The Same Deep Water as You by Chad Lutzke
A Book Review by Rich Duncan
One of the best things about reading is the thrill of discovering a new author. There’s something special about cracking open a new book from an author you’ve yet to read and being totally floored. That’s the exact feeling I had last year when I discovered Chad Lutzke’s Stirring the Sheets. That novella was about loneliness and grief and the lengths one man will go in order to try to cope with the loss of his beloved wife. The story packs a powerful emotional punch and taps into the reader’s emotions to create a memorable story that sticks with you long after you finish it. That ability to evoke such a lasting response is just one of the many reasons it ended up on my Favorite Reads of 2018 list and if you haven’t read it yet, I highly recommend you do so. So when Chad announced he had a new book coming out at the start of the year, I knew I had to read it. The Same Deep Water as You is a bit of a departure from Lutzke’s other works, but it’s no less engaging.
The Same Deep Water as You opens with a verse about love, which is the beating heart that drives the story. We meet the main characters Lex and Jessica as they are sitting in her car outside of Lex’s apartment. Reader’s don’t know much about the characters at this moment, and instead Lutzke chooses to set the atmosphere by focusing on the scene itself and capturing this intimate scene with lyrical prose. “The radio was there instead of conversation. It was saying more than we ever could. Offering melodies and lyrics that spoke for us.” This simple line may not pack as much of an impact out of context, but as you venture deeper into the story, it holds a much deeper meaning. Music is such a huge part of most of our lives and for many of us, certain artists or songs are tied to powerful memories from our past that offer a feeling of nostalgia every time we turn them on again. As soon as I read that line, I knew I was going to connect with this book. I could see part of myself in Lex and that line in particular brought back a flood of memories I had early in my life. Music plays an important role in this novel as it is filled with references that help ground the story in a particular time period. I like this approach because while it does give a concrete timeline to the story, it is also vague enough to appeal to a wider audience.
It was a risk for Lutzke to start the novel without giving us a sense of the characters, the way he captured the moment made me want to read more. I also loved the way he was able to craft a scene that is loaded with emotion and the weight of their complex personal history without using a single line of dialogue.
After this introductory scene, The Same Deep Water as You follows Lex and his friends as they navigate early adulthood together over the course of one summer. They skate every chance they get and are constantly dodging jocks who often attack them whenever they cross paths. A bulk of the story focuses on their personal journeys of dealing with love and loss and what makes it so engaging is Lutzke’s ability to capture that feeling of nostalgia. Though my experiences weren’t identical to the characters in the book, I could relate to their struggles.
The Same Deep Water As You succeeds on the strength of Lutzke’s brilliant characterization. It’s a relatively short work – clocking in at 82 pages – but he manages to bring these characters to life in a way that they will either remind you of yourself or someone you know. The group’s relationship is portrayed organically through scenes of skateboarding, partying and making fun of each other. Jessica is the first character that we meet and in a few short lines, we instantly get a feel for her personality. She’s abrasive and intimidating, and these traits often caused people to keep their distance from her. However, Lex is attracted to these qualities. He respects her individuality and the fact that she is different from everyone else. When they first meet, Lex has recently ended a lengthy relationship and is still getting over the aftermath. They hit it off immediately, and it helps Lex take his mind off his ex, a woman he thought he would end up marrying one day. They were just casual friends at first, often driving around town for miles talking and listening to music. However, over time their relationship grew and eventually they became best friends, spending the night together and growing extremely close. Jessica and Lex get a majority of the focus, but even other characters in their group are brought to life in just a sentence or two and they spring to mind fully formed, which is something that can be difficult to accomplish.
The Same Deep Water As You is structured around these characters and their relationships with each other. Lutzke does a great job of showing how each member of the group grows and changes throughout the course of the story. A large part of the story focuses on the lighthearted nature of their bond with one another, but they are faced with numerous hardships as the story progresses. The way Lutzke captures those good times so vividly maximizes the impact of those scenes when they occur so that they catch the reader off guard.
While many readers may not see The Same Deep Water As You as traditional horror, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t fit within the genre. There is a dark undercurrent that is present throughout the story. Instead of supernatural threats or even more horrific true life horror, Lutzke invests you in the lives of these characters and utilizes everyday horror. He captures the loss and pain that’s common in most of our lives and uses it with a devastating effectiveness. I won’t get into anything remotely resembling spoilers here, but what I can say is that The Same Deep Water As You is a deeply moving story that is equal parts nostalgia and heartbreak that will appeal to those who enjoy horror with a more emotional slant. I find something new to enjoy with each new book I read from Lutzke and I can’t wait to see what sort of story he tackles next.