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The First Hurt: Stories
Synopses & Reviews
From a young writer whose stories have graced the pages of today's most exciting literary journals, comes a masterfully elegant, sexy, and surprising debut.
The publication of Rachel Sherman's first book heralds the arrival of a singularly fresh and remarkably assured new voice. In this brilliantly original story collection, she evokes the wonders and horrors of a young woman's life, from girl to teenager to adult, through crushes, sex, family, and the agonies and ecstasies of finding one's way.
Sherman's beautifully direct and deceptively simple prose produces accessible, shockingly real narratives that combine a disarming sexual edge with great sensitivity and humor. From a high school girl's crush on her female teacher, to a family's serenity threatened by the presence of a sexy Danish au pair, to a pubescent girl's sexually outrageous soldier pen-pal, all the way to a young couple's horrifying yet life-affirming experience of learning to love their brain-injured newborn twins, this collection wends its way around the deepest of struggles with unusual frankness and wisdom.
Fans of A. M. Homes, Mary Gaitskill, Mona Simpson, and Rick Moody will be thrilled at this auspicious and noteworthy debut.
"In a highly promising debut collection of stories, Sherman writes of alienated lower-end white suburbia in a manner that shifts perspectives with an effortlessness that mitigates her characters' sad stuckness. In the opener, 'The Reaper,' Beth's assignment for a high school psych class — correspond with a soldier stationed abroad — yields not only the expected ('SEND ME A PICTURE OF YOUR NAKED TITS,' he writes, claiming to be possessed by the title figure), but an ending reasserts her fantasies of her future with a starkly intimate tenderness. In the tale that follows, an already bad marriage is pushed to the breaking point by having children (twins with birth or genetic defects — it's deliberately left unsaid), by the hot neighbor girl (with intentionally stereotyped hot black boyfriend) and by other facts of life in a nascent exurb; there, everyone's longings feel as shoddily and provisionally housed as the denizens themselves. By the time one reaches the last story, the weirdly anachronistic, cross-cultural sex-with-spinster tale, 'Jewish Hair,' one has given up any resistance to Sherman's grotesques and settled all the way in to a very uncomfortable place." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Rachel Sherman writes stories like splinters: they get under your skin and stay with you long after you've closed the book. These haunting stories are both wonderfully, deeply weird and unsettlingly familiar." Judy Budnitz, author of Nice Big American Baby
"[Sherman] renders her subjects clearly and empathetically, and her airy, poetic prose is a perfect match for the brittle environments she describes....Careful and poignant, and mercifully short on melodrama." Kirkus Reviews
"Rachel Sherman's stories are real wonders — brave, dangerous fictions full of heart and wit. She gets to the creepy, despairing, hilarious core of adolescence like few writers I've read. This is an amazing debut." Sam Lipsyte, author of Home Land
"In this excellent first collection, the human body is a promise of future happiness and a source of present embarrassment. The prose is another matter: polished, poised, sure of itself. It's a very grown-up way of recording the queasy intimacies, the frighteningly raw perceptions, and the almost cosmic desolation of a suburban adolescence." Benjamin Kunkel, author of Indecision
About the Author
Rachel Sherman was born in 1975. She holds an M.F.A. in fiction from Columbia University. Her short stories have appeared in McSweeney's, Open City, Post Road, Conjunctions, n+1, and Story Quarterly, among other publications, and in the book Full Frontal Fiction: The Best of Nerve.
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