Jessica Keener


Brattleboro Community Television
Oct 2020
Alone Together with Andre Dubus III, Major Jackson, Jessica Keener, Sadia Hassan, Jennifer Haupt.
Boston Globe
Jun 2020
Writers raise tens of thousands in support of Racial Justice Initiative.
Publishers Weekly
Jun 2020
"Writers Against Racial Injustice Raises $55,000 for Equal Justice Initiative"
Jun 2020
#WritersAgainstRacialInjustice Doubles EJI Fundraising Goal
Friends of the South End Library
Dec 2018
"Literary Explorer of the Human Psyche and Mysteries of Life, Believes We're All Survivors of Silence"
Authors 'Round the South
Nov 2018
"Southern Indie Bestsellers"
Winter-Spring 2018
"Outer Worlds and Inner Lives"
Nov 2018
The "IndieNext" List
Mar 2018
Jewish Book Council
Entertainment Weekly
Nov 2017
Strangers in Budapest offers vibrant and thoughtful cultural immersion.
Nov 2017
The Criminal Element
The Boston Globe
Nov 2017
BU Today
Jan 2012
"A Debut Novel Nearly Two Decades in the Making"
Jan 2012
Feb 2008
Sep 2003
AGNI Online
Interview with Ha Jin


Reviews of Strangers in Budapest

"Jessica Keener writes about post-communist Hungary with the heart and specificity of someone who's lived it...her writing sparkles [and] twists keep the pages turning fast. Strangers in Budapest doesn't exoticize or patronize its location; rather, in a rare achievement for an American novel of this international emphasis, it revels in the complexity of its appeal." Entertainment Weekly

"Full of seduction and intrigue, this thrilling novel is a perfect homage to a city in transition." Real Simple

"In her tense and atmospheric thriller...Keener establishes a definitive sense of time and place, makes a sensitive portrait of expat life, and examines ideas of what we lose, where we find home, and how love can and cannot survive." Boston Globe

"With chills lurking around each corner, the perfect page-turner for late autumn." Boston Magazine

"This haunting, beautifully written story emerges from the shadows and narrow streets of Budapest and its historic mysteries to raise intriguing questions about the power of the past, grief, guilt, the endurance of pain and whether redemption is a worthy goal." Hadassah Magazine

"[A] literary explorer of the human psyche and mysteries of life." Friends of the South End Library (Boston, MA)

"Moody and captivating...Keener's Budapest [is] a rough-edged, darkly beautiful city rushing into the future. It makes for an ideal place in which to explore themes of loss, love, and the courage required to come to terms with the past." Jewish Book Council

"A beautifully written mystery...atmospheric and ominous, this novel asks us what we're willing to do to start over in a new world when the old world won't let us go." Wiley Cash, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Ballad

"With lyrical prose, Keener examines grief and guilt, deception and hatred, and the search for an elusive redemption. Strangers in Budapest is a remarkable novel that continues to haunt me, weeks after I reached its powerful, unexpected conclusion." Lauren Belfer, New York Times bestselling author of City of Light, A Fierce Radiance, and And After the Fire

"From the first pages of Strangers in Budapest, the words 'You must not tell anyone' made me feel as if a hand had reached out from the shadows to pull me under, and I was swept away inexorably by this hypnotic plot, these dark scenes, relentless tension. Strangers in Budapest is a riveting, beautiful book that throbs with plot and sparkles with excellent prose." Lydia Netzer, author of How to Tell Toledo from the Night Sky

"A provocative novel about the power of the past—and our interpretations and misinterpretations of it—to haunt the present. A wonderful book." B. A. Shapiro, New York Times bestselling author of The Muralist and The Art Forger

"Gorgeously told and deeply moving, Keener's brilliant new novel is a bold, brave and dazzlingly original tale about home, loss and the persistence of love." Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beautiful World

"Keener's writing is unquestionably skillful. Her ability to render multidimensional characters through sophisticated description and dialogue is excellent." Chicago Review of Books

"A genuine love letter to a little-understood city, where even outsiders with the best intentions will always remain strangers." Manhattan Book Review

"Masterful...Fans of slow-burn suspense novels, who also enjoy fish-out-of-water situations, will find much to love here." Book Reporter

"Captivates the reader in the first few pages. Engrossing...The characters are full bodied, personable, and believable. The setting is described thoughtfully and with care. It is a fast-paced page turner that will leave the readers deep in contemplation." Portland Book Review

"A slow burn of an international psychological thriller. Recommended for fans of Chris Pavone." Library Journal

"A fabulously complex and mysterious tale that is full of atmosphere and suspense...A powerfully provocative psychological thriller that combines engaging characters with a gripping and darkly atmospheric plot. This novel's gut wrenching discussion of how our past actions often affect our present is both poignant and thought provoking. Within its pages, Keener masterfully examines sorrow and remorse, dishonesty and loathing, and the ultimate search for unattainable redemption, truth, and love." New York Journal of Books

"Keener immerses the reader in Budapest's postcommunist period in all its tumultuous glory...The author combines strong characters and a riveting plot to craft a memorable novel." Publishers Weekly

"Keener's second psychological novel, set in modern Hungary, dramatizes both national and personal outcomes of harrowing past events. Budapest becomes a powerful symbol of past horrors, lush culture, and an uncertain future. Reminiscent of Hilary Mantel's Eight Months on Ghazzah Street ...and similar in tone and theme to Kim Brooks' historical novel, The Houseguest." Booklist

"Keener expertly weaves together a story that not only showcases an expat life, but also shares the tragedies, memories and grudges of strangers in a beautiful city who are more connected than they have come to believe." BookPage

"In Keener's Strangers in Budapest, the city is as much a character as any, and as Annie and others begin to cave under its crumbling weight, what's revealed where East meets West is a story about the implacability of the past—present, progress, and denials notwithstanding." Foreword Reviews

"A mesmerizing story of love and loss, Keener probes the depths to which grief and disappointment can drive a person away from those who only wish to love them." Karen Dionne, author of The Marsh King's Daughter

"This exquisite novel draws the reader in from the very first pages and refuses to let go. Jessica Keener proves once again that she is a brilliant, lyrical writer with a true understanding of the human heart." Ellen Marie Wiseman, internationally bestselling author of The Plum Tree, What She Left Behind, Coal River and The Life She Was Given

"[A] riveting novel of conscience and suspense, multiple strands of fate and guilt, cultural memory and private trauma overlap and tighten into an ethical knot of compelling, hypnotic design. An enthralling read!" Melissa Pritchard, award-winning author of Palermo

"Strangers in Budapest is both lyrical and propulsive, capacious and rich in detail. The characters will stay with you forever. A courageous, compassionate and deeply wise novel." Patry Francis, author of The Orphans of Race Point

Reviews of Women in Bed

A recommended story collection — Shelf Awareness

One of "12 New Books You Won't Be Able to Put Down!" — Betty Confidential

"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, winner of the National Book Critics Award and PEN/Malamud award for Binocular Vision

"Demonstrates a versatile voice and ability to deliver as much exquisite detail as the stories' brevity will allow." Publishers Weekly

"These stories are memorable, deep and haunting." Digital Journal

"Poignant, surprising, funny, and gorgeously written, Women in Bed is a rich collection of moving tales that will engage you from the first page." Shape Magazine, "Ten Winter Reads"

"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 Sunday Rumpus Review

"I devoured her latest short story collection, Women in Bed." Ann Kingman for Books on the Nightstand

"Jessica Keener's Women in Bed is an impressive, vividly told collection of short stories about love and intimacy. I marveled at the stories in this collection." Largehearted Boy

"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. Of finding the right image." Beth Kephart for Reflections

"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." Lois Alter Mark for Midlife at the Oasis

"Last year, Jessica Keener published her first novel, Night Swim, a moving and wistful tale of memory and nostalgia, both their comforts and pitfalls, all focused on the Kunitz family in 1970s Boston. She has now released a collection of short stories, Women in Bed, nine stories, or better I say portraits of women, brief glimpses of their lives and loves, forming a many-faced character study. The prose is lucid and lovely, meditative and melancholic, and makes a perfect companion to the novel." Scott Cheshire for The Tottenville Review

"Her words are bold and brave." Joyce Norman for The Quivering Pen

"I love a memorable collection of short stories—the list of the ones that have stayed with me through the years such as Ann Hood's An Ornithologist's Guide To Life, Jhumpa Lahiri's Interpreter of Maladies and Alice Munro's Open Secrets is now joined by Jessica Keener's Women in Bed. With its provocative title, Keener's stories are close to the surface, haunting and uplifting." Reading with Robin Robin Kall

"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 This Tomorrow

"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 Georgia, and winner of the Massachusetts Book Award

"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

"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

Reviews of Night Swim

"Like the adults in Rick Moody's Ice Storm, the central couple in this novel of 1970s suburbia are remote alcoholics. 'Love was something distant that retired to a room on the second floor,' Sarah, the 16-year old narrator, says, referring to her stay-at-home yet absentee mother. This is a woman who makes a divot in the soil for her drink glass while tending her roses...This earnest debut centers on Sarah as she tunnels through new depts of loneliness...moving." The New York Times

"Jessica Keener steps boldly into the terrain of Eugene O'Neill, conjuring up the pathologies and quirks of a besieged Boston family in stark, quivering detail that never entirely distracts us from the looming sense of crisis. This gripping first novel announces the arrival of a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice." Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner, A Visit from the Goon Squad

"An amazing new literary voice, Jessica Keener explores the fine-laced network of tangled familiar relations in language both bold and intricate. Night Swim is the deeply moving and devastatingly beautiful work of a fearless writer." Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants

"Jessica Keener has an ear for the nuances of family life and manages, in this book, a small miracle—describing, convincingly, a family suffering the rigidity and opaqueness of a small-scale tyrant, yet honoring his authority and treating his painful struggles with kindness. Keener's heroine, a 16-year old girl impatient to achieve womanliness, is a marvel of curiosity, impulsiveness, and generosity. What a lovely book!" C. Michael Curtis, Fiction Editor, The Atlantic

"I loved this novel. It was just breathtaking and I was really left in awe. There was not a wasted word, or scene or emotion that did not resonate or ring true. The pages ached." Caroline Leavitt, New York Times bestselling author of Pictures of You

"Keener understands deeply that scene writing creates powerful moments for her characters. We learn of Sarah's irritation, fear, reticence, and desire not through discussion, but through her actions and interactions with others. And Keener's writing is lovely; she manages to build sentences that are both precise and ornate. While Night Swim tells of a girl who has lost her bearings, her hold on her novel is both assured and poised." Jewish Book Council

"Keener's prose is spectacular, almost poetic. I found myself rereading many of the passages just to experience the beauty of her written word. She gives the reader the gift of a wonderful, honest, coming-of-age story. At just under 300 pages it is not a long read, but one that will resonate."

"There are certain books that have an intangible quality that transcends the nuances and the mechanics of good writing and literature. Such books somehow have, through their language and the emotions they evoke on the page, the ability to transport the reader right back to a pivotal and critical time in one's life. Night Swim is that kind of book for me." The Betty and Book Chronicles

"Reading this was pure pleasure. Just gorgeous. Night Swim is a poignant and sensual examination of a life and a nation on the cusp of change. Sixteen year-old Sarah brings us a moody and burgeoning wisdom as she pulls us toward secrets we recognize—the desire to hurry past pain and loss toward adulthood, the pull to belong and yet not be absorbed completely into the will of others. In a delicate balance of rebellion and compassion, Sarah teaches us to listen and hold tight to our dreams." Susan Henderson, author of The Flicker of Old Dreams

"This book surprised the heck out of me. I don't know what I loved more—Jessica Keener's descriptions of the world contained within the book, or her ability to really capture the voice of each and every individual character." The Lost Entwife

"Her beautiful prose is exquisite and mesmerizing, absorbing you into the story immediately and keeping you hooked." The House of Seven Tails