Bystanders

Winner, 2016 Balcones Fiction Prize
“‘Short story’ and ‘thriller’ tend to be incompatible genres, but not in the hands of Tara Laskowski. BYSTANDERS is a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.”
Jennifer Egan, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of A VISIT FROM THE GOON SQUAD
“Her stories pulsed with energy and excitement, like small lightning storms on the page. I was constantly surprised by her characters, and finished the book wishing there were more. I think she is a real talent–original and vibrant–and I’m excited to celebrate her work.”
— Amanda Eyre Ward, novelist and Balcones Fiction Prize judge
“Laskowski’s fine workings of tales that go creepy in the night make her a writer to watch.”
Kirkus Reviews
“…several pieces would be right at home in the old TV series ‘The Twilight Zone’ … Laskowski’s stories start out with circumstances that could befall anyone, you or me, but watch out for what happens next.”
New Pages
“No matter how surreal or commonplace, the insertions Laskowski makes in her plots teach us that witnesses won’t be spared: life forces them to participate.”
Washington Independent Review of Books

Legacies of violence and tragedy haunt these thirteen stunning stories from Tara Laskowski, author of Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. A woman who becomes obsessed with her co-worker’s murderer; an investigative reporter with a nose for scandal finds his own life suddenly unraveling; eerie sights in a video baby monitor spook a new mother. When the unexpected happens, these bystanders—who are not always innocent—come face to face with their own choices and fates. Bound together by danger, fear, paranoia, and the bumps we all hear in the night, these potent stories illuminate the darker side of the human condition. From a vicious newspaper strike that rocks a small Pennsylvania community to an unpredictable road trip in the vast desert of the American West, BYSTANDERS explores the ways in which terror and uncertainty both consume and invigorate us—and yet reveal our strengths, hopes, and passions. Santa Fe Writers Project

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Early praise for Bystanders:

“Tara Laskowski’s stories show off a wonderful fusion of freshness and experience. She produces time after time the energetic steps and missteps of youth and the keenly measured estimate of what it all means, that ability which for most of us comes later in life rather than earlier. Match this with her talent for employing the colloquial American tongue to bring to life time-tried and tested flaws in the human species, and you have a new writer you need to conjure with.”

— Alan Cheuse, All Things Considered

“There’s still plenty left,” one of the characters in “ The Witness” says, referencing a cake, but the reader has been taken deep enough into the story to know that there’s no way that can be true, because there’s not enough of anything left for the main character. And in one story after another in this excellent collection, characters are tested when their expectations are strained and even shattered, not by the extraordinary, but more devastatingly, by the ordinary. Tara Laskowski’s collection will be welcomed by readers who care about witnessing the significant rather than the spectacular.”

— Gary Fincke, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Sorry I Worried You

“Tara Laskowski’s stories are deceptively cozy: soft suburban street lights out front, but a too-deep swimming pool out back. With a deft touch, she ravels and unravels her characters’ lives so seamlessly; they never know what’s coming until they’re in too deep, and what’s scarier, the reader doesn’t, either.”

— Jen Michalski, author of The Tide King and The Summer She Was Under Water

“In this debut that resonates, Tara Laskowski’s women and men drift through an imperfect suburbia, much like the disembodied souls who haunt her characters day and night. Laskowski has a natural ability to pen the banal, juxtaposed with the horror that often lurks just outside the light that spills from our windows. She digs into the crevices and corners of everyday lives to find the grit, the dirt, the ghosts—our deepest secrets—then finds a way to turn it all into crystal clear story moments that will enlighten her readers.”

— Tara L. Masih, Series Editor, The Best Small Fictions

Bystanders


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