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Caitlin Horrocks

Caitlin Horrocks lives in Michigan, by way of Ohio, Arizona, England, Finland, and the Czech Republic. Her stories have appeared in The PEN/O. Henry Prize Stories 2009, The Pushcart Prize XXXV, The Paris Review, Tin House, and The Southern Review. She teaches at Grand Valley State University.


". . . impressively sharp" and "appealingly rugged-hearted"

– Robin Romm, The New York Times

"What many of the stories have in common is startlingly ingenious writing and a note of what could be called sprightly heartbreak. There is an offhand jauntiness in telling terrible things."

– Richard Eder, The Boston Globe

"Horrocks writes 11 accomplished short stories, each achingly observant and witty. . . . A bravura debut."

– Vikas Turakhia, Cleveland Plain Dealer

"This Is Not Your City offers much more than bold plotlines. These are delicate, character-driven stories whose distinct narrators demonstrate the hand of a remarkably versatile writer . . . Caitlin Horrocks is writing well beyond her years, not only raising our expectations of what a story can do but also setting a high standard for any debut fiction author."

– Wayne Harrison, San Francisco Chronicle

"In the 11 stories of her debut collection, Caitlin Horrocks shows inventiveness and linguistic dexterity. There are refreshing takes on old themes: childhood meanness, the effects of devastating illness, the desire for a better life, misunderstandings between parents and their children, looking for love in all the wrong places."

– Kathryn Lang, Minneapolis Star-Tribune



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This Is Not Your City

Horrocks shows that even in bleakness and heartbreak there is beauty.


Caitlin Horrocks’s short story collection, This Is Not Your City, begins with this short, perfect sentence: “It is July and we are a miraculous age.” When I read it, I knew I would love the book, or at least I would love this first story. I felt I was listening to a strong, capable, and, most importantly, confident voice. The story is “Zolaria” and easily my favorite of the collection of eleven stories that make up the book.

The astonishing thing about this book is that it is a debut collection by a young author as this is a collection of tremendous depth and breadth. There is an impressive range to these stories, limited only by Ms. Horrocks’s imagination, which is vast. It is no surprise to learn from her bio, that she “lives in Michigan, by way of Ohio, Arizona, England, Finland and the Czech Republic.”

The stories are sharp, dark, inventive, and surprising. There is an emotional honesty to these stories and these characters, who are not victims nor martrys. I loved the moments of dark humor as well. In the story, “World Champion Cow of the Insane” (and if you think I’m not jealous of that title, you would be wrong), a young woman takes a part-time job teaching basic computer skills to the elderly and one of her students types into the subject line of an email: “Fucking Ignoramous = YOU.”

Horrocks shows that even in bleakness and heartbreak there is beauty. The prose is simple and uncluttered and powerful, as in this sentence, from the inventive story, “It Looks Like This”: “Sometimes while I’m making dinner or piecing a quilt or writing a paper, I just sit and know that Elsa thinks I’m a fish, and that things turn out all right for all the swimming things in the world.”

And this, from the dark and devastating story, “Steal Small”: “If this is what I get in the world, I’ll take it. Love and squalor, but mostly love.”

And here, from the unforgettable title story: “Nika is a practical child, and has never, as her mother once did secretly, rhymed storm clouds as dark as her soul, or a love that burned like fire.” Horrocks writes with such empathy and wisdom and such breadth of knowledge and experience, that one believes that, like the Iowa actuary in her story, “Embodied,” she has lived 127 lives.

Caitlin Horrocks is a talented, assured, and versatile writer and this is simply a stunning debut collection. I highly recommend this book and look forward to anything else that bears her name in the future.

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  1. Dawn. said on 11/30/11 at 11:51 pm Reply

    Lovely write-up, Kathy. I cannot wait to read this book. 🙂


  2. Jordan Blum said on 12/01/11 at 11:29 am Reply

    Good review. I’ve often felt that we’re moving into a literary age where wild, perhaps nonsensical ideas are welcomed; we adore the abstract more than the concrete and simple, and I think the quotes you picked show that. I feel inspired to experiment. And I literally laughed out loud at the “Fucking Ignoramus = YOU” line.


    Kathy Fish said on 12/01/11 at 3:27 pm

    Thanks, Dawn. Let me know how you like it.

    Kathy Fish said on 12/01/11 at 3:28 pm

    I’m glad the review inspired you, Jordan! Thanks for reading.

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