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Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike’s struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina, who Heike h Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike’s struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina, who Heike hopes will give her the affection and companionship she craves. As Galina grows up, Heike’s grasp on reality frays, and she writes a series of letters to the son she thinks has abandoned her forever. It isn’t until Heike’s death that her son finds these letters and realizes how skewed his mother’s perceptions actually were.


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Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike’s struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina, who Heike h Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike’s struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina, who Heike hopes will give her the affection and companionship she craves. As Galina grows up, Heike’s grasp on reality frays, and she writes a series of letters to the son she thinks has abandoned her forever. It isn’t until Heike’s death that her son finds these letters and realizes how skewed his mother’s perceptions actually were.

30 review for Outside Is the Ocean

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lolly K Dandeneau

    via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'Part of him wanted something terrible to happen to Banjo and to her, to everyone involved. He wanted the guilty to be punished.' Stewart’s mother Heike, a German immigrant who came to start fresh in America at the age of 21, should be punished for putting her long suffering son through the ringers, but she can’t help her ‘intractable’ nature. A woman who knows no boundaries, exasperated with everyone else’s stinginess, wondering at how anything via my blog: https://bookstalkerblog.wordpress.com/ 'Part of him wanted something terrible to happen to Banjo and to her, to everyone involved. He wanted the guilty to be punished.' Stewart’s mother Heike, a German immigrant who came to start fresh in America at the age of 21, should be punished for putting her long suffering son through the ringers, but she can’t help her ‘intractable’ nature. A woman who knows no boundaries, exasperated with everyone else’s stinginess, wondering at how anything can be owned really- be it living quarters, swimming pools, and even pets. Heike has done everything she could to make a living for her beloved son, and if her love is suffocating him, well shame on him for not appreciating all the sacrifices she makes. Didn’t she try to be fit and beautiful for Stewart’s father, breaker of promises? If her natural state of being, in revealing clothes or no clothes at all embarrasses her son, well it’s just the fault of him being American born. People outta ease up! We follow Heike first raising her son, who is struggling with his sexuality and the distance between he and his father. Stewart, pulled in his mother’s never ending dramas, and maddening histrionics must get out if he is to have his own identity. Heike has a way of stealing the air from any room! She is, later, in his love life! Heike is distraught over the strain between her and Stewart, but the reality of having adopted a disabled Russian daughter, whom she was sure would appreciate being saved from that cold country more than her son seemed to appreciate all she did for him, comes crashing down. So much for teaching Stewart a lesson, Galina schools her instead. Galina is violent, acts out, disrupts Heike’s life, makes her more vulnerable, exposes her as a terrible mother, betrays her to neighbors! It’s so unfair! Galina is nothing like calm, quiet Stewart whom often felt as inconsequential as his slight essence. Heike is losing it, and the letters she writes to Stewart are heartbreaking, but sometimes endearingly humorous. Heike never gives up, unlike other people! She is the type that would say ‘you want to know suffering, I’ll tell you about suffering’. There is no room for any other stories but her own, she is a one woman show, the rest are all just co-stars. Through marriages, relationships, friendship with a cat hoarder, borrowing dogs, and driving her children and partners nuts, Heike is a character you won’t soon forget. She’s exhausting, and it’s a beautifully written story because the reader can’t help but empathize with every character. I shouldn’t, but I loved Heike- would I want her as my mother, that’s another story. I look forward to Lansburgh’s next novel! Publication Date: October 15, 2017 University of Iowa Press

  2. 5 out of 5

    Lori Ostlund

    I had the good fortune of reading this book early. Here is what I wrote about it: "At the core of Matthew Lansburgh’s linked stories are Stewart and his mother Heike, one of the most unforgettable characters I've encountered in fiction recently. Whether Heike is stealing her tenant’s dog or adopting a child from Russia in an attempt to secure filial love and piety, Lansburgh writes with humor and, most of all, deep compassion about loneliness and the disappointments of family. Outside Is the Oce I had the good fortune of reading this book early. Here is what I wrote about it: "At the core of Matthew Lansburgh’s linked stories are Stewart and his mother Heike, one of the most unforgettable characters I've encountered in fiction recently. Whether Heike is stealing her tenant’s dog or adopting a child from Russia in an attempt to secure filial love and piety, Lansburgh writes with humor and, most of all, deep compassion about loneliness and the disappointments of family. Outside Is the Ocean is that rare collection in which individual stories create a whole that is much more than the sum of those wonderful and deeply satisfying parts. What a lovely, sad, funny new voice this is."

  3. 4 out of 5

    Barbara Ridley

    A wonderful collection of short stories that reads more like a novel. I couldn't wait to get back to reading more because I wanted to find out "what happens next"- even though the stories are not presented in chronological order. Spanning a time-frame of decades, from the 1960's to the present, they are a collage of linked stories, anchored by the unforgettable character of Heike, a German-born immigrant who came to the U.S. after WWII and settled in California. She is a mother, a landlord and a A wonderful collection of short stories that reads more like a novel. I couldn't wait to get back to reading more because I wanted to find out "what happens next"- even though the stories are not presented in chronological order. Spanning a time-frame of decades, from the 1960's to the present, they are a collage of linked stories, anchored by the unforgettable character of Heike, a German-born immigrant who came to the U.S. after WWII and settled in California. She is a mother, a landlord and a neighbor who infuriates everyone around her. She is deeply flawed, but in Lansburgh's skilled hands becomes strangely likeable nevertheless. Other key characters, all beautifully drawn, include Stewart, Heike's gay son who has moved from California to Boston, to get as far away from her as possible, and Galina, a one-armed orphan whom Heike, already in her late middle-age, decides to adopt from Russia. The prose is beautiful, the settings vividly depicted. A great read.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Oliver

    It's impressive when an author makes you care so much about a deeply flawed character that you ache when the character suffers a setback, despite all of his or her flaws. In this book, you ache not just for one such character, but for half a dozen. Lansburgh goes deep on each of these troubled souls but doesn't lose his way in lengthy psychological studies: he reveals just the right tell-tale detail then moves on, keeping the pace crisp. It's a quick read but feels like a longer book. And even w It's impressive when an author makes you care so much about a deeply flawed character that you ache when the character suffers a setback, despite all of his or her flaws. In this book, you ache not just for one such character, but for half a dozen. Lansburgh goes deep on each of these troubled souls but doesn't lose his way in lengthy psychological studies: he reveals just the right tell-tale detail then moves on, keeping the pace crisp. It's a quick read but feels like a longer book. And even when these unusual people bring pain on themselves in unusual ways, their plights always resonate on a universal level. Moving, even challenging, and definitely worth the read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    R.L. Maizes

    This stirring collection is not for the faint of heart. Landsburgh doesn’t spare his characters or his readers when it comes to the challenges of family, particularly this family with its narcissistic matriarch. The writing is economical and beautiful. A masterful collection I won’t soon forget.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Christy Stillwell

    I first encountered Matthew Lansburgh's fiction in The Florida Review, a story called "The Luxe" featuring a grown gay man, Stewart, visiting his self-absorbed German mother, Heike. He lives on the east coast and she on the west--always significant, those opposing coasts. The story knocked me out; I had to order the book and read all about Heike and Stewart and the complex family they create. Heike is both insane and entirely sympathetic; lonely and manipulative, in short, the most finely drawn I first encountered Matthew Lansburgh's fiction in The Florida Review, a story called "The Luxe" featuring a grown gay man, Stewart, visiting his self-absorbed German mother, Heike. He lives on the east coast and she on the west--always significant, those opposing coasts. The story knocked me out; I had to order the book and read all about Heike and Stewart and the complex family they create. Heike is both insane and entirely sympathetic; lonely and manipulative, in short, the most finely drawn narcissist I've seen in fiction. Just when you're set to despise her, Stewart remembers them together when he was young, the way he'd help her clasp her gold necklace, the fun they had. But she's insane! "You're all I have!" she moans. She guilts him into visiting then makes him complicit to a dog-napping and breaking-and-entering. Every minute Stewart spends with her is schizophrenic; next to his deep love for his mother sits a terrible hatred. He's full to the brim with Bad-Son shame, which is what Heike wants. She asks too much but will not, can not see it. No wonder his mind's a two-track when he's with her, dreaming of his independent, wildly experimental life in the city. Lansburgh doesn't shy from the difficult. In "A Kind of Happiness," for example, we see inside the heart of Zhana, who has lost her daughter and husband in a plane crash. Her daughter, Natalia was the childhood best friend of Galina, the disturbed Russian girl Heike adopts late in life. Zhana comes to Galina's wedding, witnessing Heike's narcissistic breakdown, a rant of resentment towards her daughter and Zhana, with whom Galina was always close. Detestable behavior, but as in most of these stories, the writer will not take the easy route. Impossibly, Zhana finds compassion, and thus so does the reader. Again and again the reader finds love inside every crime. This is a brave writer who can hold the fragile and the terrible in every scene he writes. These stories broke my heart and handed it back to me.

  7. 4 out of 5

    David L. Gibson

    I loved this book! The stories weave together the relationship between a complex traumatized survivor and her smart, determined and sometime bewildered son. No classic mother son cliches here. Just a layered and compassionate story of two people finding their way and trying to meet their needs in the only way they know how in each moment. Sometimes the people we love, and are loved by, are not easy to understand or love, and sometimes with he right help and encouragement we are the better for ha I loved this book! The stories weave together the relationship between a complex traumatized survivor and her smart, determined and sometime bewildered son. No classic mother son cliches here. Just a layered and compassionate story of two people finding their way and trying to meet their needs in the only way they know how in each moment. Sometimes the people we love, and are loved by, are not easy to understand or love, and sometimes with he right help and encouragement we are the better for have tried..

  8. 4 out of 5

    Frau Bucher

    I was in a workshop with the author where I read an earlier version of this book. It's an extraordinary collection that somehow feels both intimate yet sweeping in scope. At its center are a mother and son, who are vivid, frustrating yet always deeply human characters. This sparkling work is full of memorable moments, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always beautifully observed. I was in a workshop with the author where I read an earlier version of this book. It's an extraordinary collection that somehow feels both intimate yet sweeping in scope. At its center are a mother and son, who are vivid, frustrating yet always deeply human characters. This sparkling work is full of memorable moments, sometimes funny, sometimes heartbreaking, always beautifully observed.

  9. 5 out of 5

    David Waage

    The main character of this book is incredibly complicated and compelling -- sometimes she made me laugh; sometimes I wanted to smack her. She can be manipulative and cunning, and she can also be incredibly generous and selfless. I loved the fact that the stories showed so many different sides of the characters involved. It felt more like a novel than a collection of stories.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Mike Karpa

    Sometimes books are described as "compelling" or "engaging." This one is not; it's better. The writing is straightforward, unpretentious. Nothing about it ever feels manipulative or trying to hard (which is what "compelling," "engaging" and (gag) "relatable" have come to mean, for me). Heike, Stewart, Galina and the father (he did have one story of his own, which came at a good spot) all felt like real people to me. And people whose stories I rarely encounter in fiction, although I encounter the Sometimes books are described as "compelling" or "engaging." This one is not; it's better. The writing is straightforward, unpretentious. Nothing about it ever feels manipulative or trying to hard (which is what "compelling," "engaging" and (gag) "relatable" have come to mean, for me). Heike, Stewart, Galina and the father (he did have one story of his own, which came at a good spot) all felt like real people to me. And people whose stories I rarely encounter in fiction, although I encounter them often enough in real life. The settings and stories all felt tangible to me, without the annoying forced details and metaphors that can clutter up modern fiction. I was more than impressed--I was interested. And frustrated. And angry. And rooting for them, each in turn, all in turn. I have been kind of looking for this book for a while without knowing it, and was/am delighted to have finally found it.

  11. 5 out of 5

    David Messier

    Did I actually read this book in one day? More of a collection of short stories than a novel, Outside Is The Ocean, tells the life story of Heike, a German immigrant to America, and the breadth of her life of multiple marriages, strained relationships, and unconventional behavior through the stories and recollections of her children and her memories. This book is very well written and each story builds on the narrative of Heike's life and that of her children. I found it be a deconstruction of the Did I actually read this book in one day? More of a collection of short stories than a novel, Outside Is The Ocean, tells the life story of Heike, a German immigrant to America, and the breadth of her life of multiple marriages, strained relationships, and unconventional behavior through the stories and recollections of her children and her memories. This book is very well written and each story builds on the narrative of Heike's life and that of her children. I found it be a deconstruction of the relationships that define family and an exploration of boundaries and social norms. The book deals with themes of mental illness, sexuality, independence, and self-worth. This would be a good read for anyone that doesn't want to commit to reading a book all at once. The short stories make this an easy book to pick up and put down. Each story has the strength and structure to stand alone. Different chapters are from the different perspectives that come and go into Heike's life but this is book is an exploration of strained family relations and how they influence our ability to form lasting, healthy commitments to one another.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Emily

    Beautiful and hilarious and poignant, full of wonderfully, excruciatingly human characters. My favorite book of the year!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Genevieve

    The structure of Matthew Lansburgh’s wonder of a linked story collection, Outside is the Ocean, reminds me of Jess Walter’s novel, Beautiful Ruins. Both books veer between various time periods and narrators as they weave an intriguing tale that long lingers in the reader’s imagination. While Walters’ novel examines the cultural mores of Hollywood and a coastal Italian village, Lansburgh’s delves deeply into the emotional landscape of Heike, a demanding German immigrant, her perpetually-embarrass The structure of Matthew Lansburgh’s wonder of a linked story collection, Outside is the Ocean, reminds me of Jess Walter’s novel, Beautiful Ruins. Both books veer between various time periods and narrators as they weave an intriguing tale that long lingers in the reader’s imagination. While Walters’ novel examines the cultural mores of Hollywood and a coastal Italian village, Lansburgh’s delves deeply into the emotional landscape of Heike, a demanding German immigrant, her perpetually-embarrassed son Stewart, and those whose lives they intersect. I recognized these characters as people I have known in my life. People I have loved even though our relationship, like that of Heike and Stewart, has been strained at times. Lansburgh’s skillful portrayal of his characters’ struggles to create meaningful lives for themselves despite their own flaws spoke to me in a way that a book has not done in a very long time. Highly recommended.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Alexei Schnakenburg

    A wondrous collection of interwoven short stories.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Rachel Farrell

    Matthew Lansburgh’s luminous, character-driven collection of linked stories, OUTSIDE IS THE OCEAN, follows the life of a German immigrant named Heike as she grapples with the assorted disappointments of love and family. She is the book’s center of gravity, the sun around which other characters orbit—namely her estranged son, Stewart, but also a cadre of others: her adopted daughter, Galina, a handful of neighbors and in-laws, an ex-husband whose loneliness is eclipsed only by his frustration wit Matthew Lansburgh’s luminous, character-driven collection of linked stories, OUTSIDE IS THE OCEAN, follows the life of a German immigrant named Heike as she grapples with the assorted disappointments of love and family. She is the book’s center of gravity, the sun around which other characters orbit—namely her estranged son, Stewart, but also a cadre of others: her adopted daughter, Galina, a handful of neighbors and in-laws, an ex-husband whose loneliness is eclipsed only by his frustration with an Airedale that tries desperately to escape him... My review/interview for MQR: https://sites.lsa.umich.edu/mqr/2018/...

  16. 5 out of 5

    Scott Viohl

    All the things I didn't know I liked in a book: Complex, realistic characters who are fascinating if not always likable. Unusual narrative structure that keeps you, the reader, on your toes and forces you to examine events through different eyes. Themes that resonate with the anxieties and insecurities many of us possess but don't acknowledge. Highly recommended. All the things I didn't know I liked in a book: Complex, realistic characters who are fascinating if not always likable. Unusual narrative structure that keeps you, the reader, on your toes and forces you to examine events through different eyes. Themes that resonate with the anxieties and insecurities many of us possess but don't acknowledge. Highly recommended.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This is such a strong debut that as I read it, I couldn't believe it was Matthew Lansburgh's first book. He is very good at writing fro the various points of view that populate this book - among them, Stewart's, ostensibly this linked story collection's main character; he is the only child of Heike, a German woman who emigrated to the U.S. when she was a very young woman; and Heike's POV, along with Stewart's estranged father Raymond's. The narrative moves back and forth in time, from the 1960s This is such a strong debut that as I read it, I couldn't believe it was Matthew Lansburgh's first book. He is very good at writing fro the various points of view that populate this book - among them, Stewart's, ostensibly this linked story collection's main character; he is the only child of Heike, a German woman who emigrated to the U.S. when she was a very young woman; and Heike's POV, along with Stewart's estranged father Raymond's. The narrative moves back and forth in time, from the 1960s to the 2010s and also is set in various cities and states - California, Colorado, Nevada, Massachusetts. It's very witty, poignant, and beautifully written - the details too - I was very impressed by Lansburgh's keen eye. Such a pleasure to immerse myself in this fully realized fictional world.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Amy Knight

    I think this is a story collection, not a novel, even though these 15 stories are all about the same family and revolve pretty tightly around the relationship between Heike, an emotionally unstable German woman, and her gay son, Stuart. They're engaging and well written, and,even though their actions are sometimes extreme, the characters are eminently believable. The pieces stand alone as individual stories, and they cohere through layering, more than through progression. (Is that the difference I think this is a story collection, not a novel, even though these 15 stories are all about the same family and revolve pretty tightly around the relationship between Heike, an emotionally unstable German woman, and her gay son, Stuart. They're engaging and well written, and,even though their actions are sometimes extreme, the characters are eminently believable. The pieces stand alone as individual stories, and they cohere through layering, more than through progression. (Is that the difference between a novel in stories and a themed or linked collection?) Either way, they're wonderful stories.

  19. 5 out of 5

    K Xiao

    This is a brilliant book! The awards and critical acclaim are well deserved. The book hits all the marks - the gamut of human emotion and experience; the depths of loneliness and the meaning of connection; explorations of boundaries and limits; love, need, vulnerability and the nature of fulfillment; missed connections and misunderstanding; trauma and healing. All these insights are presented within a structure of short stories with stunningly beautiful craftsmanship. It was quite a read. MATTHE This is a brilliant book! The awards and critical acclaim are well deserved. The book hits all the marks - the gamut of human emotion and experience; the depths of loneliness and the meaning of connection; explorations of boundaries and limits; love, need, vulnerability and the nature of fulfillment; missed connections and misunderstanding; trauma and healing. All these insights are presented within a structure of short stories with stunningly beautiful craftsmanship. It was quite a read. MATTHEW LANSBURGH: THANK YOU FOR THIS GIFT TO THE WORLD.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Nora Brooks

    I cant love this book enough and recommend it to,well, everyone! It took me a while to twig to the fact that it was connected short stories (I know, it won a prize for that!) but it is so beautifully written that it is the very best of both worlds. It has the all the impact of short stories but the pull, and the pleasure, of a longer narrative spun out over time. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: everything is delicately interconnected...." And it is funny! And suprising, and full of I cant love this book enough and recommend it to,well, everyone! It took me a while to twig to the fact that it was connected short stories (I know, it won a prize for that!) but it is so beautifully written that it is the very best of both worlds. It has the all the impact of short stories but the pull, and the pleasure, of a longer narrative spun out over time. It reminded me of one of my favorite quotes: everything is delicately interconnected...." And it is funny! And suprising, and full of humanity. Read it!

  21. 5 out of 5

    N. Nasim

    I loved this book. From the first page, I was pulled into an intimate world where the characters' lives mattered to me as if there were in my own family. The series of short stories are connected so delicately that any interruption in reading is bothersome and you will surely find any opportunity to pick up where you left off. The writing is graceful, the flow wave-like, and prose poetic. Make this the next thing you read. I loved this book. From the first page, I was pulled into an intimate world where the characters' lives mattered to me as if there were in my own family. The series of short stories are connected so delicately that any interruption in reading is bothersome and you will surely find any opportunity to pick up where you left off. The writing is graceful, the flow wave-like, and prose poetic. Make this the next thing you read.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Mythily

    I know the author through my cousin and initially read the book simply to support him but wound up being completely surprised and loved the book!! He has an impressive ability to write a series of short stories that can stand on their own but also tie in so well with each other to paint a realistic picture of the characters. This book made me actually get back into reading on a regular basis.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Rachel May

    This is a beautiful story of family and its complexities. I sat down to read one story over the weekend, and was quickly drawn through the entire collection. The main character is troubling and fascinating and entirely compelling. Read this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa

    I just loved this, and found myself thinking about it much later. The elegance and simplicity of the writing is perfect for the emotionally intense subject matter. Can't wait to see what Lansburgh does next. I just loved this, and found myself thinking about it much later. The elegance and simplicity of the writing is perfect for the emotionally intense subject matter. Can't wait to see what Lansburgh does next.

  25. 4 out of 5

    nachtbibliothekar

    My review at http://regalreise.de/lektuere/matthew... My review at http://regalreise.de/lektuere/matthew...

  26. 4 out of 5

    Lacygnette

    Outside is the Ocean is a linked collection of stories that exposes the lives and loves of a family that forms and then disintegrates. The matriarch is Heike, a German woman who was a child during WWII and who immigrated to the U.S. She is headstrong, needy, insecure, and for this reader, difficult to like. Her selfishness is overwhelming, but she also has moments of self awareness: She turned thirty only recently, but already she feels she has made mistakes that cannot be undone. In many ways s Outside is the Ocean is a linked collection of stories that exposes the lives and loves of a family that forms and then disintegrates. The matriarch is Heike, a German woman who was a child during WWII and who immigrated to the U.S. She is headstrong, needy, insecure, and for this reader, difficult to like. Her selfishness is overwhelming, but she also has moments of self awareness: She turned thirty only recently, but already she feels she has made mistakes that cannot be undone. In many ways she reminded me of Olive Kitteridge in Elizabeth Strout’s novel. Fascinating and awful. The family has no patriarch; rather a string of Heike’s husbands. Each time she’s divorced or abandoned, desperation leads her to someone new. I actually lost track of all her men, partly because the stories are not in chronological order. Each can certainly be enjoyed on its own, but sometimes the overall time-frame was confusing. Heike has a gay son, Stewart, who grows into an insecure man (naturally, given the mother he has). One of the early stories involves him at ten, trying to please his father whom he seldom sees. I loved the beautiful language in this story, so like a dreamy ten-year-old. Here’s Stewart trying to stay awake as his father drives them home in the snow. "Now it is late though, and night coaxes him into its arms…Stewart rests his cheek on the window’s cold glass, feels the moon’s palm on his skin." When they arrive home, his father commands Stewart to read aloud. Heike claims it’s too late, Stewart should be in bed, but to no avail. And, of course, Stewart totally garbles his reading. The father makes him go outside to stand in the cold dark night. This story had a dreamy ending - Stewart asserted himself for the first time - and from that moment on, I loved him. I would urge readers to pay attention to two recurring images. First, dogs play a big role in several of the stories. Sometimes they stand in for the human hopes; sometimes they suffer from human derangement. Daughters also play a role. Heike is forced to abort a child, her daughter. Another daughter is killed, still another is only a figment of Heike’s imagination. Interestingly, the one daughter who lives is physically incomplete. These recurrences make the stories richer. This collection won the Iowa Short Fiction Award, for good reason. I would highly recommend it.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Kristine

    Outside is the Ocean by Matthew Lansburgh is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October. A thought-provokng, tension-filled work of 'short fiction' in detailed first and third-person narration about the confounding, stubborn, and needful qualities of family. A woman of German heritage named Heike feels unaccustomed to her older age, while her son Stewart inherits her sense of doubting dismay, as well as his own perpetual embarrassment about her being quite selfish, blameless, and very of Outside is the Ocean by Matthew Lansburgh is a free NetGalley ebook that I read in early October. A thought-provokng, tension-filled work of 'short fiction' in detailed first and third-person narration about the confounding, stubborn, and needful qualities of family. A woman of German heritage named Heike feels unaccustomed to her older age, while her son Stewart inherits her sense of doubting dismay, as well as his own perpetual embarrassment about her being quite selfish, blameless, and very often playing the pity card in her interactions with her three husbands and sadistically bad turned granola hippie adopted daughter, Galina. Above all, the chapters about Mrs Smolenski, the matriarch of the neighbor family who Golina turns to out of refuse, and her life after the death of her husband and child are the most strongest and heartfelt of this (at times difficult) book.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brad Felver

    It's a really remarkable book, one which makes such good use of the form. Lansburgh extracts so much tension and irony and sadness out of the novel-in-stories approach. And like the best of this form, you get the benefits of both micro and macro: each story feels like a real story, a world unto itself, but they also accumulate and play off of each in novelistic ways. They add up to a whole, and the results are memorable and sad. Highly recommend. It's a really remarkable book, one which makes such good use of the form. Lansburgh extracts so much tension and irony and sadness out of the novel-in-stories approach. And like the best of this form, you get the benefits of both micro and macro: each story feels like a real story, a world unto itself, but they also accumulate and play off of each in novelistic ways. They add up to a whole, and the results are memorable and sad. Highly recommend.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Trent

    A well-crafted series of interconnected short stories about a German immigrant to postwar America with boundary issues, her gay son, and her adopted Russian-born daughter. This book was a well deserved finalist for the Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction, presented by the Publishing Triangle and the Ferro-Grumley Foundation.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Ann

    I really enjoyed Outside Is the Ocean. This collection of short stories tells the story of Stewart, a boy struggling to understand his misfit immigrant mother and his tumultuous childhood. The stories are charged with anger and disappointment, and a tenderness born of patient endurance. Matthew Lansburgh has a spare lyrical style that packs a wallop when capturing the dramas of everyday life.

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