top of page

Women in Bed

Jessica Keener

Women in Bed

Story Plant hardcover

ISBN: 978-1-61188-075-5

Fiction Studio Books e-book

ISBN: 978-1-61188-076-2

Publication date: October 1, 2013

158 pages


“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.

About the Author...

Jessica Keener

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."

bottom of page