Winner, 2011 Balcones Fiction Prize
Unlike the heroines of domestic fiction, Katherine Karlin's women face their biggest challenges outside of the house. The characters in this debut collection encompass a broad range of experience: a struggling young woman in post-Katrina New Orleans persuades a welder to teach her his trade; an orchestra oboist hears a confession from a beloved teacher; an idealistic aerobics instructor decamps for revolution- era Nicaragua to pick coffee on a farming collective.
In each of these stories, Karlin offers rare insight into the place of work in the lives of women, her narrators keenly observant and attuned to the humor that arises when life doesn't turn out as planned. But even more remarkable is the fullness with which she renders characters who make us wonder how they've escaped the notice of other writers. In unadorned prose that evokes complete worlds with deceptive ease, Karlin shows us people immersed in the negotiations of survival, just at the edge of being able to make sense of their lives.