Living Room is a disarmingly direct portrait of a family in trouble. With the tone of a modern-day Jewish Ice Storm set in Long Island, imbued with Alice Munro’s fascination with personal history, this is a deep exploration of the ripple effects of mental illness and a wry, wise take on suburban angst.
The novel’s perspective carousels between three generations of women. Abby, a wise teenager, strives to keep her parents’ dysfunction at arm's length while navigating the unfamiliar terrors of high school. Her mother, Livia, a housewife with unfulfilled career aspirations and an eating disorder, is consumed by a daily struggle to keep herself together while helplessly watching her family fall apart. And then there is Headie, the grandmother, whose oncoming senility brings vivid dreams and hallucinations of her younger life and whose main link to reality is a new computer with which she writes cryptic missives to her family.
With her highly praised debut story collection, The First Hurt, Rachel Sherman became known for her laser-sharp view of adolescence; here she takes it two generations further, bringing together a fascinating array of experiences with unusual frankness, humor, and wisdom.
Read interviews with Rachel Sherman here:
Praise for Living Room:
"Sherman is a writer attuned to grotesqueries of daily life. Her fictions play out as if under a magnifying glass, with each character's flaws—both physical and psychological—expanded a thousandfold, in a manner that recalls Mary Gaitskill and A.M. Homes."
— Los Angeles Times
"Sherman turns her unflinching, unsentimental eye once again on deepest suburbia, where personal history festers rather than heals. [Living Room] hums along, its heavier moments tempered with plenty of dark humor and incisive language; but it’s the intimate character sketches that truly resonate. These inner monologues would be mortifying if bared in real life, but in Sherman’s skilled hands, they render the characters sympathetic, if still disturbing."
— Time Out New York
"From the same stock as writers like Lorrie Moore and Amy Hempel, Sherman’s characters thrive under her incredibly particular, telescopic descriptions of the fucked-up human condition. Strange little moments sparkle with humor . . . and others are so humane, they break your heart."
— The Faster Times
"A riveting debut novel... Unsentimental yet deeply felt, this tale examines what bubbles under the surface of a supposedly happy Long Island family."
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Often praised for her lack of sentimentality, Sherman doesn’t hesitate to capture her characters’ weird, unbecoming thoughts...her writing lends itself to the form: her story structures tight as fists, her prose terse and unadorned."
— The Rumpus
"Here we have the fractured lives of three generations of women told with zero sentimentality and a huge amount of heart. Living Room is edgy, smart, funny, and altogether human. Rachel Sherman is the real deal."
— Dani Shapiro, author of Black and White
“A compelling and unsentimental novel about the loneliness that exists just below the surface of a family. Sherman skillfully and movingly renders the inner lives of three generations of women as they try—or don’t try—to reconcile the distance between their desires and their actual lives.”
— Dana Spiotta, author of Eat the Document
“Living Room is that rare book that actually concerns itself with how we live now. Rachel Sherman's lost Long Island women throb with life and she has the courage to look at these lives honestly, without pity but not without love.”
— Joshua Furst, author of The Sabotage Café
"Rachel Sherman's Long Island is a desolate place: lawns, indoor carpeting, a wet couch some high school students dragged into the woods to smoke pot on. The au pair has acne and grandma can't seem to turn off the caps lock key for emails. Sherman, incredibly, is in no hurry to leave this place. She tells it all. The result is a funny, scary, dirty, and, in the end, a very moving, generous book."
— Keith Gessen, author of All the Sad Young Literary Men
Rachel Sherman holds an MFA in fiction from Columbia University. Her short stories have appeared in McSweeney’s, Fence, Open City, Conjunctions, and n+1, among other publications. Her first book, The First Hurt, was short-listed for the Story Prize and the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and was named one of the 25 Books to Remember in 2006 by the New York Public Library. She teaches writing at Rutgers and Columbia Universities and lives in Brooklyn.
Living Room: A Novel by Rachel Sherman
Paperback original publication date: October 20, 2009
ISBN-13: 978-1-890447-53-3 • $14.95 • Distributed by Publishers Group West
Contact: Joanna Yas, 212.625.9048,
Happy Ending (with Jessica Anthony & Daniel Nester)
Animal Farm reading series
Thursday, December 10, 8 p.m.
302 Broome St. (between Forsyth and Eldridge)
Thursday October 1st at 8:00 p.m.
600 Vanderbilt Ave
(between Dean St & St Marks Ave)
Brooklyn, NY 11238
440 Gallery (with Terese Svoboda)
Sunday October 25 at 4:40 p.m.
440 6th Ave
Brooklyn, NY 11215-4016
Wednesday October 28th at 7:00 p.m.
85 E 4th St
New York, NY 10003-8904
"It Came from Brooklyn" event featuring music
by Yeasayer and Tanlines,
a reading by Rachel Sherman,
and Max Silvestri as MC
Friday October 30th at 8 p.m.
1071 Fifth Avenue (at 89th Street)
New York, NY 10128-0173
Click here for tickets and more details
Pete's Candy Store (with Sejal Shah)
Thursday November 5th at 7:30 p.m.
709 Lorimer St
Brooklyn, NY 11211
Wednesday November 11th at 7 p.m.
152 Ludlow St
New York, NY 10002
Sunday November 15th at 2:00 p.m.
296 Walnut Street
KGB (with Lauren Grodstein)
Sunday November 22nd at 7:00 p.m.
85 E 4th St
New York, NY 10003-8904