ashraf, December 16, 2013 (view all comments by ashraf)
This is the kind of book we should encode into sounds and shoot out to space for the aliens to pick up and understand who we are better. If we want to be honest with the aliens. So real and honest and observant and human, there's no easy arcs or sentiments here, but muddled, at-times cathartic cataloguings of the first five years in the first significant relationship for a mid-to-late thirties working class man and woman since their divorces. Each have a kid around ten that they bring into the relationship, along with their confusions from the last relationship, and ongoing confusions about how to be a person.
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brandawn, November 6, 2013 (view all comments by brandawn)
I just finished This is Between Us and I LOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEED it. Every spare moment I had the last three days was spent utterly absorbed in it. Kevin Sampsell gifts us with vignettes so utterly relatable (even when they're not) because his characters are so unabashedly HUMAN. I completely admire his organization, flashing us to moments in the past which provide depth and relevance we didn't even know we were missing. Sometimes, the imagery was so beautiful I re-read portions over and over just to soak them up. I'm recommending this book to anyone who's ever loved anything or anyone.
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hollylaycock, November 4, 2013 (view all comments by hollylaycock)
I read Kevin Sampsell’s This Is Between Us in two days, and I’m surprised it took me that long, honestly. Kevin Sampsell’s writing kept me up all night, and I eventually fell asleep with the book in my hand, not wanting to close it. Told in a series of vignettes, This is Between Us chronicles the relationship of a man and woman over five years, from their first days together to their times apart, and back again. Sampsell captures all the ins and outs of this relationship in a way that feels both uniquely special to the characters, as well as universally familiar to the reader. Reading this book was like a love affair in and of itself, but also felt like a retrospective of past relationships. Even though the characters in the book are older than myself and at different stages in life (divorced, with kids), their daily interactions are comparable to my own (23 year old college graduate). It is a book that I recommend to everyone�"my girlfriends, my parents, my younger brother. Just lovely!
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mollyedickinson, November 4, 2013 (view all comments by mollyedickinson)
There is nothing slow about getting to know This is Between Us. One moment it is foreign, and the next you are dunked full body and naked into freezing water with the characters. The narrator is entirely frank and unmediated: sometimes I hated him and oftentimes I was just as baffled as he was by his partner and kids. Having these polarizing experiences with the narrator made me love the book even more. He doesn’t try to win you over like I sometimes feel characters are in books. But part of what makes this book so great is the episodic style. The vignettes are so easily accessible and so very personal because they are not contextualized in any greater narrative.
What remains with me days after finishing the book, however, is how much this portrait of a relationship is based in the physical. Even when the couple is apart their interactions are rooted in their physical connection: touching a tree together, the feeling of the phone on his chest as her thoughts flow out of her head, riding a cow together in Sandy. The ending is just as simple and frank as the rest of the book: the narrator simply stops for a moment to breathe. There is no triumphant feeling of having witnessed something happen when you close the book. It is more simple and beautiful than that. It is the feeling that for a brief while your life overlapped with the characters’, and that’s that.
Lauren Perez, November 4, 2013 (view all comments by Lauren Perez)
Devoured this book in a night--it combines guilty, voyeuristic pleasure with great prose. You ride in the narrator's head through the beginning of a relationship, its near dissolution and ultimate tenderness. Sampsell writes so honestly it feels reckless.
Tin House Books -
Sampsell's gorgeous novel is an intricate and layered account of a relationship on its trajectory of either success or failure. The tiny snippets of interaction between the nameless couple begin to pile up and form the texture of this sometimes troubled, sometimes blissful union. The use of "you" and "I" as the only identifiers connects the reader to the characters in a profound way; this relationship is mine and yours and everyone's. Beautifully illustrating the slightly skewed way in which we somehow miss each other, or the glorious way in which we connect, This Is Between Us is a marvel: a two-way mirror that sees all.
"Publishers Weekly Review"
by Publishers Weekly,
"This well-written but often frustrating novel chronicles five years in a relationship between an unnamed narrator and his unnamed lover, who are hipsters living in Oregon. Each has a child from a previous relationship. Each works, vaguely and unseriously. And each has a rich history of past lovers who pop into the present tense with regularity (the narrator makes out with an old girlfriend in a bar and semi-stalks others by driving past their houses). The gossamer-thin plot charts the ebb and flow of love, but this is no conventional narrative. Instead, Sampsell frames his book as one long address by the narrator to his lover — one consisting of telling moments and epiphanies rendered in precise, poetic prose, more like a journal or memoir than a novel. In between these, the book ranges from the banally familiar (the egocentric fascination of romantic love, the pangs of disintegration) to the willfully perverse, particularly sexual memories and fantasies both absurd and disturbing (but not particularly erotic). This sad sack of a narrator overshares in the extreme, no doubt in the pursuit of some kind of honesty, but emerges as too thoughtless and even amoral for his musings on love to have much resonance." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
by Patrick deWitt, author of Ablutions and The Sisters Brothers,
"This Is Between Us is an imperturbable, strange, melancholy (but never maudlin) piece of work. Kevin Sampsell straddles the line between candor and oversharing with an artful grace I found infectious."
by Jillian Lauren, author of NY Times best-selling memoir Some Girls and Pretty,
"This Is Between Us is an utterly unsentimental and deeply nuanced portrait of a relationship. With great delicacy and compassion, Kevin Sampsell unflinchingly examines love from every angle — sacred and profane, transcendent and mundane. This is Between Us asserts that messy, terrifying, imperfect love is worth it, after all. After reading it, you'll be a believer."
by Amelia Gray, author of Threats,
"Here is the quiet, funny, heartbreak truth of Real Love. Read it and weep."
by Jess Walter, #1 New York Times Best Selling author of Beautiful Ruins,
"In This Is Between Us Kevin Sampsell writes with grace and intimacy about the toughest subject of all — love — and manages to capture a relationship in its natural state: wry and wistful, strange and sexy, humming with desire, quaking with vulnerability."
by Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water,
"This Is Between Us lets the reader under the covers of what it means to be in human relationships — not the lame-o story everyone so desperately wants to smoothly fit within, but the crumpled and stained and yet still beautiful version we actually live. Kevin Sampsell has written the pieces of our glorious failures and fleeting victories with such poignancy my head and my heart are laughing, bleeding, and, above all, dreaming onward. You want this book more than Facebook and chocolate. I love it with my whole body."
"Finely detailed and beautifully observed, This Is Between Us captures the humorous and heart-wrenching intimacies of two people in love. Kevin Sampsell sheds exquisite insight into the way a hundred ordinary moments in a relationship add up to something extraordinary and deeply meaningful. This novel is moving, surprising, and utterly absorbing — I couldn't put it down." Davy Rothbart, author of My Heart Is an Idiot, creator of Found Magazine, contributor to public radio's This American Life
by Susie Bright, author of Big Sex, Little Death,
"Kevin Sampsell is the original unadorned romantic. His writing makes you love him, and it's easy all the way down. This Is Between Us really DOES feel like you and he are sharing these intimacies — sexy, honest moments that not everyone is lucky enough to experience."
Spanning five years of one relationships ups and downs — the insecurities and passions, the sadness and joy, the hopes and disappointments — This Is Between Us is a detailed portrait of a man and a woman, both divorced, both with a child, and both trying to create a good life together in Portland, Oregon. Full of sweet moments, emotional time bombs, blunt sexuality, and laugh-out-loud scenes, This Is Between Us is an intimate collection of personal moments that come together to form a complete view of a troubled romance and the people whose hearts are at stake.
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