(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Water Liars” is told in first person by an unnamed married man who recalls his reaction the previous year when he learned that his wife had had sex with other men before their marriage. As the story begins, he is still trying to determine why he was, and apparently still is, unable to handle that knowledge. He realizes his tendency to constantly relive every “passionate event” and finds himself driven wild by thinking about his wife’s former lovers even though he acknowledges that her sexual history is no different from his.

On the morning following his thirty-third birthday, after a night of extensive drinking, he and his wife awake to a truth telling that leaves the narrator in great shock and dismay. After several weeks of trying unsuccessfully to deal with his newfound knowledge about his wife’s sexual experiences, the narrator, on the pretext of going on a fishing trip with a friend, takes off for a week at Farte Cove. Typically, when things go wrong for the narrator, he finds escape and comfort in going down to Farte Cove off the Yazoo River in Mississippi to fish, drink, and listen to the old liars who gather on a fishing pier and tell tall tales and ghost stories. In addition to his unresolved agony about his wife, he also leaves behind worries about bill collectors and money problems.

When he reaches Farte Cove on Friday evening, he sees a combination of old and new faces, but the stories begin as always—a tale of...

(The entire section is 570 words.)