From the back cover
In this brilliantly original story collection,
Rachel Sherman evokes the wonders and horrors of a young woman’s life,
from girl to teenager to adult, through crushes, sex, family, and the
agonies and ecstasies of finding one’s way. The
First Hurt heralds the arrival of a singularly fresh and remarkably
assured new voice.
Sherman's beautifully direct and deceptively simple prose produces accessible, shockingly real narratives that combine a disarming sexual edge with great sensitivity and humor. From a high-school girl's crush on her female teacher, to a family's serenity threatened by a sexy Danish au pair, to a girl's sexually outrageous soldier penpal, all the way to a young couple's horrifying yet life-affirming experience of learning to love their brain-injured newborn twins, this collection wends its way around the deepest of struggles with unusual frankness and wisdom.
“Rachel Sherman’s stories are real wonders—brave,
dangerous fictions full of heart and wit. She gets to the creepy, despairing,
hilarious core of adolescence like few writers I’ve read. This is an
“Rachel Sherman writes stories like splinters:
they get under your skin and stay with you long after you’ve closed
the book. These haunting stories are both wonderfully, deeply weird
and unsettlingly familiar.”
“In this excellent first collection, the human
body is a promise of future happiness and a source of present embarrassment.
The prose is another matter: polished, poised, sure of itself. It’s
a very grown-up way of recording the queasy intimacies, the frighteningly
raw perceptions, and the almost cosmic desolation of a suburban adolescence.”
"[Sherman's] pared-down yet oddly poetic prose
has the delicacy—and the potential pain—of a dentist's glittering probe.
Even though her touch is light, when she hits the nerve, you flinch.
[These stories are] sharp, smart, and able to deftly limn the subtle,
shifting outlines of alienation and sorrow."
—Yona Zeldis McDonough, Bookforum
"A startling debut collection...As in A. M. Homes’s
The Safety of Objects, the angst here
is set in well-groomed places—developments, summer houses, manicured
streets...Sherman’s straightforward prose provides a contrast to her
characters’ unsettling behavior."
—Lara Tupper, The Believer (click here for full review)
“Laser-cut narratives . . . Full of great, quirky
lines, the book would be a good read even if it did condescend to its
flawed characters, but it doesn’t. Instead, it takes the constraints
of its context seriously, wondering not how its characters will escape—their
bodies, their boring neighborhoods, their unreciprocated lust—but how
they’ll behave when they can’t.”
—Michael Miller, Time Out New York (click here for full review)
"If Sherman were a photographer, she'd be a paparazzo
exposing people's most desperately concealed flaws. But unlike a cold
soul with a zoom lens, the author renders her subjects clearly and empathetically,
and her airy, poetic prose is a perfect match for the brittle environments
she describes . . .The mood of the book is downcast, but Sherman's prose
never becomes melodramatically glum or tedious . . . Her melodic style,
rife with dream imagery, gives these stories a lift—her deceptively
revealing dialogue and direct sentences lay her characters bare but
never pummel them."
"In a highly promising debut collection of stories,
Sherman writes of alienated lower-end white suburbia in a manner that
shifts perspectives with an effortlessness that mitigates her characters'
sad stuckness . . . By the time one reaches the last story . . . one
has given up any resistance to Sherman's grotesques and settled all
the way in to a very uncomfortable place."
"[Sherman] seamlessly protrays the world of adolescent
girls who, on the brink of sexual experience, find themselves surrounded
by adults who cavort like teenagesrs. Sherman's writing is so refined;
it is a pleasure to find that her characters are not...Anyone who can
remember the stirrings caused by shoulders rubbing in homeroom, or the
agonies of squandered teenage love with find a companion in The
—Caroline Seklir, The Brooklyn Rail
"Hilarious and disturbing . . . Sherman deals
with sexuality on candid terms, depicting the fine line between what
we want and what we know with precision. The simplicity of Sherman's
prose allows the reader speedy entry into the painfully familiar world
of adolescence and young adulthood. There are few fireworks here, but
no less bang."
—Elizabeth Crane, Time Out Chicago
"Sherman's writing is sharp, hard, and honest;
there's a fearlessness in her work, an I'm-not-afraid-to-say-this quality.
Becasue she knows that most of us have thought the same but didn't have
the guts to say it."
—Nina Maclaughlin, Boston Phoenix
"Rather than a mountain-steep line that stops
abruptly in adolescence, the learning curve of the human body is gradual
and endless. Each age offers its own set of embarrassments and obsessions;
the characters in Rachel Sherman's debut short-story collection are
no exception...Thankfully, these unsettling stories avoid florid descriptions
and tidy resolutions. Like her characters' own self-assessment, Sherman's
spare, detatched style yields a somewhat cold take on sexuality, reminiscent
of A.M. Homes and Mary Gaitskill."
—Karla Starr, Seattle Weekly