About the Book
“It never entered my mind that anyone in my husband’s family would die,” muses Harriet Stedman at the beginning of this wise and tender first novel-in-stories. On the day of the family patriarch’s funeral, the hairline cracks in her marriage and life deepen as the hope for family unity recedes. If Harriet is anything, she is a truth-seeker, a compassionate woman who walks that uneasy line between love of her family and respect for her own vitality and desires. Imbued with unflinching honesty, and achingly human characters whose joys and sorrows are as real as our own, Woman Made of Sand is the exquisitely rendered story of Harriet, her husband Phillip, and their two children, whose lives flirt with dissolution but then rise through pain to a new wholeness.
This collection of stories spans several decades: from a summer in 1950 at the Jersey Shore in which the conflicts of an extended family are powerfully portrayed, to the present when it seems that the fate of three generations hang precariously on the outcome of a single ballet performance. On all fronts Joann Kobin is a master of subtlety and manages to find great poignancy and power in the finely observed moments when family members connect or fail to connect. Her fictions embrace and augment one another, at dance recitals, on the streets of Florence, the beaches of Cape Cod, at a college conference. The Stedmans drift apart and then come together, sometimes with grace, more often with uncertainty, determined to survive the heartaches of love.
Joann Kobin’s stories do two things wonderfully: they create small, densely packed worlds, stuffed with felt life and the sorts of insights you can’t wait to jot down, and they also create leakages, channels running from one story to the next. I wanted to keep following Harriet: into the strains of advanced motherhood, into love, into sex, into food and longing and all the rich parts of her life. She’s what a great ficitonal character should be: a little smarter than the rest of us, guiding us on a tour through the city of adult life.
― Anthony Giardina, author of Recent History
Joann Kobin’s stories are unfailingly deft and observant, and the subtitle of the book they’ve been gathered into delivers on its promise. This really is ‘a novel in stories,’ a book with the momentum and expansiveness that few others in this tricky combination-genre can honestly claim.
― Thomas Mallon
Woman Made of Sand boldly scouts the limits of loyalty and selflessness, the high-voltage line between love and friendship, and the defining regrets of fractured adults. This book is funny, beautiful, brutal and generous. Kobin fills it up with life, in all its mad significance.
― Carolyn Cooke, author of The Bostons
About the Author
Joann Kobin’s stories have appeared in New England Review, Ploughshares, North American Review, The Virginia Quarterly Review and The Boston Globe Magazine. Her work has been cited in the Best American Short Stories and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She’s been a MacDowell Fellow and has received a grant from The St. Botolph Club Foundation in Boston and from the Massachusetts Council of the Arts.