|Nominated for the
2008 Ken Kesey
Award in Fiction
Whose World Is This
LEE MONTGOMERY’s stories capture moments in women’s lives when, pushed to the edge they teeter between the complete bewilderment of loss and the possibility of found. These are not stories about diets, designer jeans, and bad boyfriends; these are stories that reveal the raw interior worlds of women who have come of age on the heels of Betty Crocker and in the hem of Betty Friedan. Tender, poignant, and at times hilarious, the women in Whose World Is This? turn common notions of love, compassion, and tradition upside down as they show us how vulnerability, although dangerous, is what makes life astonishingly beautiful and reality strangely unreal.
"These well-crafted stories belong to a major new voice that we'll surely hear more from. They are hard and haunting, oddly funny, beautifully made—by an artist working in words. They read as though they were written beyond carefully, with true measure of their weight, as though they are rare and precious, and the problem is I'm already craving more."
—A. M. Homes
"Memoirist and Tin House executive editor Montgomery (The Things Between Us) makes her fiction debut with this wise, heart-wrenching short story collection, winner of the John Simmons Short Fiction Award. Concerned largely with the emotional and physical pain of modern life, one representative tale, "Arts and Crafts of American WASPs," finds a childless young wife considering motherhood through memory, an ovulation kit and her own mom's detritus: "My mother has sent me her life in boxes and pieces of old wood and I study these like artifacts." The capacity for self-defeat comes beautifully to life in the title story, about a young woman dealing with average twenty-something issues ("doing a lot of drugs, trying to find God, trying to figure out how many men I could make love me") who unexpectedly falls in love with a paralyzed man: "we'd lie in bed facing each other in darkness... and he would tell me how it would feel if it could happen." Montgomery is a realist with a talent for stringing together perfectly captured moments such as this, evoking Lori Moore or Antonya Nelson with a skillful balance of the beautiful and the grotesque, graced with glints of humor. Though her morose introspection can overwhelm, Montgomery more than makes up for a lack of cheer or action through her characters' lived-in authenticity. A quick, inspired read, this collection bodes well for Montgomery's future in fiction."
—From Publishers Weekly
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"Montgomery's women characters—quirky, resilient, and memorable—float through life separated from men, possessions, families, or fear, caught on the page at unexpected moments of freedom or release. It is easy to picture them zooming down coastal roads listening to Lucinda Williams. Misha "begins collecting tragedies like baseball cards," written and stored in tiny ziplock bags, and seems to absorb these horrors through her skin as rashes and bumps sprout on her body in the shape of Haiti, Laos, and the Mekong River. Hannah, a drugged-out nursing-home aide, falls in love with a dashing, sexy paraplegic. "Arts & Crafts of American WASPs" tracks a woman as she struggles with an ovulation kit while unpacking artifacts from her mother's life. Infused with smart takes on American pop culture, this compact collection of short stories is densely lyrical and often funny. The opening epigraph, from Emily Post, does, indeed, offer a key to Montgomery's characters: "It's only the unknown that shakes your poise."
—Cook, Emily, From Booklist
"Gutsy, unflinchingly honest, and full of raw beauty, these stories navigate the troubled terrain of abandonment, addiction, betrayal, and hard-edged love."
—Ann Cummins, author, Red Ant House and Yellowcake
"Lee Montgomery can make us laugh even while she breaks our hearts. Whose World is This? is a fierce, witty, beautifully written collection."
—Margot Livesy, author, Eva Moves the Furniture and Banishing Verona
“These edgy stories live and breathe in the space between a woman and her body, a world which Lee Montgomery offers with sharp insight. The gap hurts—and glows—the way certain lives do, as we sabotage ourselves and then shoulder the work toward redemption. Whose World is This? is a terrific collection.”
—Ron Carlson, author, A Kind of Flying and Five Skies
"Lee Montgomery writes bleakly funny stories that gouge the veneer of the ordinary to show what really powers a day, a decision, a life. Her characters seems to say, "You want generosity of spirit? I'LL show you generosity of spirit.’ The title story with its Denis Johnson quality is a stunner – a drugged out woman falls for a handsome man she takes care of in a nursing home -- filled with startling effects. Other characters recount their meager brushes with greatness (with Caroline Kennedy's jeans, with the brother of the biggest pop star in the world.) Montgomery intensifies out-of-control lives until, against the odds, they make a kind of sense."
—Amy Hempel, author, Collected Stories
"These stories bite back in their way. Montgomery's piercing humor gives them a raw and powerful aggression. You may not trust these women, but lights pop and stars explode around them. The revelations come so thick and fast you just can't look away."
—Los Angeles Times