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Synopsis

Jessica Keener’s extraordinary debut novel, Night Swim captivated readers with its eloquence, insight, and humanity. “This gripping first novel announces the arrival of a strong, distinct and fully evolved new voice,” said Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize winner and author of A Visit from the Goon Squad. Sara Gruen, New York Times bestselling author of Water for Elephants called Keener, “An amazing new literary voice.”

Now 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.

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