A widow plans her husband’s funeral feeling as much resentment towards him as grief. A mother believes her young son has the DNA of a long-dead ex-boyfriend. A woman becomes obsessed with a drifter who stands in the same spot every day in her neighborhood. A couple grieving a series of miscarriages set out to adopt in China, only to get pregnant again.
In thirteen stories that explore the complexities and messiness of faith, marriage, illness, and grief, Joann Smith’s A Heaven of Their Choosing is a wise debut collection for fans of Grace Paley or Alice Munro.
PRAISE FOR A HEAVEN OF THEIR CHOOSING
“Reading A Heaven of Their Choosing is like touring a set of rooms inside the enormous house of fiction. At the center of each sits a character, often isolated and regretful, whose interior is revealed with a candor and dead-pan irony reminiscent of the stories of John McGahern and even Joyce. Like them, Smith knows how to invade people’s privacy while keeping a steady eye on the everyday world around them. And sometimes, lives defined by boredom and limitation are lifted by event into insight and wonder. She is a writerly writer, whose stories will appeal to readers who wish to experience not just what happens next but how, sentence by sentence, it manages to happen at all.” —Billy Collins, Poet Laureate of the United States 2001-3
“Joann Smith’s A Heaven of Their Choosing is a collection of authentic, gut wrenching, raw, hold your breath, can’t put them down, stories. There is a miracle in these pages that transports the reader to the place where art transcends us, a place where it is possible to simultaneously feel pain and pleasure, joy and sorrow, and reach an epiphany: there is hope for us all. It is a collection one will return to again and again and again.” —Patricia Dunn, author of Last Stop on the 6
“I was riveted by A Heaven of Their Choosing. With a flair for mesmerizing irony inside of unerring truths, Smith delves into the power of language in our lives. From a wife’s correspondence hidden in a honeymoon suitcase to a young employee at a gun shop’s curiosity about a customer’s choice of target, Smith delivers a collection of exquisite stories that will make you look at yourself and the choices in your life anew.” —Jimin Han, author of A Small Revolution
In the vein of Zadie Smith’s NW and Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archives, Dionne Irving’s novel QUINT is based on a real-life family of quintuplets who rise to celebrity and fame in Canada in the 1940s.
Quint is a dazzling and inventive novel based on a true story of the Dionne quintuplets—the first quintuplets known to have survived their infancy. Born during the Great Depression, the quintuplets are taken from their homes and turned into a tourist attraction in Canada in the 1940s, leading to a lifelong struggle against the abuses of their profiteers.
PRAISE FOR QUINT
“Irving’s impressive debut…does justice to the novel’s inspiration.” —Publishers Weekly
“Dionne Irving’s fascinating novel begins as an exploration of the ways in which innocents can be exploited, perverted, and victimized by rampant commercial exploitation. From there the story broadens and deepens to become a poignant and ambitious meditation on the human condition itself, particularly as it relates to our relationship with love or its absence. Quint is a compelling read and Dionne Irving is a writer on the rise.” —Wally Lamb, author of I Know This Much Is True
“Quint is an expansive novel of multiple births, motherhood, siblings, celebrity, exploitation, loss and connection; this story truly contains the world. Dionne Irving is a fantastic writer; she tells this unique story with honesty and precision and playfulness, and this novel compels with her vision, which is original and vast.” —Karen E. Bender, author of Refund
The Paper Garden is a debut story collection of darkly humorous, gothic, speculative and feminist tales that will remind readers of Carmen Maria Machado and Samantha Schweblin. From the answers on a patient intake from a woman awaiting treatment to reimagined fairy tales or myths about troubled couples, these inventive stories are an introduction to a startlingly original literary voice.
PRAISE FOR THE PAPER GARDEN
“…intense…Vance’s stories, at their best, are immersive and gripping.” —Publishers Weekly
“Vance’s stellar debut is a beautiful original offering. These stories find power in their strangeness, in their unwillingness to be easily reduced. There is blood and there is also tenderness and healing, this is a special work.” —Nana Kwama Adjei-Brenyah, author of Friday Black
“I loved Caitlin Vance’s debut collection of stories and fractured fairy tales for its sensibility, which is simultaneously strange, angry, funny, tender, and wisely (and wryly) perceptive. Her characters (so often abandoned by parents or struggling with unreliable partners or the mentally ill) are compelling in their survival strategies. Without being Pollyanna—or slipping too wholly into the ever-present darkness of the world—they come out on top simply by making it to the end of their own remarkable stories.” —Debra Spark, author of The Pretty Girl
“These haunting and hilarious tales expose the fissures, absurdities, and inconsistencies in the stories we’re told and the stories we tell ourselves. Whether the subject is an old parable, the haunted home of a troubled couple, the digressive answers penned into an intake form by a woman anxiously awaiting treatment, Vance’s strange and often brutal worlds are signed with human, horror, and beauty.” —Jessica Alexander, author of Dear Enemy
Failed academic Joshua Schulman is in a bad way. Grieving his mother’s death and the end of his marriage, he turns his avocation of retro video game collecting into a full-blown addiction. When a prep school in Eastern Iowa recruits him for a teaching job on the strength of a long-ago published online article from his grad school days, Joshua claims to still be chasing his PhD and gets hired. Moving from Brooklyn to Roll, Iowa (population 1,412), he finds that his troubles are just beginning.
From Joshua’s pursuit of a married faculty member to the school’s cultic obsession with a cat-and-mouse playground game called Splat, The Eggplant Curse and the Warp Zone is a hilarious romp steeped in strange places, where frenetic anxieties, secrets, and obsessions intersect.
PRAISE FOR THE EGGPLANT CURSE AND THE WARP ZONE
“Rubenfeld’s novel is a heart-achingly narrated exploration of how we try to escape both the pain of the past and the absurdity of the future — a fanatical homage to retro video games and millennial angst.” —Jennine Capó Crucet, author of My Time Among the Whites
“From the streets of New York to the cornfields of Iowa, Shawn Rubenfeld’s debut novel is a joyous romp into the mysteries of love, betrayal, and renewal. I laughed out loud at Joshua’s travels and travails as he finds himself, newly divorced and stranded in a small midwestern town teaching with faked credentials at a boarding school. And what a school it is! These pages are full of original characters who straddle the landscape with a stoicism, wit, and strangeness that befuddles a world-weary New Yorker, forcing him to re-examine everything he knows. A cross between Alice wandering the Wonderland and Gulliver discovering his giantism and talking horses, Joshua staggers from one outpost to the next, uncertain about an identity that almost everyone he encounters questions and ultimately shreds. The conclusion is a lovely tour de force that will leave you rooting for our hero to be brave and leap into the unknown.” —Jonis Agee, author of The Bones of Paradise and The River Wife
“The Eggplant Curse and the Warp Zone is a comedy of errors, much like Fleishman Is in Trouble, and it is sheer pleasure to watch the narrator navigate, and stumble, through his predicaments. He’s a man of his generation, seeking solace in nostalgia, trafficking in obsession, and resisting adulthood…highly entertaining.” —Timothy Schaffert, The Swan Gondola
“Deftly interweaving elements of retrogaming, romantic confusion, and real-life fields of play, Shawn Rubenfeld’s debut is a comedic romp through cultural isolation and misplaced nostalgia. With echoes of Roth, along with elements of James Joyce, J.D. Salinger, and Andrew Sean Greer, Rubenfeld bookends the absurdity of the present with the exhaustion of the past and the apprehension of the future. A deep dive into the self-trickery brought on by grief, The Eggplant Curse and the Warp Zone is often hilarious, always poignant, and timelessly heartbreaking.” —Kim Barnes, author of In The Wilderness
In this debut collection previously published by Dock Street Press, Sara Lippmann draws the reader into the intimate lives of characters seeking connection beyond their scripted worlds. She captures the beguiling transformation from child to adult with humor, heartache, and desperation. From grieving mothers to fathers adrift, old flames to restless teens, the isolated characters in Doll Palace are united by conflicting desires, quiet rebellions, and the private struggles of the heart.
PRAISE FOR DOLL PALACE
“Lippmann’s debut is a terrific collection of short stories that mostly take place in or around New York…These stories clearly reveal Lippmann’s talent, and indicate a bright future ahead.” —Publishers Weekly
“…smart, technically accomplished fiction…” —Kirkus Reviews
“Lippmann’s stories are well-crafted and tight…[Her] voice is distinctive for her sparse and straightforward style, which ties together a collection with a roving cast of characters…All of the stories are propelled by a forward momentum, and the stories are more likely to end on an action, rather than an image, or a moment of contemplation.” —Bustle
“Sara Lippmann’s stories are visceral and gripping, venturing into dark places with sharp wit and a gimlet eye. A lot of them gave me bad dreams, and I mean that in a good way. This is a memorable debut collection.” — Alix Ohlin, author of Dual Citizens
“Sara Lippmann is the sort of writer who can drop you with a line. ‘Of a guy wearing a baby in a harness,’ she writes, ‘He yanks on the baby’s stubby toes like he is milking it.’ I’d read a hell of lot of pages to find a sentence that practically nails an entire generation. Good news is this book has such lines on every page. Lippmann is a fearless writer, and these are concise and deadly stories.” —Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown and Others
Set in the American Midwest, England, and India (Mumbai, Ahmedabad, rural Gujarat) the stories in Each of Us Killers are about people trying to realize their dreams and aspirations through their professions. Whether they are chasing money, power, recognition, love, or simply trying to make a decent living, their hunger is as intense as any grand love affair. Straddling the fault lines of class, caste, gender, nationality, globalization, and more, they go against sociocultural norms despite challenges and indignities until singular moments of quiet devastation turn the worlds of these characters—auto-wallah, housemaid, street vendor, journalist, architect, baker, engineer, saree shop employee, professor, yoga instructor, bartender, and more—upside down.
PRAISE FOR EACH OF US KILLERS
“Jenny Bhatt’s gorgeous stories in Each of Us Killers remind me why I love to read a good book. It is such a pleasure to be immersed in the worlds of her characters, in their hunger for love or money, and in their local and global struggles to live. With mouth-watering detail, Bhatt serves up a rich and varied feast.” —Devi S. Laskar, author of The Atlas of Reds and Blues
“The potent stories in this collection evoke the complexities of a shifting, multilingual world with great precision. Bhatt moves between countries and realities with tremendous skill and insight.” —Idra Novey, author of Those Who Knew
“In a series of thrilling, beautiful stories, Jenny Bhatt moves through the moods, thoughts, subversions involved in the experience of interracial relationships, East-West communications, theft, justice, migration. The collection works brilliantly both as an evocative amalgam of insightful observations about race, class, gender, aspirations, as well as on the sentence level. Bhatt writes, “polish it carefully, till it glitters with the hope of a false diamond and refracts your stark life into a spectrum of luminous rays, lighting up the darkness briefly”–referring to a character’s particular memory, but could just as well be referring to the collection as a whole.” —Chaya Bhuvaneswar, Author of White Dancing Elephants
A battle of wills emerges when one of the suicide survivors in the Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society turns the meetings into a yoga class. A small town is gripped by a lawn ornamentation craze. A woman dresses up as Paul Bunyan to rob banks to pay her ailing mother’s exorbitant nursing home bills. A married couple decides to 3-D print a son…and his entire childhood.
Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society is a funny and poignant story collection about everyday people confronting everyday challenges with escalating absurdity. Reminiscent of the work of Aimee Bender, Ross Wilcox’s stories will make you view the mundane in an entirely new way.
PRAISE OF GOLDEN GATE JUMPER SURVIVORS SOCIETY
“Strange circumstances abound…The book’s many surreal elements are grounded in authentic, sometimes heartbreaking, details…Throughout the compelling, unexpected, and poignant stories of Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society, the absurd is
masked by the everyday.” –Foreword Reviews
“Poignant and elegiac and full of calm desperation, Ross Wilcox’s short story collectionis a parable of survival—the remains of people and places, traces of presence—and the search for some kind of truth, however fallible and fleeting. Wilcox rejoices in the bizarre and absurd, but also attends to the mundanities of everyday life with deft precision. Reading Golden Gate Jumper Survivors Society is an unnerving experience, in which death and life, the dead and the living, converge.” –Chris Campanioni, author of A and B and Also Nothing and the Internet is for real
“Funny and deft and weird and heartbreaking. This book is super cool and one of a kind.” –Kate Durbin
At a prestigious university in Michigan circa 1980, the perplexing poems by Roger Ackroyd have won him a cult following. But who is Roger Ackroyd?
Just about the only person on campus not asking that question is Edward Moses, Ackroyd’s secret creator. Instead, Edward is flunking his girlfriend’s psych class, fighting with his family, and suffering from writer’s block. Enter a rival artist pretending to be Roger Ackroyd. In his last week of college, Edward’s obsession with exposing the poser threatens to reveal his own true identity.
A hilarious campus novel in the tradition of Evelyn Waugh and Kingsley Amis, this debut novel skewers the nature of youth, friendship, and ambition, while making us feel for the lovable but hapless Edward.
PRAISE FOR MISERY BOY
“Walking a tightrope between the abject and the comic, Misery Boy offers the hapless misadventures of Edward Moses, a committed secret writer, a committed and not-so-secret drunk, as everything falls to shambles around him. Vibrant and repellent and very funny, Misery Boy is a razor-sharp debut.”—Brian Evenson, author of A Collapse of Horses
“Misery Boy is a blistering satire that exposes the lie so many of us chase—we want praise, respect; we want to be understood, relevant. In this story, self-doubt and imposter syndrome take human form. But the story fights back against its own cynicism and shows us the vital reasons we must continue create our art.” —Susan Henderson, author of The Flicker of Old Dreams
“‘If you were smart you ignored compliments…Somebody complimented your cooking… and you never boiled another potato in your life. With every compliment came a wish for a different, more optimal you.’ So writes Rose Servis in Misery Boy, making me hesitate to compliment her at all. I don’t want to change her or influence what she will write next—certain to be as astute and poignant and funny as this. (That is not a compliment, just a fact!)” —Diana Wagman, author of Life #6
In late ’90s San Francisco, Edie Wunderlich was the It girl, on the covers of the city’s alt-weeklies, repping the freak party scene on the eve of the first dot-com boom. Fast-forward twenty years, and Edie hasn’t changed, but San Francisco has. Still a bartender in the Mission, Edie now serves a seemingly never-ending stream of tech bros while the punk rock parties of the millennium’s end are long gone. When her mother dies, leaving her Silicon Valley home to Edie, she finds herself mourning her loss in the heart of the Bay Area’s tech monoculture, and embarks on a last-ditch quest to hold on to her rebel heart.
PRAISE FOR EDIE ON THE GREEN SCREEN
“Beth Lisick’s Edie On The Green Screen really hit my sweet spot: a darkly funny, honest, touching look at what it means to be an adult in the world today—and what happens when you can’t quite figure it out. I inhaled this book.” —Jami Attenberg, author of All This Could Be Yours
“Beth Lisick has proven time and time again to be the storytelling voice of our collective adolescence, of our dreaming in vast American suburbs, and our heading into cities, come what may. She’s a rare voice in the age of quasi instant gratification like posts and tweets—a writer who waits until the time is right and the words are ready. Edie on the Green Screen is somehow both a howl and a murmur, bright and shadowy, funny and heart-worn. Here’s that book we’re all always hoping to find next, the one that feels like you’re hanging out with a new friend—one who finishes telling you a story that leaves you sated but immediately hoping there’s another, and another, and another.” —Dan Kennedy, host of The Moth Podcast
“Beth Lisick possesses one of the most alive narrative voices I have ever heard, full of humor and truth and pathos and smarts. I heard her read a piece of this novel at its start and I have been haunted by the driving beauty and passion of it. I’m dying for it to come out!” —Michelle Tea, author of Against Memoir
“Beth Lisick’s writing is so vivid, so alert, intelligent and alive you feel ninety-eight percent smarter every moment that you read her —when you’re not doubled over in helpless, delighted laughter. If Eve Babitz was living and writing in the Mission District today, this is who she’d be.” —Matthew Specktor, author of American Dream Machine
Inspired by the American Civil War, Kansastan takes place in a dystopic Kansas that is besieged by its neighboring state, Missouri. Close to the state line, an orphaned and disabled goatherd lives atop a minaret and is relegated to custodial work by the mosque’s imam while the threat of occupation looms. When his aunt and cousin arrive, the mosque’s congregants believe that the cousin, Faisal, is a young prophet. Faisal comes to also believe in his divinity, stoking the goatherd’s envy and hatred. When the cousins fall in love with the same woman, the goatherd hatches a plan to supplant Faisal in all ways possible—as suitor and the mosque’s savior.
PRAISE FOR KANSASTAN
“Halal fiction, blessed with an intensely stylized, lyrical syntax. The narrator’s voice summons the faithful more clearly than a muezzin’s call. Kansastan offers us the pure truth of divinity—or, closer to reality, a wildly intelligent caper.”
—Amitava Kumar, author of Immigrant, Montana
“Holy shit, we are definitely not in Kansas anymore. And Farooq Ahmed is like no novelist this world has seen. Brutally funny and disruptive, Kansastan is a work of alternative history that finally seems more true, more real, and more painfully strange and sad, than the world it replaces.”
—Ben Marcus, author of Notes from the Fog
“Imagine Kansas as a state with a grand mosque and a powerful Islamic tradition. Imagine a border war against the ruffian Missourians. A questionable savior. A group of zealous, devout Muslim fighters led by a man named Brown. That’s the world of Farooq Ahmed’s outstanding novel Kansastan. From the first line, Ahmed’s extraordinary literary and political mind makes this book feel inevitable, moving, and American in every way. Prepare to be amazed.”
—Whitney Terrell, author of The Good Lieutenant
“In an America with a white supremacist president, where every day brings a previously unimaginable piece of news, I can think of no more fitting a novel than Kansastan, in which a young Muslim plots to take over his mosque and lead the parishioners into battle against Missouri. This is historical fiction/dystopian fantasy with a sense of humor as dry as a summer prairie wind.”
—Michael Noll, author of The Writer’s Field Guide to the Craft of Fiction
“Exhale as you say it: this is a book “for those who contemplate.” Bristling with mysterious blimps, six-legged steers, warlike Missourians, fields strewn with meat, and worm-lipped loves, Kansastan is part holy book, part slapstick fable, and wholly original. Prepare yourself for a world in which miracles beget murder, in which grandiose delusions bloom from decrepitude, in which cousin is pitted against cousin, Jayhawker against Bushwacker: prepare yourself for Kansastan. It is a joyful and deranged read.”
—Nina Shope, author of Hangings
“Farooq Ahmed’s epic yet intimate yarn about bloody border wars, false prophets, and the little mosque on the prairie is at once wholly believable and reminiscent of a new American myth. By slyly reimagining our nation’s darkest conflict, Ahmed has made everything I thought I knew about the U.S. of A. wildly, thrillingly new. When our Republic finally falls, a book will be plucked from the ashes, and its name will be Kansastan.”
—Mike Harvkey, author of In the Course of Human Events
The relationship between Heather Katchadourian and Julie Howe is complicated. Over the past two decades, they’ve been just about everything to each other: boarding school roommates, best friends, lovers, rivals, even co-parents—both together and estranged. Will they find their way back to each other, or have they inflicted too much damage along the way? Reminiscent of the work of Meg Wolitzer, and narrated by Heather, Julie, their lifelong friends, partners, and children, The Light Source is a prismatic portrayal of what everlasting modern love truly looks like and reminds us that what’s meant-to-be becomes harder to define with age.
PRAISE FOR THE LIGHT SOURCE
“. . . these delicate, thoughtful stories are devoted to unpacking the intricacies of infidelity. . .”
—Kristen Roupenian, The New York Times Book Review on Undoing
“The Light Source so exquisitely illuminates the elusive natures of both love and truth. I was riveted by Magowan’s storytelling from the opening pages to the last, as each successive character both built their own narrative and also placed little charges of dynamite in the ones that had come before. An endlessly wise and devastatingly human book.”
—Robin Black, author of Life Drawing
“A deeply honest, emotional powerhouse of a debut by Kim Magowan, The Light Source is told through the individual voices of boarding school friends whose lives and relationships interweave and unravel by turns. At its core, two women share a fragile, complicated love marred by denial and betrayal. It is because Magowan’s people are so real, so flawed and funny and smart and hurting, that they compel us so. This novel brilliantly and movingly demonstrates the power of forgiveness and self-acceptance, and that which we so often forget: How by opening the one door we’ve always stubbornly refused to, we are at last rewarded with light.”
—Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018
“In stunning prose that renders time’s passage with the fluidity of sand slipping between hourglass chambers, Magowan follows smoldering affairs over several decades, moving seamlessly between different characters’ lives to explore the conflicting demands made by love in its many forms—familial, sexual, sororal. Indulging in neither cynicism nor sentimentality, Magowan explores the sacrifices, even the price, demanded by relationships confronting social sanctions and past hurts; and the ways we flourish when we are willing to grow and change, and, above all else, to take risks.”
—Alice Hatcher, author of The Wonder That Was Ours
“With a cast of friends who have known each other intimately since prep school days, Kim Magowan creates a smart and intricate drama about love and friendship, loyalty and betrayal, and the knife edges that separate them. Mastering a range of authentic voices (male and female) and time periods (post graduate and midlife), Magowan artfully weaves together episodes that capture in large ways and small the decisions we make that will shape our lives and hearts—and our families.”
—Sylvia Brownrigg, author of Pages for Her
“Kim Magowan writes some of the most exquisite sentences out there and her metaphors flash at you like eyes in the dark. To me she is a literary equivalent of the renowned psychotherapist Esther Perel, for all the wisdom, candor, and wit she shines on human relationships. The story of Julie and Heather is told in a composition of seven voices. As in a chiaroscuro painting, each voice is a stab of light that creates stark contrasts with the voices around it. The Light Source is a wicked smart, sexy, and devastatingly tender portrait of love in all its muddy glory.”
—Michelle Ross, author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You
A teen who can teleport just wants to make his mom happy. A midget working as an elf in a year-round Christmas-themed amusement park battles his archrival: a condescending Santa. You’ve heard of Fight Club, but have you been to the Underground Punch Market? Like the work of George Saunders crossed with Richard Linklater, Not Everyone Is Special is a collection of slacker fabulist stories that are at once speculative, hilarious, and poignant.
PRAISE FOR NOT EVERYONE IS SPECIAL
“…sharp and cutting…A collection of heartfelt, deftly composed stories about the human condition.”
“Josh Denslow’s stories are intricate, fun, and beautiful, though always about heartbreak and loss. They’re like perfect little castles made of jewels and lego bricks that rise out of a howling abyss.”
—Ben Loory, author of Tales of Falling and Flying
“Josh Denslow’s Not Everyone is Special is truly irresistible. Subversive, hilarious, and profoundly moving, these stories should come with a warning label to clear your schedule before you begin because you’ll find yourself binge reading the entire book. A sensational debut.”
—Kirstin Chen, author of Bury What We Cannot Take
“Denslow makes his cast of outsiders, six-time losers, and lovelorn loners both heartbreaking and unforgettable. This debut collection sparkles with heart, bitter satire, and irresistible aplomb.”
—J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
“Denslow does something here that’s refreshing and unique in the literary landscape: he skips the cynicism and heads right for the emotional honesty, producing some of the best dialogue (internal and external) that I’ve read in ages. This book is a genuinely warm and funny book about what it means to be a human in the modern world.”
—Amber Sparks, author of The Unfinished World
“When we meet the characters in Josh Denslow’s stories, they’re almost always already in trouble, and then they go looking for even more—but they do so with such heart and humor that you’ll inevitably fall in love with them, even (or especially) when they’re behaving their well-meaning worst. Not Everyone is Special is a smart and funny debut, often satirical and always generous, perfect for fans of George Saunders or Sam Lipsyte.”
—Matt Bell, author of Scrapper
Sebastian Khan is 380 days away from the end of college. An art history major with a fondness for the Pre-Raphaelites and a dislike of long-term commitments (romantic and otherwise), Sebastian starts dating Fatima, who’s determined to transition smoothly from campus life to a stable white-collar professional career. Sebastian’s membership in Model United Nations, though, takes him to colleges across North America, foisting upon him all manner of temptations and testing his commitment to Fatima and his readiness for adulthood.
Part satire of college life circa 2011 and part serious exploration of art’s fundamental unreality, Portrait of Sebastian Khan is a humorous coming-of-age novel about a charismatic but emotionally stunted Muslim American Don Draper, who wins as many hearts as he breaks.
PRAISE FOR PORTRAIT OF SEBASTIAN KHAN
“The true star of this piece is the expat community that Duclos has perfectly drawn. Any expat who has spent an amount of time in Asia will find at least something in there that speaks to their own experience. The worldbuilding is excellent.”
“In Aatif Rashid’s witty and dissolute Portrait of Sebastian Khan…Sebastian is a flawed but compelling character, and his romances are detailed with rushes of color and sensation. This sensuality alternates with undertones of humor and even subtle splendor, so that Trader Joe’s vodka becomes a vessel of magical spirits, or the ‘mermaid’s song’ scent of a beachy shampoo transports him from the ‘dull pop music of the Walgreen’s.’
“A smart, thoughtfully constructed, and propulsive coming-of-age story.”
—J. Ryan Stradal, author of Kitchens of the Great Midwest
Besotted is the ballad of Sasha and Liz, American expats in Shanghai. Both have moved abroad to escape—Sasha from her father’s disapproval, Liz from the predictability of her hometown. When they move in together, Sasha falls in love, but the sudden attention from a charming architect threatens the relationship. Meanwhile, Liz struggles to be both a good girlfriend to Sasha and a good friend to Sam, her Shanghainese language partner who needs more from her than grammar lessons. For fans of Prague by Arthur Phillips and The Expatriates by Janice Y.K. Lee, Besotted is an expat novel that explores what it means to love someone while running away from yourself.
PRAISE FOR BESOTTED
“The true star of this piece is the expat community that Duclos has perfectly drawn. Any expat who has spent an amount of time in Asia will find at least something in there that speaks to their own experience. The worldbuilding is excellent.”
“Besotted is an absorbing, nuanced debut about belonging, desire, and the frustrations that surface in an atmosphere of isolation. Set mostly in tiny apartments, ridiculous happy hour bars, and Starbucks—all Western attempts to recreate home—Duclos’s expatriate Shanghai is wholly unique and beautifully composed. Alive with keenly observed, vibrant detail, Besotted is a love story that pulses with heat and light, glitter and grit.”
—Kimberly King Parsons, author of Black Light
In Besotted, Melissa Duclos debuts a beautiful, bruising love story that fully inhabits the world’s disquieting spaces in between. Her tender, vital community of Shanghai expats are—sometimes in the space of a single, lyric sentence—both impulsive and calculating, passionate and standoffish, at home and as far from home as they possibly can be. The result is an exuberant, sexy tango of a novel, at turns playful and wrenching, that unpacks the ways desire and reality are both closer together and farther apart than they ever initially seem.
—Tracy Manaster, author of The Done Thing
“Readers of Besotted should be alert as Melissa Duclos slips in and out of the different points of view, jump cutting from one consciousness to the next with boldness and precision; her snarky slings land on target and slice deep. This novel about what country, friendship, work, and above all love mean to a generation of American expats also touches on what life in China is like for its cosmopolitan masses. But Loneliness, capitalized by Duclos, is the main theme. The clueless characters of Besotted try to hide their vulnerabilities under layers of coolness, clever remarks, and disaffection. They are very much like the people we know; they are us at the end of the day, when we remove our make up and can’t any longer disguise how much love and the lack of it can hurt.”
—Jaime Manrique, author of Cervantes Street
“Besotted is an exquisite tale of desire, longing, love, and reinvention. Duclos’s brilliance lies in her painstaking renderings of heartaches large and small, and the particular pain of struggling to find connection on the other side of the world. Besotted is a head rush—a sexier, smarter, more genuine coming-of-age story you will not find.”
—Mo Daviau, author of Every Anxious Wave
It’s 2002 in Silicon Valley. 9/11’s still fresh, the dot-com bubble has burst, and holy calamity is raining down on 14-year-old Chad Loudermilk. His father is about to lose his job, his mother isn’t the same since Chad’s grandma died, and as one of the few black kids at tony Palo Alto High School, Chad’s starting to wonder about his birth parents. Next door lives dot-com mogul Scot MacAvoy, with his luxury SUV and his gardeners and his beautiful wife and his time to play video games with Chad, all making the Loudermilk family’s struggle to stay afloat seem that much harder. It’s going to be a tough year for the Loudermilks.
The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh is wise and witty novel about the Silicon Valley that’s not covered in the fawning features in The New York Times. It’s a place where the working class, blended Loudermilk family grapple with issues of race and inequality, all while trying to keep a smile on their faces. In the spirit of the works of Celeste Ng and Angela Flournoy, this is a big-hearted page-turner that will make you laugh, cry, and think all at once.
PRAISE FOR THE PLACE YOU’RE SUPPOSED TO LAUGH
“Acutely observed, full of wit, keen insight, and compassion, The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh follows an ensemble of complicated, entirely human characters, as they seek to define, or in some cases reclaim, their own identities in a radically shifting world.”
—Kate Racculia, author of Bellweather Rhapsody
“It may be her debut, but Jenn Stroud Rossmann’s novel shows she’s a startlingly wise and insightful writer. She effortlessly weaves together the stories of the extended Loudermilk family, a rich, complicated, and loveable cast of characters. Instantly absorbing and full of life, this is a story told with humor and heart.”
—Alix Ohlin, author of Inside
“Rossmann’s chief gift as a novelist is her keen and tender-hearted social observation of a diverse and struggling cast of characters. The Place You’re Supposed to Laugh is a wonderful and rich debut with a big heart.”
—Heidi W. Durrow, New York Times bestselling author of The Girl Who Fell From the Sky
“It started with a miracle. It was a useless miracle, but it still counted as a jaw-dropper, a total malfunction of reason and time… I can burn my own bushes, so I have no patience for miracles.”
Introducing the inimitable Milo Byers, a seventeen-year-old dropout whose brother is missing and mother has given up on life. In Lexington, Kentucky, Milo spends his nights being a bar bouncer and boosting cars while searching for his brother, who he suspects is a mysterious figure named “Nightwolf.” Nightwolf stalks the streets, tagging local businesses, while wearing a trash-bag over his head with eyeholes cut out, and making nonsensical threats to local news outlets. Caught between rival heavies Thomas the Prophet and Egan Hopper, Milo must choose what he stands for and the type of adult he wants to be.
In Willie Davis’s gritty, but affectionate portrayal of the new South, around every dark and harrowing corner, there is a tender and redemptive path forward.
PRAISE FOR NIGHTWOLF
“Davis, a master of wit, one-liners and dead on observations, has done everything right. Nightwolf, often funny and always smart, is told through the eyes of Milo, a devastatingly funny and keen social critic. And through him, this story of Kentucky and youth and angst and self-discovery gleams.”
—Natashia Deón, author of Grace
“Even among Nightwolf’s vivid landscape of smart-assed car thieves, bruised oracles, and horribly-named bar bands, Willie Davis’s tender, witty voice utterly steals this show. Every page of this brilliant, tough-willed novel is so alive with laughter, vulgarity, insight, wonder, wisdom, and heartbreak, often within the same impossible breath. What a book.”
—Mike Scalise, author of Brand New Catastrophe
“This is a story of profound loss—missing mothers, brothers, babies, hearts—populated by trash-talking, drug-addled, thieving, violent, wickedly funny, elegiac, fail and fail better prophets and preachers. Part Elmore Leonard, part Padgett Powell, part Eugene Ionesco if he’d trained his eye on the seediest corner of Lexington, Kentucky, Davis is a wildfire talent who understands there is no end to seeking, only endless reckoning with desire and mystery.”
—Maud Casey, author of The Man Who Walked Away and Genealogy
“Nightwolf is by turns hilarious and tragic, acerbic and tender, despairing and triumphant—and brilliant withal. Willie Davis’s kick-ass debut novel heralds the arrival of a major new talent.”
—Ed McClanahan, author of The Natural Man and Famous People I Have Known
“The reader needs to tread carefully or he (or she as the case may be) will wind up as a character in Nightwolf and never be seen alive again. Happened to me. Nightwolf is delightful, compelling, utterly original, funny as hell, such a bright new light on the literary landscape it makes the turn of the century seem like ancient history. Linguists are applying for NEA grants in such numbers to study Nightwolf they have had to resort to handwriting because of declining access to digits.”
—Gurney Norman, author of Divine Right’s Trip and Kinfolks. Poet Laureate of Kentucky
“Like a shotgun blast at the moon, Willie Davis’ debut novel enters the world. At its heart is Milo Byers, wayward son of Prospect Hill, a derelict Kentucky neighborhood where violence is arbitrary and opportunity nil. Haunted by the memory of a brother who disappeared and caught up in a power struggle between petty criminals, Milo must navigate the injustices of growing up poor in a forgotten place. And yet this isn’t your standard coming-of-age fare. Davis doesn’t truck in clichés or serve up some superficial tale of redemption. Sure, teeth are broken and scars are formed, but Milo manages to laugh at the ridiculousness of it all. He’s literary kin to the protagonist in Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son—a princely fuck-up and a worthy companion. Tragic, comic, and brilliantly perverse, Nightwolf is a big-hearted novel heralds the arrival of a gifted storyteller. Read this book.”
—Jesse Donaldson, author of The More They Disappear and On Homesickness
In the smallish American city of Grand River, things are not so grand. The river is hopelessly polluted. City officials are in the pockets of oligarchs. And its best hope for meaningful change is a platitude-spouting eight-foot giant named Reason Wilder running for mayor.
Gray Davenport, a veteran political operative, isn’t faring much better than his hometown. His wife is about to leave him. He’s working for a mayoral candidate who has no chance to win and who can’t even pay for Gray’s services. When Gray notices that Reason may not be human, Gray embarks on a quest to uncover the truth about Reason’s mysterious origins, and the truth promises to change Grand River and Gray forever.
A satirical mashup of Frankenstein and Veep, Mr. Neutron is a hilarious genre-bender that speaks to the unpredictable nature of American politics today.
PRAISE FOR MR. NEUTRON
“Joe Ponepinto’s Mr. Neutron offers a hilarious and biting romp across the American political landscape through the eyes of beleaguered campaign operative Gray Davenport. Gray is a man accustomed to living a “slow-lane life” as an aide to a perennial office seeker, while conjuring up an imaginary alter ego, Monterey Jack, a tough hombre who bubbles with testosterone. Yet Gray’s existence picks up unexpected speed when his own wife signs on to manage the mayoral campaign of an eight-foot-tall opponent, Reason Wilder—a nemesis who seems hardly human. Soon several mysterious old men have hired Gray to investigate this monstrous neophyte…and what ensues is a mad escapade that perfectly captures the ongoing derangement of our current electoral order. Mr. Neutron is satire at its best: sharp, clever and unsettling. Ponepinto has penned the defining political comedy for our own tragicomic democracy.”
—Jacob M. Appel, author of Millard Salter’s Last Day
“Mr. Neutron is pure fun, satire at its best, skewering American government, politics, and society with delicious humor and insight. This is a book you’ll press on your friends, a book full of quotable gems and characters you won’t soon forget.”
—Kathy Anderson, author of Bull and Other Stories
“Just when you thought politics couldn’t get any stranger, Joe Ponepinto gives us this–a madcap, comedic tale of politics as usual–or unusual, rather. You’ll laugh, you’ll cry, you’ll read, you’ll vote. And then you’ll read again.”
—B.J. Hollars, author of Flock Together
In eighteen stories that shine a light on people who are far from champions, Like a Champion is an ode to underdogs and long shots, sad office parties and one-sided basketball games, disappointed worker bees and hopeful lovers. Vincent Chu’s work is funny and big-hearted, like the best short stories of Sherman Alexie, and imbued with a generosity and warmth that reminds us that moments of glory can happen when we least expect it.
PRAISE FOR LIKE A CHAMPION
“Chu finds ways to turn the everyday into the revelatory… He covers a host of relationships – familial, romantic, occupational – and, in doing so, showcases the complexities of the characters on display. Chu’s stories are solidly realistic in their scope, exploring everyday issues with charm and empathy – and occasional moments of unexpected humor”
— Kirkus Reviews
“Vincent Chu takes us on a journey through real life, with brief glimpses into the lives of diverse characters. While each character and story is different, there is something relatable about them all. You’ll find yourself among friends in these stories”
— San Francisco Book Review
“Like a Champion is a lighthearted testimony to life’s unexpected turns… Chu creates a context where the lonely feel loved, connections thrive through conflicts, and private issues unfold in public spaces. Above all, each story retains a sense of hope or new beginning”
— Forth Magazine
“With gentle precision, Chu moves beyond the writerly adage of show don’t tell; he doesn’t want the reader to be shown or told anything, rather asking the reader to experience the feeling of being sucked into another person’s head… by the end of the book, we’re not just cheering for his characters, but for Chu himself”
— East Bay Review
“Chu decidedly hands us a triumphant collection of surprising, energetic stories and good, weird, sometimes sad people. It is an intimate book that made me laugh out loud more than once… I read this book thinking, oh bless their hearts, bless all of our hearts”
— Leesa Cross-Smith, author of Whiskey & Ribbons
“Vincent Chu can do many things, tell a story, create indelible characters, and craft spot-on dialogue, but what he does most movingly in Like a Champion is unpack our greatest fears, hopes and desires, in other words, what makes us human”
— Ben Tanzer, author of Be Cool
“The brilliance of this collection is not only these complex portrayals but the surprising twists that make us nod in recognition at what makes us hopeful and human. A fun and deeply moving read”
— Jimin Han, author of A Small Revolution
“The characters in each story reminded me of either myself or someone I know. Cannot wait for more from Vincent Chu. At the end of Like a Champion, I felt as if each story could be a full-fledged novel on its own”
— Shamala Palanappian, author of Elephant’s Breath
“These stories surprise and delight. Vincent Chu sees into the longings, quirks, and humanity of his characters, revealing the small moments that touch their lives with gravity and, often, grace”
— Lindsey Crittenden, author of The Water Will Hold You
In twenty-eight stories that draw blood while making you laugh, Alex Behr’s debut collection Planet Grim is a vivid, unsettling portrait of the gritty fringes of San Francisco and Portland, where complicated characters long for connection just out of reach. Behr is an idiosyncratic, unpredictable prose stylist with an edge and willingness to cut to the bone that makes her writing truly original.
PRAISE FOR PLANET GRIM
“Alex Behr’s imagination is wild, rigorous, and totally unique. I haven’t been able to decide if her stories are comedies intercut with horror or horror stories leavened by comedy, but when they’re this entertaining, who cares?”
— Tom Bissell, author of Apostle: Travels Among the Tombs of the Twelve
“Alex Behr’s Planet Grim turned me inside out. No, really, these stories of eros and ids getting loose, inner contradictions and desires crashing into each other like marbles, brutal instances of violence up against a moment of tender beauty, the people and lovers and mothers and families in this book are carved from the guts of us. What sits dead center at this hybrid of self and other is, mercifully, an unbeaten heart.”
— Lidia Yuknavitch, author of The Book of Joan and The Small Backs of Children
“Alex Behr’s characters are conflicted, uncertain, and pained. What’s so compelling about her fiction is how she honors that conflictedness, explores the uncertainties, and examines the pain until it reveals itself as irreducibly human and therefore a kind of grace.”
— Dan DeWeese, author of You Don’t Love This Man and Disorder
“In Alex Behr’s funny, poignant stories, the kids are sharp, fearless, and insatiable, the parents conflicted, lustful, and tough. The meaning of family and love is an epic game nobody can win or stop playing.”
— Mary Rechner, author of the story collection Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women
“Planet Grim is an affecting debut that should remind us how we’re all fighting a tough battle.”
—The Lit Pub
“…the main draw to this book is the extraordinary sentence work on each and every page. Readers who love dark stories filled with drugs, strangeness, desperate characters, Cascade landscapes, and some of the best writing this reviewer has ever read in a debut, should pick up Planet Grim.”
“Planet Grim pushes the limits of the imaginable and takes readers on an ever-expanding, sometimes horrifying, yet always entertaining journey, leaving us all wondering just where Behr might take us next.”
“She has a world that is entirely her’s, which is not given to many debut authors. She is obviously inspired by many iconic names such as Gaitskill and Cheever, but the worldview she introduces in Planet Grim is entirely hers.”
—Dead End Follies
“Alex Behr’s Planet Grim is an honest exploration of human conflict, convolution, and confusion. Her pacing, unflinching gaze upon the grotesque, and her unique descriptive turns make this book a gripping and compelling read.”
—Mom Egg Review
Nominated for a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award, The Glamshack is a lyrical, darkly humorous novel on the nature of love, divinity, the Plains Indian Wars, and the male gaze. A bold, accomplished work set at millennium’s end, the book echoes early prose masterpieces of Cormac McCarthy and Martin Amis, but is entirely Paul Cohen.
PRAISE FOR THE GLAMSHACK
“There is a powerful, innate tension in his writing which comes not only from his voice but from his particular way of looking at things, an unusual way, and in art in fiction the only real worlds are likely to be the unusual.”
“There is so much to admire in Paul Cohen’s beauty of a first book. It is smart, sexy, wonder-filled, haunting and oh so marvelously, so humanly strange. Here even meat (venison) can be graceful. Here the heart grows hot, the soul burns dark and Desire blows a thousand horns.”
—Laird Hunt, author of The Evening Road
“Funny, intense and brilliant, this is a book about love but also about the self’s ability to withstand love. Every sentence is poetic, magnetized, in love with life. The language in this book cuts so close to the heart of experience that it feels very much like life itself–sacred, invincible, beautiful, full of meaning.”
—Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
“Poignant, sharp writing infused with flashes of brutal humor. Paul Cohen’s The Glamshack cuts to the quandary we all endure: the burden of desire. With a voice distinct and resonating, Cohen casts a sober eye on life and longing, love and failure. He personalizes a universal plight and casts a searing spotlight on the fact that we are all uniquely un-unique that, in the end, we all share the same fate.”
—Douglas Light, author of The Trouble with Bliss and Where Night Stops
“The Glamshack is that exceptionally rare, uncategorizable novel that not only finds its greatest achievements in its singularity, but also serves as a reminder of how very familiar and commonly un-daring contemporary fiction is in general.”
—Josh Kendall, Executive Editor, Little Brown, in letter nominating The Glamshack for a Pushcart Press Editor’s Book Award
“In his debut novel, Cohen manages the impressive feat of memorably documenting obsession without surrendering to it.”
“Cohen is creating new language, finding surprising combinations that are both familiar and wonder-inducing.”
—Heavy Feather Review
“With sparse, languorous sentences that nonetheless hold a masterful deep-seated tension throughout, The Glamshack is a look into the interior landscape of a man on the edge of self-discovery, and, even larger, it chronicles the ubiquitous nature of us all.”
“[The Glamshack] fits together like a beautiful puzzle without losing any sense of urgent personal anguish.”
—Barnes & Noblz Reads 10 Debut Novels for Your Autumn (2017) Reading List