Pins and Needles
Winner of the Grace Paley Prize in Short Fiction
In Pins and Needles, Karen Brown explores love and loss between mother and child, husband and wife, close friends, and virtual strangers. In many of these stories, Brown shows how love emerges as infidelity—incongruous and disruptive, threatening the stability of daily life.
In “She Fell to Her Knees,” Nell inherits the neglected house in which her mother died years before, and begins an affair with the neighbor. The narrator of “Apparitions,” who has recently returned the blind grandson she was raising to the care of his mother, invites a confused young man into her home. In “The Ropewalk,” a bartender haunted by her abandonment of her own child aids a customer in a struggle for custody of her daughters. A pregnant teenager in “Unction” comes to accept the reality of her situation while working a summer job counting parts in a bookbinding machine shop. Annie, the young mother with a tragic past in “Pins and Needles,” leaves her infant daughter to go on an errand in a snowstorm, and picks up a boy she doesn't know.
What remains a constant in these stories is the tangible presence of the natural world. Each story moves toward the moment in which its characters, navigating loss, learn acceptance. Like the single mother in “Destiny,” they see their lives happen—“all around, just then, forever.
"Karen Brown is one of those writers who has you by the throat from the first paragraph. Though her characters are burdened by self-loathing and what one of them calls ‘an unremitting expectation of loss,' Brown has so meticulously observed the worlds they inhabit that their rare moments of love and hope are hard-won, beautifully nuanced, and deeply felt."—Enid Shomer, author of Tourist Season
"Each of these stories is its own sensual journey, an unflinching exploration of desire and its consequences. Pins and Neeedles is a bold, sexy, beautiful portrait of the human heart."—A. Manette Ansay, author of Blue Water and Vinegar Hill