For readers of Miranda July, Rebecca Lee, and Mary Gaitskill, a debut short-story collection that is a mesmerizing blend of wit, transgression, and heart.
LONGLISTED FOR THE PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE FOR DEBUT FICTION
A passive-aggressive couple in the midst of a divorce compete over whose new fling is more exotic. A Russian migrant in Tokyo agonizes over the money her lover accepts from a yakuza. A dead body on a drug dealer’s floor leads to the strangest first date ever.
In this razor-sharp debut collection, Jen Silverman delivers eleven interconnected stories that take place in expat bars, artist colonies, train stations, and matchbox apartments in the United States and Japan. Unforgettable characters crisscross through these transient spaces, loving, hurting, and leaving each other as they experience the loneliness and dangerous freedom that comes with being an outsider. In “Maria of the Grapes,” a pair of damaged runaways get lost in the seductive underworld beneath Tokyo’s clean streets; in “Pretoria,” a South African expatriate longs for the chaos of her homeland as she contemplates a marriage proposal; in “Girl Canadian Shipwreck,” a young woman in Brooklyn seeks permission to flee from her boyfriend and his terrible performance art; in “Maureen,” an aspiring writer realizes that her beautiful, neurotic boss is lonelier than she lets on.
The Island Dwellers ranges near and far in its exploration of solitude and reinvention, identity and sexuality, family and home. Jen Silverman is the rare talent who can evoke the landscape of a whole life in a single subtle phrase—vital, human truths that you may find yourself using as a map to your own heart.
Praise for The Island Dwellers
“These stories, in any case, are irresistible, delivering a portrait of contemporary relationships that . . . is shot through with veins of real connection.”—The New York Times Book Review
“The eleven stories that make up this collection are raw, intense in their longing, and tender in the most unexpected ways.”—Lambda Literary
“Silverman’s disarming and unconventional characters are all searching for a connection with others. Some are battling loneliness or the fear of being alone but they’re all blessed with quick wits and warmth. This is an outstanding short story debut.”—Shelf Awareness