The Shape of Water
By Guillermo del Toro and Daniel Kraus
Feiwel and Friends, 2018. 315 pages.
Elisa Esposito is mute, an orphan, and lives a dull life as a night janitor in 1962 Baltimore. One night she discovers that her place of employment, the Occam Aerospace Research Center, harbors a dark secret. The Center has secreted away a sensitive government asset: a humanoid amphibian creature captured in the Amazon and studied to give the US a Cold War advantage. Elisa is drawn to the creature and begins to communicate with him by teaching him sign language. She soon realizes that the magnificent creature is so much more than a terrifying monster—he understands human emotion and may have much to offer the human race. In order to save this creature’s life, and her heart, Elisa must find a way to save him from the diabolical research facility.
Though you may have seen the Academy Award’s Best Picture of the year, you may not be aware that a companion novel was published at the same time as the movie release. Guillermo del Toro’s reimagining of a classic monster tale is as beautiful as it is relevant to modern audiences. It is not so much a monster-horror as a commentary on social outcasts and their treatment in a narrow-minded society. Whether it is through race, disability, same-gender attraction, or post-war PTSD, each character in this story is an outcast in some way, and their struggle is what makes this story a true masterpiece.