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This Close: Stories Paperback – March 5, 2013

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

In the 12 stories collected here, Kane once again reminds readers of her ability to observe life’s finer details while keeping a sharp eye on the big picture. In Lucky Boy, a newcomer to New York City develops an unusual relationship with his dry cleaner while learning to navigate life in the Big Apple. Two neighbors in American Lawn share a garden plot while competing for the attentions of a local farmer. A mother and her young son ponder their respective pasts and futures while selling their possessions at a garage sale in First Sale. Lesson places this same duo behind the wheel of a moving car several years later, providing a snapshot of their changing relationship. Readers of Kane’s well-received debut novel, The Report (2010), will recognize her steady hand and welcome another opportunity to experience her carefully crafted work. Intriguing, delicate, graceful, and deeply moving, this is a collection to be read and pondered over. It will draw readers into worlds both foreign and familiar while turning the everyday into something extraordinary. --Carol Gladstein

Review

Kane explores the anxieties and preoccupations of her characters with such empathy that you worry about them as you might about a troubled friend. . . . We know these people. We recognize their all-too-human flaws. They are our family, our friends and neighbors. They are us, at our most vulnerable. (Jane Ciabattari, NPR, "Best Books of 2013")

This Close serves up quietly nervy stories of everyday life subject to swift psychological rifts. (ELLE)

How close can we come to achieving love, success, and forgiveness? . . . You'll be thinking about how your life parallels the story plots long after you've finished reading. (Marie Claire)

Quiet and clear, Kane's stories eschew the flashy for the profound. (The Washington Post)

The stories in Jessica Francis Kane's This Close are full of wisdom and light. Her characters felt as intimate and real to me as life. Her prose is so generous and knowing it shimmers. I'll return to this beautiful book again and again. (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild and Tiny Beautiful Things)

Kane shows such tenderness toward these spiky, exhausted, forlorn, uncertain people that she allows us to sympathize with their all-too-human flaws. We know these people. They are our family, our friends and neighbors. They are us, at our most vulnerable. (NPR)

[Kane's] characters are grappling with the tension between how they expected life to be as opposed to how it's actually turning out. The final and best story, 'Local Birds,' could be slipped into James Salter's collection Dusk without raising much suspicion: both writers share the ability to render an incredible amount of resonance from the merest of human incidents. (The Daily Beast)

Smart, subtly heartbreaking. . . . This Close is about the way that people evolve over time; the numerous faces any individual wears over the course of his or her life, and the near-impossibility of truly knowing anyone on account of it. (The Millions)

Kane beautifully illuminates . . . the space between what might have been and what regrettably often comes to pass. . . . This Close capture[s] so richly the joy and ache of living. (Star Tribune (Minneapolis))

An unfinished sentence tells you a marriage is over. An unanswered question reveals the emotional voice at the heart of a family. . . . This Close is rich with such moments. (The Rumpus)

Kane writes with a wonderful clarity. The characters may feel uncomfortable or unclear about their relationships with one another, but the reader never does. . . . Because the writing has a lovely transparency, the stories may give the impression of being simple: they're not. They're skillfully wrought pieces by a writer who knows exactly what she's doing. (The Nervous Breakdown)

The power of these stories comes from subtle accumulations, of details that seem to echo life, of occasionally jarring discontinuities. . . . Kane proves as skilled with snappy dialogue and decisive actions as she is with those things left unsaid and undone--and for all the regrets that that can create. (Vol. 1 Brooklyn)

Kane's second collection of stories (after The Report) is steeped in family and community anxiety and often dazzles. . . Kane inhabits the psyche of those at risk, with terrific results. (Publishers Weekly)

Readers of Kane's well-received debut novel, The Report, will recognize her steady hand and welcome another opportunity to experience her carefully crafted work. Intriguing, delicate, graceful, and deeply moving, this is a collection to be read and pondered over. It will draw readers into worlds both foreign and familiar while turning the everyday into something extraordinary. (Booklist)

Kane's second collection shows the author's talent for dissecting the subtle dynamics of family life. . . . The stories in [This Close] have an appeal reminiscent of Chekhov's plays. (Library Journal)

[This Close] offers twelve lucid, elegant and immersive stories about interpersonal strains and tensions among lovers, neighbors, children and their parents. . . . [The stories] are subtle, persuasive and psychologically complex. (Kirkus Reviews)

This Close is timeless, humane, vulnerable, and compulsively readable. Jessica Francis Kane has a fierce, keen eye and a gentle, sure touch. I devoured this collection. More, please... (Jennifer Gilmore, author of Something Red and Golden Country)

Jessica Francis Kane distills lives into moments, helping us to better understand the world within a few pages' time. Luckily for us, her devoted readers, there are twelve stories in this crystalline collection, some of them circling back to the same characters, all of them deepening our appreciation for this amazing writer. Kane's prose is precise, searing, and unafraid, and days after finishing the book, I still don't want to let This Close out of my sight. (Emma Straub, author of Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures)

It is with great precision and skill, as well as a truckload of clear-eyed compassion, that Jessica Francis Kane reveals her characters' most vulnerable natures, as they find themselves 'this close' to being able to move on from some blow that life has dealt them. These stories feel earned, like wisdom, subtle and ferocious at once. (Pam Houston, author of Contents May Have Shifted)

The stories in This Close perform the real-life magic act of conveying both the seemingly fated and the seemingly chance nature of events. Diamond-sharp in observation, Kane also evokes and embraces the big picture, the how-life-feels part of being a human being. I read it in one sitting; and then I wished I had savored it for weeks. (Robin Black, author of If I Loved You, I Would Tell You This)

Jessica Francis Kane explores the bonds and rivalries between everyday people with the elegant precision and generosity of a true master. The stories in This Close are beautiful, startling, and wise. (Seth Fried, author of The Great Frustration)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 200 pages
  • Publisher: Graywolf Press (March 5, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1555976360
  • ISBN-13: 978-1555976361
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,161,872 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By prisrob TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 9, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The quality of your life is the quality of your relationships."
Anthony Robbins

The perception that the mundane in our lives gives us our reality, is all very true. How we live our daily lives is a reflection of who we are. It all seems so trite, but,then,we carry on as if nothing is happening. Jessica Francis Kane has written a quiet, glorious book that is so wonderful I couldn't stop reading. I read the book from beginning to end, and then felt a great need to start over. The stories within this book touched me like no other. All of these people, their lives depended on an action, and, they just missed. Somehow, without missing a beat, the author was able to combine the subtle nuances of their lives without betraying their souls. A glimpse into the daily life, a thought here and there that is not able to be said, or not wanted to be said. Actions speak louder than words, and, oh, how,we can see this in spades. I did not feel the need for a story to be complete, that almost never happens. These stores are the inner lives,what they hoped would occur, and what lives they really lived.

It took me awhile to realize that the stories of a boy named Mike were related. Really the stories of Mike and his mother. From the one page 'Lesson' about learning to drive to 'First Sale', the yard sale of their old life, to 'Double Take', the story of the roommate, Ben, and, then, 'Night Class' the teacher, the dancer. How intricately the stories are woven to provide a little more light.

My favorite group of stories are about Hannah, her father, John, and her mother, Elizabeth. But all of the stories are meaningful and insightful. 'The Local Birds' is masterful and leaves us in a good place.
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Format: Paperback
When I say these short stories are the best I have read in years, and then add that they are so clean, neat, and perceptive in their style and presentation that they remind me of those by Andre Dubus (the father), I am not exaggerating. Kane's stories are sensitive, psychologically astute, and filled with observations that will expand your own viewpoint, maybe even allowing you to see yourself in new ways. The title says it all. Each character here (and some of them repeat in several stories) is facing an event which may change his/her life significantly. As the characters' stories unfold, each person comes "this close" to having a life-changing revelation, only to have the opportunity escape them, in most cases, through their own inactions, as they turn back to the comfort of the familiar and the habitual, or as they ignore the possibilities. Few characters come to any real recognition and resolution. Most of them muddle through on their own.

All the stories deal with relationships and their complexities, and three stories are "stand alones," in which the characters do not reappear in other stories. "Lucky Boy" tells of a man in New York City who takes his laundry to the same small Korean laundry every week until he finds himself offering to help their small boy learn to catch a baseball at the park on Saturdays. Both sides completely misunderstand the motivations of the other. In another story, "Evidence of Old Repairs," a mother who is a secret drinker, tries to hide the evidence from her husband, who is "making amends" after an affair gone wrong. The third "stand alone," "Next in Line," introduces a mother whose toddler child dies after a sudden illness.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Laura Booksnob on October 19, 2013
Format: Paperback
This Close; Stories by Jessica Francis Kane

Every Saturday I read a short story. I have spent the last few months reading a story a week out of This Close. There are twelve short stories, told with a bit of heartache and tenderness. Some of the stories are connected and others stand alone. Kane's stories are snapshots that bring you up close and personal as the reader looks into the windows of people's lives.

We come this close to happiness, love and death on a daily basis. The stories of This Close are the chance meetings, close calls, wrong turns, small choices made that change the course of your day and the vivid moments of a life lived. This Close is about the parts of the story you may not recall because you are too close to it. Time gives you perspective and so does Jessica Francis Kane in her collection of stories.

One of the more memorable stories for me is called American Lawn; of a lady who lets an immigrant make a garden out of her back yard. They forge an awkward friendship. Another storyline that touched me is the story of Maryanne and her son, Mike. These two characters stories intersect and collide and they are in more than one story. Double Take is about Mike's college roommate, Ben who takes a road trip when he can't shake his misery after Mike's death. Ben drives across the country to visit Maryanne.

I have a new found appreciation for short stories and short story writers. The art of the short story is hard to master and Kane is a master. This Close is a collection of short stories about family, connections, love, death and the day to day routines of a living a life. This Close definitely has a story you can connect to.
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