Emergency: Stories (Hardcover)
From an “exquisite” (The New Yorker) writer, a searing volume of prizewinning stories starring women facing points of no return.
A professor finds a photograph of her deceased mother in a compromising position on the wall of a museum. A twenty-something’s lucrative remote work sparks paranoia and bigotry. A transplant to a new city must make a choice about who she trusts when her partner reveals a violent history. The summer after her divorce from an older man, an exiled painter’s former friends grapple with rumors that she attempted to pass as a teenager.
In this long-awaited debut collection, Kathleen Alcott turns her skills as a stylist on the unfreedoms of American life—as well as the guilt that stalks those who survive them. Emergency roams from European cities to scorched California towns, drug-smeared motel rooms to polished dinner parties, taking taut, surprising portraits of addiction, love, misogyny, and sexual power. Confronting the hidden perils of class ascension, the women in these stories try to pay down the psychic debts of their old lives as they search for a new happiness they can afford.
About the Author
Kathleen Alcott is the author of three critically acclaimed novels, including Infinite Home. Shortlisted for the Sunday Times Short Story Award, her short fiction has also been anthologized in The Best American Short Stories of 2019 and the Pen/O. Henry Prize Stories of 2023. She has taught at Columbia University and Bennington College, and her work has appeared in the New York Times Magazine, the Guardian, Harper’s Magazine, and elsewhere.
[A] richly layered collection... Alcott’s prose, both sensuous and cerebral, abounds with insight into people and the shapes life contorts them into.
— Kate Folk - New York Times Book Review
Exquisite... Each of these seven stories—about unmoored women dealing with crises of identity, creeping despair, and the psychic wounds left by corrosive men—is a small marvel: intense, cerebral, and tender.
— Dan Sheehan - LitHub
I've long loved Kathleen Alcott's novels for her whip-smart voice and her taut prose. I was delighted to discover that her collection of short stories, Emergency, is also wonderful, spiny and wry and thrumming with subversive power.
— Lauren Groff, author of Matrix
Skillfully wrought and possessed of an exquisite eye for detail, this marvel of a collection contains enough insight and wisdom to fill several books. Kathleen Alcott proves again that she is one of her generation’s sharpest and most gifted writers, with her hand over the beating heart of our complicated, crisis-ridden nation.
— Alexandra Kleeman, author of Something New Under the Sun
Kathleen Alcott’s Emergency left me windswept and altered—this is a book that reveals to us our forgotten joys and secrets, all the unexpected paths of our days. There is an abundance of the world here, a bright, haunted pulse you want to follow endlessly. Alcott is a mesmerizing writer, and this is her best book yet.
— Paul Yoon, author of Run Me to Earth
Stories that are worth reading twice.
— Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Alcott’s prose is precise and evocative, and the plots are consistently tight. There’s much to enjoy.
— Publishers Weekly
Deftly blending acerbic observations with tender admiration for the ways her protagonists must tackle contemporary challenges, Alcott brings an intense and unflinching presence to the worlds she creates.