Call Up the Waters

“A stunning collection by an extraordinary talent… These stories are suspenseful, moving, and beautifully written.”—JILL MCCORKLE
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Winner of the 2024 O. Henry Prize in Short Fiction for “Didi”

A magnetic debut collection of stories about the daily lives and labors of girls and women in rural America.

In Call Up the Waters, the natural world is an escape hatch, a refuge, a site of work, and an occasional antagonist. In the title story, a devastating drought leads a mother of two deep into the Colorado Rockies in search of water. In “The Handler,” a woman leaves her boyfriend for the New Hampshire woods and fifty-seven sled dogs. A distress call from a boat in Massachusetts Bay compels a mother, in “Sea Women,” to plumb her daughter’s secrets. A girl torn between truth and expectation shows her courage in a funereal performance in “Barn Burning.” And in “Bending the Map,” a woman turns the tables on her obsessive, would-be lover after a powerful storm ravages her canyon home.

The characters in these ten stories—search-and-rescue workers, dog trainers, naturalists, archaeologists, and dowsers—are each fundamentally shaped by the environment in which they live and work. They seek meaning through labor, connection through jobs. But in that searching they often find themselves far from their destination. Familiar landscapes suddenly feel strange. Unfamiliar spaces offer something like hope. Off the map and off the grid, these characters, and their regrets and devotions, are nevertheless immediately, intimately recognizable.

Sharply observant but steadily elegant, textured with empathy and grit, Call Up the Waters marks the arrival of a remarkable new talent.

Publish Date
8.5 × 5.5 × 0.5 in
10.2 oz

Amber Caron

Amber Caron is the author of the story collection Call Up the Waters. Her stories and essays have appeared in The Threepenny Review, PEN America Best Debut Short Stories, AGNI, Story, Bennington Review, Southwest Review, Longreads, Writer’s Chronicle, and elsewhere.

Praise and Prizes

  • “With astonishing power and in crystalline prose, the stories of Call Up the Waters follow people who maintain precarious balance on the edge of the natural world.”


    Foreword Review, starred review
  • “Caron’s assured debut collection explores humanity’s relationship with the natural world. […] These stories provide strong and varied impressions of characters on the margins.”

    Publishers Weekly
  • “In Amber Caron’s debut collection of short stories, Call Up the Waters, the natural world is an escape hatch, a refuge, a site of work and an occasional antagonist.”


    Jan Risher, The Advocate
  • Call Up the Waters is a stunning collection by an extraordinary talent. With great precision, Amber Caron manages to locate the most fragile and painful parts of her characters’ relationships while also pulling in a vivid sense of the external world and all that is beyond the open window or door. These stories are suspenseful, moving, and beautifully written.”

    Jill McCorkle
    author of Life After Life
  • “Amber Caron’s debut signals the arrival of a bright talent to literary short fiction. Her prose sings, and shapes satisfying stories that reveal deeply human truths about labor, gender, and our ineffable connection to the natural world.”

    Megan Mayhew Bergman
    author of How Strange a Season: Stories
  • “Amber Caron creates a sobering and nuanced sense of emotional wilderness—a world in which no place is ever entirely sure or safe. This book is cool, assured, unsettling, and gorgeous.”

    Joan Wickersham
    author of The News from Spain and The Suicide Index
  • “Amber Caron writes with flinty tenderness about the ways that human yearnings can collide with impervious physical and emotional landscapes. Her language is swift and precise. Her vision reaches beyond the surface terrain. The result, in this impressive debut collection, is storytelling that reverberates and haunts.”

    Deirdre McNamer
    author of Aviary: A Novel