"Like Water" is written, primarily, in first person confessions by Matthew Rossi, a writer living part of the year in Rome and part of the year in Western Australia. These lives are almost opposite to one another, or Dyadic as Rossi puts it, with his Rome self "isolated from the water," well dressed and polished, while his Western Australian self is inseparable from the sea, organic, and linked intimately with his childhood. Rossi is a solitary man, as indeed, are all the characters in Unaccountable Hours. On the West Coast of Australia, Rossi is drawn to a woman who swims every day at the beach — someone who "takes his mind off timescales." This is important, not only because Beatrice Hansard is old enough to be Rossi's grandmother, but because in his Australian existence, Rossi is acutely aware of the vanishing species — the "sixth extinction," that is going on around him.
The next story will pick up strongly on this theme, taking it to an extreme conclusion, but Rossi's relationship with Beatrice becomes a symbiotic healing that transcends the prison of time. This healing extends to Rossi's damaged sister Catherine, and reveals "The Secret," those moments of knowing, transcending, and becoming one with the environment:
"I can feel the layers of me, of this life, growing underneath me, down through the water, to its weedy, sandy bed. Here in thsi deeper water, at this age, cmfortably off the back of the wave, but watching." (122)
The third novella, "Ethical Man," has strong references to the other stories in Unaccountable Hours. We feel the connection between biologist Bartholemew Milner with Alton Freeman's father as they both take the same hard ethical line, closing the door on their own lives and drawing the "line in the sand" too sharply in their inability to compromise morality for emotion. There is also a nod to the second story as Milner is well known for his championship of The Sixth Extinction, an influential book published by Richard Leakey and Roger Lewin in 1995 in which the main tenet is that Homo sapiens are causing a sixth mass extinction — one which will almost certainly wipe out ourselves. In "Ethical Man," the fictionalised version of The Sixth Extinction was written by a Dr Leach and Graham Schindler, but otherwise the book, which Milner quotes at length, is the same as the Leakey and Lewin one. Where Milner differs from Freeman and Rossi is in his extremism. He's unable to bend, to laugh, to change. Nevertheless, Milner comes close in his deep observation of nature — something that also links him to the other protagonists: