Pins and Needles

Ebook Available July 2, 2013

Winner of the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction

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, and a woman on vacation at the Connecticut shore experiences the drowning of a boy and the disintegration of a relationship in “Breach.” 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 the stories is the tangible presence of the natural world—ice dripping into the sand, little girls’ painted fingernails, jacaranda petals on black asphalt, oily parts in metal bins, arms slipped from the sleeves of a leotard, a dishwasher’s cough. Each story moves toward the moment in which these characters, navigating loss, learn acceptance. Like the single mother in “Destiny,” they see their lives happen—” all around, just then, forever.”


“For the women in these stories, many of them mothers, the sense of private exile leads to liaisons beyond the boundaries of established relationships, where fidelities shift, and sexual relationships and secret-keeping become momentary stands against their loss. The profound losses in these stories–the accidental deaths of children, losses of parental love, the effects of time passing–continue to haunt, both deepened and suspended by Karen Brown’s glimmering prose.”
Nancy Reisman, author of The First Desire and House Fires

“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 Needles is a bold, sexy, beautiful portrait of the human heart.”
A. Manette Ansay, author of Blue Water and Vinegar Hill

“Karen Brown pinpoints the essence of desire, sexual and otherwise.”
St. Petersburg Times