Story Plant hardcover
Fiction Studio Books e-book
Publication date: October 1, 2013
“Nine deftly drawn stories, reminiscent of those of some of the masters of the short story genre, from Katherine Mansfield to Raymond Carver.”
– BU Today
“Keener's writing is fantastic and helps to set the scene and the tone of each story. As I was reading I found myself highlighting line after line.”
– Kelly’s France Blog
Jennifer is “gaunt and rangy looking” when she drops out of a tiny women’s college in Vermont and returns to Boston to figure out her life in a boarding house run by a ninety-year-old tyrant. She appears in five of the nine stories, taking on various odd jobs and men throughout her twenties—waitressing, medical transcription, one-night stands, sales—as she sheds family dysfunction and heartbreak.
Leah is an angry, combative college student struggling with grief, wildly fluctuating emotions and visions. At night, under a full moon, “her body quivered and she saw the furniture vibrate in the light as if it were painted in air.” She becomes entangled with her art professor, a didactic, arrogant woman with a taste for humiliating her students.
Cynthia is in her forties, married without children, who has reached a point in her carefully lived life where she wants to make a change but isn’t sure how. When she quits her longtime social work job at a hospital, she begins a downward spin toward unperceived darkness “like an invalid who has fallen in love with her bed.”
Elizabeth, a young woman in her twenties, meets her fate in a hospital isolation room where she is undergoing a bone marrow transplant. Powerful medicines have a hallucinatory effect. Sound becomes “an elastic pulling” at her ears; time on a wall clock is reduced to “two sticks bobbing.” Her bed that she imagines is a canoe feels “flooded and useless.” Memory is her horizon of hope as are her nurse, doctor, and brother who rally around her to keep her afloat.
Laura marries young and becomes a successful realtor, shuttling couples around in search of their dream houses while her own marriage is disintegrating. She takes homage in a cottage by the sea where her bras “hang on the doorknobs” and her “camisoles cling to the cupboard handles,” and where a man she meets at a dinner party shows up unexpectedly—“emerging out of the dark like a diver coming up for air”—knocking on her screen door.
Jessica Keener’s extraordinary debut novel, the national bestseller Night Swim, captivated readers with its eloquence, insight, and humanity. “This gripping first novel announces the arrival of a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice,” said Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants called Keener, “an amazing new literary voice.” now Keener returns with this collection of nine stories that thematically address variations of love – love of self, family, and sexual relationships – from loneliness and isolation, desperation and rejection to need and passion, forgiveness and, finally, to love found.
Poignant, surprising, funny and profound, and always perceptive and gorgeously written, Women in Bed is a rich collection of moving tales that will engage you from the first page.
Read an interview with Jessica on Examiner.
Read an interview with Jessica on Tottenville Review.
“What we do – or don’t or won’t do – for love, in all its incarnations, is at the fiercely beating heart of this stellar collection of linked stories. As exhilarating as love at first sight, and written in prose as clear and spare as a single bed, these stories linger, haunt and showcase the talents of a literary master.”
– Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You and Is it Tomorrow
Women in Bed
“It is impossible to turn away from these beautiful and evocative stories. Jessica Keener explores the courage, vulnerabilities, and strength of women in every phase of life. No matter who you are, you will see a version of yourself illuminated in this poignant, powerful book.”
– Jessica Anya Blau, author of The Wonder Bread Summer
“Seductive, incandescent, suspenseful, and wise, Women in Bed is a masterful collection that explores a landscape of intimate love, heartbreak, and desire. Keener’s writing has a thrilling clarity. At once multifaceted and seamless, these stories map, with searing precision, the intricacies of the heart and those irrevocable moments on which a life turns.”
– Dawn Tripp, author of Game of Secrets and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award
“Haunting and profoundly thought-provoking, the nine stories in Jessica Keener's Women in Bed are probing, unflinching portrayals of self-reflection and redemption.”
– Maryanne O’Hara, author of Cascade, a People magazine "Book Picks, 2012"
"Memorable, deep and haunting."
– Digital Journal
"Demonstrates a versatile voice and ability to deliver as much exquisite detail as the stories’ brevity will allow."
– Publishers Weekly
“An elegantly written, thought provoking book…. It is a mirror to our world, as we women think beyond ourselves, trying to bring meaning, especially the part that causes pain, to the world in which we live.”
– The Rediscovered Self
“Jessica Keener is a fantastic writer and storyteller. She uses simple prose and vivid descriptions to immerse the reader into the story without overwhelming.”
– The Daily Dosage
“Reading the stories was an emotional roller coaster, with tales of love that swooped and swelled while others of loneliness and detachment held grace with the unforgiving and uncomfortable reality of emotional plateau. I appreciated this book on so many levels. It is very powerful and gutsy; sharing both the dark and the light of true emotions with equal honesty.”
“An impressive, vividly told collection of short stories about love and intimacy.”
– Largehearted Boy
“As I turned the last page of Women in Bed, Jessica Keener’s new collection of mesmerizing short stories, I realized I loved this book so much, I wanted to have a conversation with the author. Her words are bold and brave and they moved me—to the point that I began to write questions in the margins as I read.”
– The Quivering Pen
“A rich collection of moving tales that will leave you fascinated.”
– Betty Confidential
“Jessica is whip-smart, funny, and interesting, and these characteristics are reflected in her fiction. I devoured her latest short story collection, Women in Bed.”
– Ann Kingman, Books in the Nightstand
"Jessica Keener is an exquisite writer of the shorter tale. She has mastered that nearly impossible trick of condensing entire lives into compelling and telling brevities."
– Beth Kephart
“Jessica Keener is master of immediacy – I started to become intimate with her heroines on the first page of each story in Women in Bed. There’s a clever irony in that suggestive title, for although some of the women are in bed with men, others are paired with women, others are sadly alone with disappointment, and some are dying. I shared the sorrow of all.”
– Edith Pearlman
“Poignant, surprising, funny, and gorgeously written, Women in Bed is a rich collection of moving tales that will engage you from the first page.”
“In Women in Bed, Keener leads us through a lifetime of searching. Her characters’ lives, taken together, are social commentary on the arc of relationships over a lifetime.”
– The Rumpus
“Jessica Keener’s writing sparkles in this gem of a book.”
– Blah, Blah, Blah Book Blog
“Jessica Keener words are often achingly beautiful. I loved her first novel, Night Swim, and have been savoring these nine short stories like chocolates, eaten slowly, one by one, from the deluxe box, to stretch out their enjoyment. Keener writes about love in all its incarnations and she packs an impressive depth and richness into each of these tales. Her characters yearn and seek and hurt and heal. The language is quietly eloquent, and although the stories may be short, they will stay with you for a very long time.”
– Midlife at the Oasis
“Jessica Keener has found a way to touch on the restless and unsteady qualities of life we overlook, by simply observing the world with better than perfect vision. Her life lens is sharp, often unflattering and 100% spellbinding.”
– Jocosa’s Bookshelf
“Jessica Keener’s book, Women in Bed showed a growth in her characters that made it feel like I was watching one woman continue to grow.”
– Books, TV, and Me
“Keener’s writing is the real strength of this collection. In every story you are pulled in to the character’s life and struggles. She conveys a vivid sense of place and a range of moods with a few well-chosen phrases or sentences. So while the stories are dark and haunting, the writing is sharp and memorable.”
– Read Her Like An Open Book
Jessica Keener has earned lavish praise from the literary community (including The New York Times and the Boston Globe), the blogging community, and a distinguished collection of her fellow writers. Sara Gruen, the bestselling author of Water for Elephants called Jessica "an amazing new literary voice" while Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan calls her "a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice" and bestselling author Caroline Leavitt named her "a literary master."