-thriller or a mosaic colored by magical realism? These are the questions raised by a dazzlingly original talent and story. Things We Found When the Water Went Down is a cerebral, lyrical, beautiful, mysterious defiance." —Benjamin Percy, author of The Unfamiliar Garden, The Ninth Metal, and Thrill Me