In These Times the Home is a Tired Place

( 1 )


When an unwed pregnant woman is pressured to get married by her boyfriend, parents, and the entire culture around her, she sees a feverish intensity emanating from the path to domesticity, a “paved path shaded by thick-trunked trees, lined with trim grass and manicured mansions, where miniature houses play mailboxes and animals play lawn ornaments and people play happiness.”

Jessica Hollander’s debut collection exposes a culture that glorifies and disparages traditional ...

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When an unwed pregnant woman is pressured to get married by her boyfriend, parents, and the entire culture around her, she sees a feverish intensity emanating from the path to domesticity, a “paved path shaded by thick-trunked trees, lined with trim grass and manicured mansions, where miniature houses play mailboxes and animals play lawn ornaments and people play happiness.”

Jessica Hollander’s debut collection exposes a culture that glorifies and disparages traditional domesticity, where people’s confusion, apathy, and anxiety about the institutions of marriage and family often drive them to self-destruction.

The world in Hollander’s nineteen stories appears at once familiar and vividly unsettling, with undercurrents of anger and violence attached to everyday objects and spaces: a pink room is “a woman exploded,” home smells “of laundered clothes and gas from the grill,” and the sun “is so bright the sky fills with over-exposure, wilting the corners to orange, to red, to black.” Here people adopt extreme and erratic behavior: hack at furniture, have affairs with high school students, fantasize about sex with “monsters,” laden flower bouquets with messages of hate; but these self-destructive acts and fantasies feel strangely like a form of growth or enlightenment, or at least the only form that’s available to them.

As characters become girlfriends, wives, husbands, and mothers, they struggle within their roles, either fighting to escape them or struggling to “play” them correctly, but always concerned with the loss of individuality, of being swallowed up by society’s expectations and becoming “a mother” or “a wife” instead of remaining themselves.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
★ 09/23/2013
Winner of the 2013 Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Short Fiction, Hollander’s debut collection effectively fuses the common (childhood adventures, unhappy adults) with the bizarre (a grandmother obsessed with buttons, a gym full of people refusing to wear clothes) to create an intriguing volume. Shunning traditional story structure, Hollander has a deft ear for dialogue, and she refuses to let characters converse in straightforward patter. Instead, these protagonists respond with non sequiturs, half-answers, or silence, and in the book’s 19 narratives (some as short as the single, looping paragraph of “If We Miss the Beginning”), domestic life is completely dissected. “What Became of What She Had Made” follows an overbearing mother as she tries to understand her daughter’s silence, while in “March On,” a teenage girl tries to escape a life in flux, yet never quite evades its grasp. Likewise, “The Problem with Moving,” one of the collection’s strongest stories, casts the reader as a transient protagonist, constantly on the move but always running into the same types of people (the neighbor, the neighbor’s dog) and places (apartment buildings, work). The details in these stories are ring true and recognizable amid the insanity. A potent work from a strong new literary voice. (Nov.)
From the Publisher

“Hollander’s debut collection effectively fuses the common (childhood adventures, unhappy adults) with the bizarre (a grandmother obsessed with buttons, a gym full of people refusing to wear clothes) to create an intriguing volume. . . . The details in these stories ring true and are recognizable amid the insanity. A potent work from a strong new literary voice.”—Publishers Weekly starred review

"Powered by elliptical dialogue and slightly surreal scenarios, the stories manage to convey high states of anxiety within relatively few pages. . . . Striking reading for short story aficionados."--Booklist

“These are human tales of vigorously individual characters living with intensity. The author’s ear for revealing dialogue and double-edged humor ground these stories in a reality worth enduring. The characters connect despite suspicion and betrayal, beyond blood, circumstance or embarrassment at their own ridiculous humanity. Each piece is powered by a deep, slow boiling jubilation in the moment-to-moment, line-by-line fact of taking breath.”—Katherine Dunn, author of Geek Love and judge

"Jessica Hollander's collection of stories is an unbroken chain of startlingly revelatory moments.  She writes of the secrets of the psyche, and of the domestic drama of our times, with subtlety and grace and with a precision which makes the many moments of shocking clarity that much more powerful.  This is work that gets to the very heart of the human condition, and does so in musical prose at a wildly thrilling pace.  This is an unforgettable collection by an important new writer."—Laura Kasischke, author of If a Stranger Approaches You and In a Perfect World

"Jessica Hollander's debut collection makes heartbreaking comedy out of the vagaries of life in contemporary America.  Her deft and inventive storytelling re-imagines relationships between romantic partners, parents and children, teachers and students, and, perhaps most heartbreaking of all, what makes us happy and what will destroy us. From a high school teacher who finds herself oddly drawn to a female student, to a grandmother who sends frequent postcards warning her family of her imminent death, Hollander orchestrates magnificent collisions between conventional notions of normality and the irreducible strangeness of life as it's actually lived in the 21st century."--Wendy Rawlings, author of The Agnostics and Come Back Irish

In These Times the Home is a Tired Place is a communiqué to all zygotes with ambitions to please think about what they’re about to do. Be careful, these stories warn, the world is going to expect you to wear shoes and know about fish forks. And understand that if you say yes to being born, if you agree to being a member of a family, you will one day be plagued by these questions: What is my fault? For which tragedies am I responsible? If you ask Jessica Hollander, she’ll tell you straight: all of it. Life is one unwitting infraction after another. These stories, about, among other things, the endearing apocalypse of childbearing and –rearing, are as funny and fierce and charming and startling in their wisdom as life is tragic, which is to say at least you’ll have a good manual for living once you get here. So, zygote, are you up to it?”—Kellie Wells, author of Fat Girl, Terrestrial

“Like the description of one of her characters, Jessica Hollander’s senses are “heightened to danger”. These incredible stories are razor-sharp with the possibility of disaster, and Hollander is doing something special in transforming domestic spaces into something anxious and unsettling. Simply put, Hollander understands the weirdness of family, of relationships, and she has the language to make it exciting and new.”—Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

"If Jane Austen had written short stories, they would have read much like the restlessly domestic, marvelously mannered ones found in Jessica Hollander’s debut collection, In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place. Hollander’s fictions are hyper-real, saturated with telling timely detail, delivered by attuned and tenaciously scaled and sculpted language. One is up to one’s Empire neck in sense and sensibility and pride and prejudice and and and and and so much more."—Michael Martone, author of Michael Martone and Four for a Quarter

In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place has the potential to bring broader attention to a small market press. . . . Hollander’s evocative imagery does a marvelous job of capturing the sort of existential ennui that many young millennials have faced since the start of The Great Recession. . . . Hollander’s characters wander into the paralysis and anguish of an entire generation.”—Michael Broida, The Rumpus Review

In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place is a sneak-attack on the conventions of domestic dramas. As Hollander’s stories unfold, the rapids undermining peaceful domestic life become apparent, and sweep readers along in their current for a read that has a much wider scope than just suburban homes.”—Caitlin Van Horn, Bustle

“The stories in In These Times the Home is a Tired Place brim with tension and little moments of surprise, and I found them exciting to read. The author doesn't shy away from gritty subjects or dark emotions--yet her stories also offer unexpected and touching moments of hope. . . . Recommended for fans of literary short fiction of the more daring sort--Hollander's stories would be nicely at home on the bookshelf alongside collections by Caitlin Horrocks, Holly Goddard Jones, Danielle Evans, Megan Mayhew Bergman, Bonnie Jo Campbell and others.”—Jennifer M. Kaufman, Books, Personally

“A fresh and original voice. . . . The stories are far from bleak, seamed as they are with a deadpan black humor, and enlivened by sharp, brisk telling.”—Mia Taylor, Mid-American Review

"A delightful, hyperrealistic take on today's suburban landscape. . . . In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place showcases Hollander's incredible eye for finding overlooked moments and inflating them with her astute language. Her work contains a heartfelt intensity not to be missed."--Front Porch Journal

"Most female characters in these stories falter at a perceived crossroad, a moment in their lives when they can choose the path of social expectation or swerve their own way. These conflicts arise in biting, humorous prose--sharp, clipped sentences interrupted by sentences of surprising beauty and length. . . . In these stories, language is Hollander's strength. With it, she excavates the hidden implications and repercussions of social norms with a humor that enlivens and illuminates. Her scenes shine vividly and tensely."--New Letters

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Product Details

Meet the Author

JESSICA HOLLANDER grew up in Ann Arbor, Michigan, and received her BA from the University of Michigan. She holds an MFA from the University of Alabama. Her stories have appeared in over fifty journals, including The Cincinnati Review, The Journal, Quarterly West, and Web Conjunctions, and she will be anthologized in The Lineup: 25 Provocative Women Writers. She teaches at the University of Alabama.
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Read an Excerpt




University of North Texas Press

Copyright © 2013 Jessica Hollander
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-57441-523-0


You Are a Good Girl I Love You

A note posted on my fourteen-year-old sister's door, a warning: Our house has walls and doors like any other house and inside each house are rooms and inside the rooms are beds with covers and no matter how much you kick the sheets mom shrink-wrapped to the mattress the covers are heavy on a chest.

My sister's explanation for why she now slept on her bare mattress naked.

p.s. if this is a problem i will gladly sleep clothesless in the backyard.

My father pounding on the door yelling Beatrice If I'm Late and Beatrice You Think I'm Impressed You Are A Child. He dropped us at school since my sister ditched from the bus stop every day for a week, so I took my time getting ready: putting on makeup and blotting it off. My father wanted order and my sister systematically disordered. It was a home theater Mom and I gossiped about in the driveway and stairwell: who had said, who had shifted, who had asked us to communicate something.

Dad found me finished in the bathroom and said, "Please deal with your sister."

It wasn't really a show. A sister naked first thing in the morning became daily—her flat on her back, sprawled human-sacrifice style; her frightening ribs, her raised stomach—it wasn't healthy. Most mornings she sat up slumped, head down and moaning, and I pulled a T-shirt over her head.

Today her deadheaded boyfriend in boxers—Thank God—and knee-high gray socks. He lay passed out on the floor with a three-foot extravagantly dirty bong inches from his fist. The window open and the smell of coal made the room cold and stuffy; it was snowing. My sister already dressed on the bed laughed at my face. "Let's make Dad later than late," she said.

"You've gotten lazy," I said. "Every morning the same franticity and all the cars are bitches."

Beneath us the front door slammed and the boyfriend's foot twitched. We waited and heard the door open again and my Dad: "Gertrude! Drag her down by the greased strings she calls hair!"

Bea held my hand; I sat beside her on the bed. "I think it helps his productivity at the office," she said.

I hoped the result would be a car for my eighteenth birthday—for taxiing purposes.

* * *

I was dragged into it. I was allowed to do what I wanted; Bea wasn't allowed out until her dirt-creased boyfriend showed some respect, like Please Sir and Thank You Very Much This Is Delicious—it had come to this. "I want my house a Victorian sanctuary," Dad said, overheard in the entryway when I was just back from work. Beside me Bea's boyfriend against the wall with his hands in his pockets and his eyelids lowered sleepily. He resembled somewhat a dream-teen actor, the one skinny and long-haired and shuffling. Bea's boyfriend was eager to drop out of school and move to California, where he could pose for pictures on Hollywood Boulevard with Superdog and Mr. Impossible and The Hulks.

Mom watched me from the piano bench like Move Slowly, and soundlessly I slipped off my boots.

"I want everyone who enters mannered and buttoned-up," Dad said.

Bea shouted, "You don't make Gertrude's boyfriend present cows or wear frock coats or bow in doorways."

"Gert's boyfriend doesn't come in the house with cigarettes. He doesn't make comments about her legs licking his lips."

"Repression screws people up psychologically," Bea said.

I jumped, feeling the boyfriend's hands on my shoulders. He helped me out of my coat. He hung it on top of other coats; the whole wall was puffed with suede and down and faux fur. "Thank your dude for me."

I'd seen this idiot at my boyfriend Pete's locker; they shook hands and Pete gave me a look like This Is Crazy I'll Tell You Later. But Pete was SAT-determined and afternoons his parents concealed his phone and closed the wood shutters of the bedroom window I usually snuck in. We didn't mind sneaking around. Mostly we studied together or whispered about the future or had sex quiet beneath the covers.

Neither Pete nor I had much contact with Bea's boyfriend besides a nod or smile-sneer. We generally figured he'd wind up in the sewers, a good-looking troll that would make others believe life beneath the bridge preferable.

The boyfriend smoothed my knee-length coat to the bottom. "In health, Bea's researching the female orgasm," he told my mother. "Expect a call about it."

"Beautiful," she said.

"I've got to depart," the boyfriend said. "My dad's just like him."

"We're talking about a free humanity," Bea told Dad in the kitchen. "Why must we wear coats when it's cold and buy food in packages?"

"That's the language of vagrants," Dad said.

"Because I'd like the option of wearing a halter top in December."

I sat beside Mom on the piano bench. "It's gotten to the point," she said. "Some lightening up may be necessary."

"Because the street's always looking for more homeless and think how attractive your legs will look wearing a trashcan," Dad said.

There was a commotion, furniture moved. Then Dad leading toward the stairs with Bea's arm tight in his grip and Bea crying furious, lock-jawed.

"Close the door to your room and knock yourself out," Dad said. "Scream, strip, smear Crisco in your hair. Knock yourself out."

* * *

Coaxing Bea from her room wasn't difficult: she was starving and eager to stare blankly at objects and ignore everything Dad said. Mom appreciating our new Victorian sanctuary came to dinner in her puffed-hourglass dress she never thought she'd have an excuse to wear again, with pearl buttons up to her chin. Dad made a show unfolding his napkin. It wasn't a good conversation. Dad calling Bea's boyfriend a Hyde and Mom mentioning her waist felt caught inside a paperclip.

"The parlor was full of visitors today," Mom said. "They brought news most intriguing."

"No more about Bea's boyfriend," Dad said. "He's banned from discussion. I want to hear about this trip."

Next week Pete and I were taking his family's Jeep to visit campuses. Of course Pete and I would attend the same school, live in the same dorm, plan classes to start and end together so we would be only briefly apart. We had a dependable timeline mapped out behind the child's armoire in his room involving dates: graduations, wedding, first jobs, first house, babies raised by smiling parents. Some evenings we practiced smiling thinking the more one does it the more natural it feels.

"Who's chaperoning the trip?" Dad asked. This after weeks saying only I Hope You Don't Dumb Down Your Chances For That Guy.

"I'm pretty sure your time warp is limited to this house," I said. "Queen Victoria died in 1901."

"I think there should be a chaperone."

Bea opened her mouth and a wad of chewed chicken and potatoes plopped onto her plate. She was really a child. Looking at her—tallness and slicked hair—I kept forgetting.

"I just mean we can try for some mannered living," Dad said.

"It's a very tight space for women," Mom said. "But the parlor is lovely."

Bea dropped another chunk of food on her plate.

"This is a joke." Dad put down his fork.

"So laugh," I said.

"I wouldn't appreciate an anarchist son either," he told me.

Mom patted her hair, stood, and swayed. "One thing about Victorian women is they knew how to exit. Big grand exits." She waltzed toward the stairs. No one laughed.

I took Bea's plate to the sink and covered the chewed chunks with a napkin. Bea picked at her teeth.

"That's great," Dad said. "Dinner's over. The worst time of day with nothing to look forward to."

* * *

Bea helped me with the dishes. The day faded, and Dad made coffee and sat on the back porch in full winter wear watching the neighborhood kids run off their last bits of energy: throwing mittens and stomping hats and dashing in and out of imagined boundaries. The coffee steamed and Dad huddled over it.

Mom reappeared loosened in sweatpants with a pencil in her hair. She paused next to me and looked out the window.

"Great entrance," I said.

"Well, I'm a human again, not just a woman." She sat cross-legged at the table with her crossword.

"I can't even watch television with him," Bea said. She had her phone out, distracting her from loading the dishwasher. "People kiss and he's all 'Is that really necessary?'"

"He liked you better when you were little," Mom said, looking through the glass door at Dad like we didn't all prefer littleness to big and awkward.

"We liked him better then, too," Bea said.

"No one wants more adults in a house," Mom said.

Bea threw her phone against the wall.

Mom picked it up and set it on the table. "Beatrice, show some restraint."

Bea slid open the glass door and stood one leg in the kitchen and one on the porch. "I'm going to have a baby." She looked at the back of my father's head. "Pete and Gertrude are going to raise it."

* * *

I tried—grabbing her arms asking What Baby Beatrice You Are A Child—but she fought me off leaving me looking at my parents and them looking at me like What Are We Going To Do This Girl Is Crazy.

Bea locked herself in her room with a dresser against the door; we listened to it sputter dragged above us.

Dad left the kitchen, and Mom followed him repeating Wait Stop What. In front of me there was a door, and through backyards I could run coatless and shoeless to Pete's where stacks of flashcards lined his desk waiting for me to quiz him, and beneath his bed lay a basket of thick warm socks.

Dad returned with an extra scarf wrapped around him and said Gertrude You Are A Smart Girl I Love You. He walked out the backdoor toward the thin patch of woods and the backyard of another house similar to ours—with more walls and doors and beds, etc.

"It's a joke," I told Mom.

"Or she thought the truth would be funnier." She shivered. Cold air blew in at us from the door Dad left open. "I should be more a mother. There was so much fathering I figured it wasn't necessary."

I closed the glass door and looked for Dad in the dark yard. He wasn't there. "This house needs someone stationary."

"Maybe you missed your sister's announcement." She got a sponge from the sink and walked around with the rough end scrubbing phantom spots on the counter. Then the table. Besides seeing photos of her young and Bea-like, I didn't usually notice how old she was. Her hair grayed and now she looked more like me.

"I didn't miss it," I said. "I'm deemed fit to mother."

Mom scrubbed a yellowed place on the floor. "Dad would like to come along next week." She shifted, crouched and determined above the spot. "He wonders about Pete's influence over your decisions."

"I don't need you guys worrying about me."

"You think we can worry nonstop about your sister? We'd never get any sleep."

* * *

Calm, I just wanted to keep moving. Upstairs, my door locked and the house quiet, I couldn't wait not knowing if Dad was home. Through the window I climbed down the lattice and saw Bea's boyfriend shuffling across the street. I met him at the bottom near the ropey dead vines. For how locked-up Dad wanted the house, his night surveillance was lazy. It was snowing again so no footprints to worry about, and no cold ground crunch.

Bea's boyfriend stared at the snow when I said Give Me Your Cigarettes And Drinks And Anything Else You Know What I Mean. What worried me: he handed over his cigarettes and lighter.

I jogged to Pete's house on the snow-fluffed sidewalk. Our neighborhoods overlapped each other, all quiet streets and thick old trees hiding various denials of boredom. Everyone Victorian and mannered and buttoned-up except wine bottles overflowed recycle bins and condom rappers stuck to sticks and beneath the snow there was evidence of dogs allowed to go on the sidewalk.

Passing the park of nautical-themed playground equipment, I saw a figure on the largest boat. Ten feet off the ground, he climbed over the navigation wheel and up the wood slats. My bundled father. He jumped ship. He hit ground and lay crumpled. Probably he didn't notice me in my black sweatshirt. I kept jogging, watching until he sat up and waved, and I waved, and then he was behind me.

Pete's house was a ranch and his room in the back. He sat blanket-wrapped in the window. He was tall and too-angular with big features always a little red and a little happy even when he was sad. He lowered himself into the snow when he saw me.

"If you want to say abortion go ahead," he said. He helped me through the window, and we fell tangled onto his bed; it was covered in cut index cards—pink, green, yellow—with my handwriting scribbled Gainsay. Amalgamate. To leave suddenly. They were scattered all over the room as though thrown.

"Abortion," I said. "I'll talk to her." Bea wasn't going to ruin my life to make some kind of statement. I pulled the flashcards closest to me and stacked them.

"I just thought the two of them and the poor kid," Pete said.

"A kid's not something you can hide in a dorm room and sneak out for bathroom breaks."

He sat up serious. "Obviously we'd get an apartment. We'd schedule it out."

"You're joking," I said. But I knew he wasn't. "This isn't our time to raise some baby." I went around his room gathering flashcards, explaining I'd Like To Do Things How They're Supposed To Be Done I Thought That Was The Plan. I went around his room gathering flashcards because that was a priority—because the words felt big and grand stacked neatly in my hand.


If We Miss the Beginning

If it doesn't stop snowing will we miss the beginning? If we miss the beginning and if the beginning is what matters should we encourage the snow and say sorry it was the snow? If the groom gave better directions would we be there already and would the boy stop crying and would we not have to miss the beginning? If the snow stops and we've already missed the beginning can we go to the café we went to as kids? If the café reminds us of our own beginning could it count in a way later when we explain to the groom why we missed the beginning? If inside the café the snow starts again and we see the snow through the window and understand the beginning is the only thing would it change the end? If we stay in the café in our beginning could we say to the boy there will be no end? If the snow doesn't stop and we never make it to the wedding and never say to the groom congratulations on your beginning we wish it was ours would no one see with the ending so close how impossible the beginning is for us to see?


This Kind of Happiness

In the middle of a mandatory meeting about proposal distribution, the girlfriend excused herself, took the stairs to the second floor bathroom, where space belonged to her: all these cubes she could enter, doors she could latch. Here, she could carefully read the directions and administer the test. She could sit on the toilet watching the white stick's cloudy window without the boyfriend asking, asking, asking. What's that? What's wrong? Are you ...? Are you?

At home, the boyfriend was everywhere. He occupied the bathroom with her—flossed while she showered, shaved while she peed—because, he once told her, the windowless, linoleum-floored room, with the ceiling fan cranking and the curling water streaks and the clumps of hair in the corners, was the loneliest room in the apartment.

The girlfriend went into a bathroom stall and took the pregnancy test. She waited. The bathroom door opened and a pair of red Mary Janes paused in front of her stall.

"Do you mind if I get on the phone?" the shoes asked.

"I guess not," said the girlfriend.

The shoes walked away, and then shortly: "I meant to wake you. I want you to be a thick-tongued idiot when I tell you if I'm driving and I see you in the street, I'll smash you into a fire hydrant."

The girl in the red shoes laughed.

Two pink lines made their way to the stick's surface. The girlfriend stuffed the test into the trash receptacle.

When the girlfriend exited the stall, the red-shoed girl stood stooped with her elbows in one of the sinks, looking in the mirror. "He's a puddle I keep slipping into," she told the girlfriend.

The girlfriend nodded. There were a lot of puddles. Big ones were easy to avoid, but small ones seemed a moderate challenge. People walked right into them.

* * *

Already, the girlfriend's senses seemed heightened to damage. She avoided coffee in the morning, tuna at lunch. Hot tubs could injure the embryo; strenuous exercise and soft cheese, too: she recalled these things she'd read or heard or imagined. She moved slowly around the cold apartment, crossed the icy drive with her puffy-mittened hands in front of her like she wanted the world to pause. Wait. Hold it. She inched forward.

On their food-stained loveseat, the girlfriend sat down with the boyfriend. He pressed his lips together. She knew he had his suspicions. They'd been reckless with protection: a test-tube experiment. Maybe, maybe, maybe. They were, after all, in their late twenties with no reason to move further down the path of Standard Expectations. But the path was there: in the increased telephoned pleadings from parents, in the pictures of wedding-cake smiles and babies-in-beanies their co-workers posted in the office. The girlfriend and boyfriend hovered before the paved path shaded by thick-trunked trees, lined with trim grass and manicured mansions, where miniature houses played mailboxes and animals played lawn ornaments and people played happiness.

Excerpted from IN THESE TIMES THE HOME IS A TIRED PLACE by JESSICA HOLLANDER. Copyright © 2013 Jessica Hollander. Excerpted by permission of University of North Texas Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents


Acknowledgments....................     ix     

You Are a Good Girl I Love You....................     1     

If We Miss the Beginning....................     10     

This Kind of Happiness....................     11     

I Would Stop....................     20     

What Became of What She Had Made....................     23     

The Year We Are Twenty-Three....................     37     

Put the Animals to Bed....................     47     

March On....................     51     

The Good Luck Doll....................     63     

In These Times the Home Is a Tired Place....................     66     

How to Be a Prisoner....................     74     

Like Falling Down and Laughing....................     78     

I Now Pronounce You....................     94     

Buttons....................     102     

January on the Ground....................     105     

Ruckus, Exhaustion....................     116     

Staring Contests....................     119     

The Problem with Moving....................     127     

Blooms Lined Up Like This....................     130     

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 26, 2013

    Innovative and potent work from a fresh new voice. Really astoun

    Innovative and potent work from a fresh new voice. Really astounding. Sharp prose with complex characters and an underlying humor that stitches the collection together. 

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