Listen for Water
...a snappy, bittersweet coming-of-age novel that tells the story of roles reversed–a daughter charged with keeping her mother and their lives right-side up.
It’s no easy task for a teen who wants to be anywhere but here while her mom is hellbent on living as though she wasn’t somebody’s mother.
by Marie Beswick Arthur
For contemporary fiction fans of Bastard Out of Carolina, Lullabies for Little Criminals, and Regretting You
Connection attracts knowledge, creativity breeds resilience, but nothing grows without water...
The unhealthy parent-child relationship with her mother means Dakota has been burdened with age-inappropriate responsibility her whole life. Koda must scrounge for food as they face eviction from their low rent apartment and relies on whispered lessons from a mentor who is no longer in this world. What else do you do when mom has an addiction?
Ray, Koda’s mother, boasts talents limited to video gaming on an ancient Nintendo and penning lyrics to suspiciously familiar melodies.
Ray’s impulsive behaviour sends them both on the ride of their lives, during which a tampering incident has tumultuous consequences. They fall off the Earth, lost to the forested mountains, and embark on an emotional and physical quest for survival.
Marie Beswick Arthur is an award-winning writer of poetry and fiction who has worked with countless authors as a ghostwriter, editor, mentor, and coach.
Each faces the challenge in unexpected ways. Ray ensures they do not need to adapt to a life without water. Koda learns about her birth father and the roots of her strange recurring dream. As they write their own unique wilderness survival guide, they discover surprising things about themselves, their past, and their mother-daughter relationship.
In the end, Ray is gifted with the opportunity for a do-over. And Koda? Can she ever forget and forgive that her mother was an addict? Only time will tell.
In Listen for Water (excerpt)
The budgie barked. Ray and I thought it was a dog until we fell oﬀ the earth.I woke to crashing dishes. Ray was eating again. I’d told her a hundred times: this stuﬀ’s ceramic, not Corelle, but she pitched plates into the sink as if tossing rings onto the necks of bottles at a fairground.
In the silence that followed, I picked up a distant howl from outside, then untangled from my sheets. A steady beat played in my head, overspill from the drum dream, and a word that was so faintly written behind my eyes that I wasn’t sure it was one: ﬁshbaby. But that was always the case. The beat, the word, and no other memory other than there had been a dream.
The thin, Shrek-themed comforter made a cape housecoat with enough left to pad the window frame so I could lean comfortably while looking down on the world one ﬂoor below.
I’d been fourteen—Ray, thirty-two—when we’d moved in the year before. A twelve-block social experiment sandwiched between inner-city and suburb; intentionally planned by sociologists and contemporary designers to house the down-and-out in subsidized style.
Our turquoise front-doored apartment topped a slick insurance agency with a purple door that side-by-sided ours. The purple opened to commerce and fashionable furniture. Ours exposed a narrow set of stairs that led up to church-donation, mismatched minimalist.
The tip of my nose squished against the glass, the windowpane a giant slide containing a cross-section of our lives. Our street separated the experiment of us from the real world. A green boulevard rolled out on the other side of the road, then a row of single-family homes on wide lots, beyond which sprawled acres of aﬄuence. An I’M SOLD! sign decorated the lawn of the bungalow closest to us.
The 8:30 buzzer sounded at the local elementary school, even though it was Saturday. Ray slammed the fridge door. The eviction notices we’d received—we’d had at least four—seemed to have engaged some primal appetite.
As well-meaning as help-the-marginalized plans can be, our sponsorship had disappeared months ago with a change in civic leadership. Advocacy groups were enraged at the rent increases delivered to the poor. While not-for-profit organizations rallied on our behalf, we missed two months. Each time a rent reminder arrived, I’d hint to Ray that she try to ﬁnd a teeny-tiny part-time job. The suggestion hadn’t even scared her oﬀ the couch.
The experiment had failed. Given the proximity to downtown businesses, our shiny clean designer-hood had become desirable. Revenue undermined the original concept and the demand for apartment space increased. People wanted to be where we lived. Though we were not someones, we were somewhere the someones wanted to be. But it sucked that those someones would take our space now that we couldn’t afford it. The blanket slipped to the ground. I threw on my jeans and a white t-shirt with a Carter’s Drugstore logo on the right sleeve.
“Well, if it isn’t the Lovely Princess Granola.” Ray greeted me while she lobbed a chicken bone into the sink.
She wore a grey oversize sweatshirt—circa 1970s Goodwill; no pants and mismatched ankle socks that might have been white at one time. “You’re up already? Got a job interview?” I asked. Sarcasm was my middle name.
“It’s the strangest thing, Koda, I’ve been watching Breaking Bad since four-thirty this morning and only just realized they’ve been playing the same two episodes on repeat.”
She ate from a boxed chicken dinner; must have gone out when I was sleeping. How she’d paid for the food was a mystery because, a few days before, she’d lost her purse and wallet somewhere between the sketchy locations of None-of-your-business and Nowhere.
“Did you find your purse?”
“Someone’s probably picked it up and traded it for smokes,” Ray said.
“How long will it take to get new ID?” I wasn’t speciﬁc: how long she’d take to initiate the process, or the length of time the authorities would take to issue replacements.
“I can’t remember how long it took last time,” said Ray. “But one thing’s for sure, I must be getting bad karma for something cuz this is the rankest KFC ever.”
“Not your weekend, is it?”
Ray didn’t recognize rhetorical. “No Koda, it’s not. Lost purse I can deal with, but bad KFC is heart wrenching.” She sucked dark meat off another bone and her elbow bumped the misaligned lid of the cat cookie jar. Dammit, she’d raided it and taken the laundry money—fast food instead of clean clothes.
"I thoroughly enjoyed reading Listen to Water! This story is a delightful read about redemption and relationships set in a hilariously, larger-than-life scenario. Marie touches on some pain points in a dysfunctional mother-daughter relationships, but interjects humor at precisely the right moments. I found that I was actually laughing out loud several times while reading this book. I also found myself cheering for the characters to make the right decisions. While the context has the potential to be a dark story, it pivots to one of hope over and over again. Amazing work!"
Author of The Picture Wall: One Woman's Story of Being His Her Their Mother
"An immensely enjoyable read!
A mesmerizing and truly refreshing twist to a young girl's understanding of the world and a testament that miracles do happen. A masterful illustration of our potential for human growth and how much we need each other."
"A survival story in more ways than one, Listen for Water is a fascinating study of a mother/daughter relationship as it changes, reverses, and grows. Ray’s use of a self-help survival book in a real survival situation adds humour and strengthens our appreciation of the love between the two formerly at-odds protagonists. An impressive first novel by a talented author."
Author of Julie, The Doll, Summer of the Mad Monk, On the Wings of a Dragon, Out on the Prairie, The Deadly Dance, and the Ghost Voyages series.