In So Much Water So Close To Home Carver takes a close look at marriage, and the loneliness and lack of trust or despondency that can occur between two people. Taken from his What We Talk About When We Talk About Love collection the story begins with Stuart at the kitchen table having his dinner. His wife Claire, who narrates the story, lets the reader know immediately that there is some distance between her and her husband. Stuart asks Claire what she is staring at, but Claire is unaware of the fact that she is staring. Claire is staring, probably in disbelief at Stuart, because she is aware that while he was on his fishing trip with his friends he came across the body of a girl in the water. Instead of calling the authorities immediately Stuart and his friends decided to continue with their fishing and drinking and only when they were leaving (three days later) did they notify the police. The girl’s death (murder) is all over the newspapers and Stuart and his friends are named as the people who found the body.
Stuart’s mother rings but Stuart doesn’t want to talk to her, again Carver giving the illusion of distance, this time with his mother. Despite this Claire still tries to talk to Stuart about the girl’s death. She can’t believe that he didn’t contact the police as soon as he and his friends found the body. Stuart however doesn’t want to discuss it and goes out to the backyard. While he is in the backyard Claire standing at the kitchen sink, pushes all the dishes onto the floor. She knows that Stuart has heard the dishes crashing onto the ground, but he remains silent in the backyard, mirroring his initial silence when discovering the dead girl.
Some readers will notice that Carver puts a lot of emphasis on Stuart’s movements, particularly his hand movements. Though she does not say it, the reader gets the sense that Claire believes that her husband and his friends could have killed the girl. And there is the incident when Stuart and Claire go out to get some beers. They pass by a local pond and Claire wonders why Stuart and his friends couldn’t have gone fishing locally. When she asks Stuart why he didn’t fish locally he starts to get angry and tells Claire not to rile him, the reader aware that there is an inability by Stuart to communicate with his wife. This can also be noticed in the bedroom, when Claire turns over and has sex with Stuart. There is no emotional closeness between the two. Also Claire identifies with the dead girl and imagines herself lying face down, dead in the water. Perhaps Carver detailing for the reader the emotional detachment between Claire and Stuart.
The next day Claire is sitting at the kitchen table, Stuart has gone to work, and she is reading the newspaper. The dead girl has been identified and her body has been claimed. She remains sitting at the table for a while, thinking again about the dead girl and then she makes a call to the hairdressers. She goes to the hairdressers and tells Marnie that she is going to a funeral the next morning, though she admits she doesn’t know the deceased. That night Claire decides to sleep on the sofa rather than with Stuart, again Carver putting some distance between husband and wife.
The next morning after breakfast Claire makes her way to the funeral. On the way there is an incident with another driver and Claire feels she is being followed by a man in a pick-up. If this wasn’t bad enough the feeling of being trapped is heightened when Claire pulls over and locks all the doors and windows in the car. The man in the pick-up knocks on her window and asks her is she okay. This out of sequence event could be seen as Carver highlighting Claire’s lack of trust of men. The stranger in the pick-up is of no threat to Claire, yet she fears him.
After the funeral while Claire is coming out of the church she hears a woman mention that they have found the killer. Claire though does not fully believe the woman and mentions that killers have friends, a direct reference to her suspicions of Stuart and his friends. So Much Water So Close To Home ends with Claire back home, again in the kitchen and asking Stuart where Dean their son is. Stuart tells her that he’s in the backyard and then moves to open Claire’s blouse. He wants to have sex and again Carver puts emphasis on Stuart’s hands. Claire helps him open her blouse and tells him to be quick, before Dean comes in. The reader left in no doubt that Claire is having sex with Stuart to please him and for no other reason. The only thing Claire can hear is the water running from the tap, which reminds her of the dead girl in the water.