"Her gift for capturing the nugget of a relationship in a single backward glance works
beautifully in this illustrated memoir."
– The Chicago Tribune
"The Secret Life of Objects is a lean, brilliant, playful memoir.”
–The San Francisco Chronicle
"You may never look at that lamp the same way again after reading this evocative memoir..."
O, The Oprah Magazine
"Her memoir reflects on everyday objects such as a cup, a ring....
From these memories comes a whole life story."
"A unique, evocative memoir...written with all the wild bloom of imagination that
fiction brings to the table."
The Quivering Pen
"This endearing memoir takes an assortment of otherwise ordinary possessions and
turns it into a series of delicate, resonant stories."
– More magazine
“'Sometimes things shatter,' Dawn Raffel writes in The Secret Life of Objects. 'More often they just fade.' But in this evocative memoir, moments from the past do not fade—they breathe on the page, rendering a striking portrait of a woman through her connections to the people she’s loved, the places she been, what’s been lost, and what remains. In clear, beautiful prose, Raffel reveals the haunting qualities of the objects we gather, as well as the sustaining and elusive nature of memory itself."
– Samuel Ligon, author of Drift and Swerve: Stories
"Dawn Raffel puts memories, people and secrets together like perfectly set gems in these shimmering stories, which are a delight to read. Every detail is exquisite, every character beautifully observed, and every object becomes sacred in her kind, capable hands. I savored every word.
– Priscilla Warner, author of Learning to Breathe – My Yearlong Quest to Bring Calm to My Life
Pages from The Secret Life of Objects. Art by Sean Evers.
Dawn Raffel is the author of two story collections, Further Adventures in the Restless Universeand In the Year of Long Division, and a novel, Carrying the Body. Her fiction has appeared in O, The Oprah Magazine, BOMB, Conjunctions, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories, The Quarterly, NOON, The Antioch Review, and numerous other periodicals and anthologies. She has taught in the MFA program at Columbia University, and at Summer Literary Seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, and Montreal; she'll teach in Vilnius, Lithuania this summer. She is an editor at large for Reader’s Digest, and the editor of The Literarian, the online journal for the Center for Fiction.
PRAISE FOR DAWN RAFFEL'S PREVIOUS WRITING
"The stories in Dawn Raffel's astonishing Further Adventures in the Restless Universe (Dzanc) are as sharp and bright as stars." —Elissa Schappell
TIME OUT NEW YORK
"Raffel’s work sits comfortably with that of authors like Amy Hempel and Diane Williams: Her prose is intense enough to make even everyday topics seem fire-hot."
THE DAILY BEAST (5 Must-Read Story Collections)
"The 21 stories in Raffel’s slim second collection (after In the Year of Long Division and the novel Carrying the Body) reflect the disconnects, interruptions, and riddles in a contemporary woman’s hectic life.
Raffel nails the age-old struggle between a mother and adult daughter as they make their way awkwardly through a brief getaway, and the equally complex mix of responsibility and fierce love a mother feels while tending her 7-year-old son. In the brave and touching story “The Air and its Relatives,” a distant father’s closeness to his daughter comes through reading together—a physics text called The Restless Universe—and patiently teaching her to drive.
The opening one-pager (“Near Taurus”) encapsulates what might have been between a boy and girl who have gone to the reservoir to gaze at the stars. “He died, that boy. Light years! And here I am: a mother, witness, raiser of a boy.” The final story, “Beyond All Blessing and Song, Praise and Consolation,” titled for a line in the mourner’s Kaddish, distills sadness into an ending both poetic and pure."—Jane Ciabattari
"The short stories in Dawn Raffel's new collection Further Adventures in the Restless Universe (Dzanc Books) are gently interlaced--the same scarf from one story is purchased in another, for instance--yet rife with the author's deft, lyrical prose. They strikingly explore how small moments can influence personal and familial identity." —Mallory Rice
O, THE OPRAH MAGAZINE
"Sharp, spare stories about women at, or approaching, the end of their ropes." —Sara Nelson
(a reading guide can be found on http://www.oprah.com/omagazine/April-Books-to-Watch-For-Book-Reviews)
"Highly imaginative stories filled with sly wit..."—Carmela Ciuraru
"In her elegant second collection (after the novel Carrying the Body), Raffel finds lyrical appeasement in the everyday concerns of raising children, being a dutiful daughter and wife, and simply enduring one's family. The mother of a seven-year-old son in “Her Purchase” is viewed as a master of the child's universe, teaching him everything he knows, exhausted by his constant asking of questions, yet amazed, too, that she can still cherish his happiness. Raffel employs mannered dialogue to artful effect throughout, such as the phone conversation between two sisters in “The Interruption,” in which one attempts to tell the story of how their great-aunt came from Poland to Chicago, but spirals into a halfhearted musing on frustrations in love. The mother-daughter getaway depicted in “North of the Middle” allows the pair to dissect their frozen relationship in conversations that underscore their inability to communicate. “The Air and Its Relatives” is a marvelous glimpse at the evolution of a father-daughter relationship through snapshots of his teaching her to drive and other telling flashbacks. Raffel's stripped-to-the-bone prose is a model of economy and grace."
"With 21 stories in just under 100 pages, and in prose as lean and demanding as poetry, Raffel's slender second collection of short fiction holds a surprising amount of compassion and wisdom between its covers. Like those of Lydia Davis or Mary Robison, Raffel's playful metaphors and vivid snapshots of domestic life offer joy and insight. Her characters, mostly disillusioned or fearful mothers and daughters, are ever hopeful in their daily endeavors to communicate with those they love most--their families. A woman takes her seven-year-old son on a museum tour, fighting to strike a balance between motherly instruction and allowing her son to discover things for himself. Unable to sleep, a man implores his dozing wife to confess the true account of a drowned woman she often repeats. A mother finds it easier to teach her son words in other languages than to keep her promise to tell him a bedtime story. These reflective, well-tempered fictions are bursting with energy, requiring readers to look more closely at the world around them."—Jonathan Fullmer
LARGE HEARTED BOY (BOOK NOTES)
"Dawn Raffel poetically explores the intricacies of domestic relationships in her new short fiction collection, Further Adventures in the Restless Universe. These stories are as lyrically impressive as they are moving, and Raffel's respect for her readers' intelligence to put together the stories' puzzle pieces works to great advantage."
THE HOLLINS CRITIC
"Dawn Raffel's fiction is superbly her own. Generally classified as an experimentalist and sometimes considered a minimalist even though her work postdates the literary minimalism of the 1980s, her stories' mysterious borders and elusive dialogue offer compelling new insights into the American family, the negotiations and manipulations family—the American family in particular—makes and endures. Thus she might be thematically allied to Ben Marcus—and tonally to Amy Hempel and formally to Lydia Davis and Lydia Millett—but the center of her work is, shall we say, Raffelian, essentially domestic, edged with barely controlled frenzy—a kind of mad housewifery—yet beautifully controlled and tightly focused."
"When Michael Kimbell said that "nobody is writing sentences" like Dawn Raffel's sentences, he was not exaggerating. Her lines, her stories, are spiky things that don't sit easily in the hand. I felt a peculiar sort of stress as I read Further Adventures in the Restless Universe, newly published by Dzanc Books; I was confronted with how the stories resist simple narrative and scene and dialogue, while at the same time luring me in with their intoxicating mood, the emotive power behind miscommunication, and the uncertain standing her characters--like us readers--have in the world. There is something precise and potent in Raffel's brief tales of family, lovers, and attempts to connect (twenty-one stories are collected in this 100-page book); each tale is a portal to the tender points that serve as a harmonic to our everyday talk and our deep memory."
THE SHORT REVIEW
"Memory distorts time in an unusual and dizzying universe of poetic, familial prose which will whisk you away..."
"Reality may be an adventure in Raffel's cleverly and artfully crafted new collection, and as she writes it, is always an adventure worth taking."
—Sara C. Rauch