Women in Bed, Stories
Jessica 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.
"Secrets" follows a young woman that gets involved with a female friend who pushes her boundaries around sex, love, and intimacy. In "Papier Mache," a college student who loses brother to suicide is grieving and gets entangled with a professor who is a critic and over-intellectualizes everything. The student challenges the professor and vice versa in a strange power dance with emotional fallout. "Boarders" tells the story of a young college student who drops out to be with her narcissistic lover. She lives in grim boarding house with desolate, lonely men until she realizes that she must flee to find something better, healthier, more nurturing and loving. "Woman with Birds in her Chest" involves a woman who leaves her social worker job and realizes she has never truly nurtured herself. Her ensuing breakdown puts her loving marriage to the test. "Recovery" tells of a young woman in a hospital room who witnesses death, escapes her own, and comes to terms with life's uncertainties and the unexpected power of sibling love. In "Shoreline," a woman leaves her husband, goes to a cottage on the beach, and has a flirtation with a client. She soon discovers that she must end her marriage before she can move on to find a new love. In "Bird of Grief," a grad student recovering from a broken relationship projects her anger and grief onto a new man, eventually coming to terms with letting go. "Forgiveness" is a spare, stark story of two sisters, family violence, and the quest for forgiveness. In "Heart," a woman meets her lover in a Paris hotel room and goes through a cycle of anxiety, worry, and the expectation that things will not work out, only to be surprised by the goodness that emerges.
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.
Media and praise for Women in Bed, Stories
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