Grove Press
Grove Press
Grove Press


by David Vann

Widely acclaimed around the world, David Vann is “an artist” (New York Times), “a truly great writer” (Irish Sunday Independent), “one of the best writers of his generation” (Le Figaro)—and, quite possibly, the greatest American author you have yet to discover.

  • Imprint Grove Paperback
  • Page Count 272
  • Publication Date January 12, 2016
  • ISBN-13 978-0-8021-2479-1
  • Dimensions 5.5" x 8.25ro"
  • US List Price $16.00

About The Book

“Vann’s prose is as pure as a gulp of water from an Alaskan stream.” —Financial Times

David Vann’s dazzling debut Legend of a Suicide sold over 250,000 copies in France alone, was reviewed in over 150 major global publications, won eleven prizes worldwide, was on forty Best Books of the Year lists, and established its author as a literary master. Since then, internationally bestselling Vann has delivered an exceptional body of work, receiving fifteen awards, including best foreign novel in France and Spain (France’s Prix M’dicis “tranger, Spain’s Premi Llibreter), a California Book Award, and the Grace Paley Prize. Aquarium, his implosive new book and the first to be published by Grove, will take Vann to a wider audience than ever before.

Twelve-year-old Caitlin lives alone with her mother—a docker at the local container port—in subsidized housing next to an airport in Seattle. Each day, while she waits to be picked up after school, Caitlin visits the local aquarium to study the fish. Gazing at the creatures within the watery depths, Caitlin accesses a shimmering universe beyond her own. When she befriends an old man at the tanks one day, who seems as enamored of the fish as she, Caitlin cracks open a dark family secret and propels her once-blissful relationship with her mother toward a precipice of terrifying consequence.

In crystalline, chiseled, yet graceful prose, Aquarium takes us into the heart of a brave young girl whose longing for love and capacity for forgiveness transforms the damaged people around her. Relentless and heartbreaking, primal and redemptive, Aquarium is a transporting story from one of the best American writers of our time.

Tags Literary


“Elegantly written and fiercely imagined . . . physically, this book is so gorgeous it enhanced my reading experience. I found myself turning pages slowly, then running my hand across each smooth page. The photographs throughout the text, along with the turquoise capital letters that begin each chapter and mark the author’s name and book title on every creamy, thick page, reminded me that no electronic reader could provide this tactile and visual experience . . . suspenseful . . . at times, this is a painful novel, but its beauty propels it toward redemption.” —Elizabeth Taylor, Chicago Tribune

“Much like the waters of the Seattle tourist attraction at its heart, David Vann’s new novel, Aquarium, virtually bends light, plunging the reader into the relentless darkness of tormented souls in a splintered family . . . His language hits the reader like shrapnel in a metalworker’s studio—fragmented and sharp-fitting for novels so packed with shattering turns.” —Tyrone Beason, Seattle Times

“Gripping, painful, but ultimately hopeful, Aquarium is a coming-of-age story that explores the limits of love and forgiveness. Vann submerges you so deeply in Caitlin’s world, you’ll be gasping for breath when you finally surface. A.” —Isabella Biedenharn, Entertainment Weekly

“Cinematic . . . Aquarium is a genuine departure for Vann, an authentically new direction . . . Its delicate, coming-of-age sensuality and bright saltwater menagerie.” —Lydia Millet, The New York Times Book Review

“Since electrifying the literary world five years ago with his debut novel, Legend of a Suicide, Vann has racked up an astonishing number of international awards. This lovely, wrenching novel should add to that list.” —Library Journal (starred review)

“By pulling no punches in this explicit exploration of family, forgiveness, duty, acceptance, parent-child relationships, and what constitutes abuse, Vann has outdone himself.” —Booklist (starred review)

“A kind of modern fairy tale . . . Unlike Vann’s other novels, which exist in a closed system of violence and despair, this story offers redemption . . . Vann’s novels are striking, uncompromising portraits of American life; here is another exceptional example.” —Kirkus Reviews
(starred review)

“Vann’s (Legend of a Suicide) elegantly written, emotionally intense novel juxtaposes the contained world of undersea creatures with the life of a family forced beyond its self-protective isolation . . . a moving exploration of the boundaries we draw around ourselves to stay safe and unchanged.” —Publishers Weekly

“If deprivation was to Larkin what daffodils were to Wordsworth, then David Vann’s daffodils are fish . . . Told bravely but persuasively . . . The author has metamorphosed himself into a 12-year-old girl with startlingly brilliant results. Aquarium is as rich as good poetry and as addictive as a first-class detective novel.” —Wynn Wheldon, The Spectator

“A triumph.” —Daily Mail (UK)

“A stirring tale that isn’t as simple as it first appears.” —Esquire (UK)

“This novel is arguably Vann’s brightest . . . Caitlin’s tale with its many surface ripples proves immersive, the narrative propelling us along like a forceful current . . . nce again, and in contrast to many of his peers, Vann’s trademark limpid prose enables us to observe far more of what lies beneath.” —Weekend Australian


An Amazon Editors’ Top Picks for the Best Books of March


I found him at the darkest tank, in a corner, alone, peering into what could have been a window to the stars, endless black and cold and only a few points of light. Hung in this void like a small constellation, the ghost pipefish, impossible.

Like a leaf giving birth to stars, I said, whispering, as if any sound might make the fish vanish.

tly that. I couldn’t have said it better myself. Sometimes I can’t believe you’re only twelve. You should become an ichthyologist. This is who you are.

Body of small green leaves, veined, very thin, its fins painted in light cast from elsewhere, but from his eye out his long snout, an eruption of galaxies without foreign source, born in the fish itself. An opening in the small fabric of the world, a place to fall into endlessly.

He’s my favorite fish, I said, still whispering. I ask everyone what their favorite fish is, and I always hope they’ll say the ghost pipefish.

Well he’s my favorite now, because of what you’ve said. The old man looked up at the signs above the tank. Randall Halimeda Ghostpipefish.