What happens when the American Dream collides headon
with a nation’s dependence on fossil fuels? Oil and
Water, a novel by Mei Mei Evans, focuses on precisely
this question. Starting with a star-crossed supertanker,
a wayward fishing boat, and a well-known hazard in the
Gulf of Alaska, the story presents a region plunged into
an oil-slicked crisis. As thousands of miles of shoreline
and sea are obliterated, the spill threatens the lives and
livelihoods of the coastal community of Selby.
At the center of the disaster are Gregg, a down-on-his-
luck skipper, and Lee, his lone deckhand. As they
cross paths with the tanker and later the residents
of Selby, they are faced with decisions that will have
a lasting impact on the entire community. And when
the residents are presented with a controversial
deal—accept handouts in the form of work from the
very company responsible for the disaster—they must
learn just how important it is to find strength in the
connections that bind humans to each other and the
natural world. Evans’s compelling story, influenced by
her own experiences during the Exxon Valdez oil spill,
is a provocative look at the choice that must be made
between environmental safety and economic survival.
A finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize, it will have
readers reconsidering where they draw their own lines.
Mei Mei Evans
Mei Mei Evans is associate professor at Alaska Pacific University. Now a resident of Anchorage, she was a public information officer for Homer, Alaska, during the Exxon Valdez oil spill.