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Everything Under

A Novel
Daisy Johnson
The dictionary doesn’t contain every word. Gretel, a lexicographer by trade, knows this better than most. She grew up on a houseboat with her mother, wandering the canals of Oxford and speaking a private language of their own invention. Her mother disappeared when Gretel was a teen, abandoning her to foster care, and Gretel has tried to move on, spending her days updating dictionary entries.

One phone call from her mother is all it takes for the past to come rushing back. To find her, Gretel will have to recover buried memories of her final, fateful winter on the canals. A runaway boy had found community and shelter with them, and all three were haunted by their past and stalked by an ominous creature lurking in the canal: the bonak. Everything and nothing at once, the bonak was Gretel’s name for the thing she feared most. And now that she’s searching for her mother, she’ll have to face it.

In this electrifying reinterpretation of a classical myth, Daisy Johnson explores questions of fate and free will, gender fluidity, and fractured family relationships. Everything Under—a debut novel whose surreal, watery landscape will resonate with fans of Fen—is a daring, moving story that will leave you unsettled and unstrung.

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An eerie, watery reimagining of the Oedipus myth set on the canals of Oxford, from the author of Fen

About the Author

Daisy  Johnson
Credit: Matthew Bradshaw
Daisy Johnson was born in 1990. Her short fiction has appeared in Boston Review and the Warwick Review, among others. She was the recipient of the 2014 A. M. Heath Prize, and currently lives in Oxford, England. Fen is her first novel.
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Upcoming Events

Daisy Johnson reading at Books Are Magic

Books Are Magic in Brooklyn, NYview map
In conversation with Lauren Groff.

Daisy Johnson and Carmen Maria Machado reading at the Strand

Strand Book Store in New York, NYview map
Admission with purchase of Everything Under or $5 gift card.

Daisy Johnson reading at Women and Children First

Women & Children First in Chicago, ILview map


  • “Skillful and imaginative. . . . It takes a bold mind to steer so many elements through one tale, and an even stronger stylist to render them in a narrative that heeds, but seems not to, the laws of nature. Johnson has done all this in a book that will probably be read . . .  for years to come as a part of the reclaiming of narrative territory.”—The Boston Globe
  • “Johnson is one of her generation’s most intriguing authors. . . . She fits us into tapestries of her own making—holding up a mirror to us before shattering and reassembling it.”—Entertainment Weekly
  •  “[Everything Under blends] a deep understanding of character and storytelling sophistication to examine a troubled mother-daughter relationship. . . . [A] complex, uncompromising novel.”The Guardian
  • “Daisy Johnson . . . pulls off several marvels at once in Everything Under. She coins words, channels outlier voices, and fractures chronology. The result is an uncanny update of ancient storytelling.”The Atlantic
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