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Jessica Francis Kane is author of an acclaimed story collection, Bending Heaven (Chatto, 2002). Her work has appeared in a number of US publications, including McSweeney's, The Missouri Review, and Michigan Quarterly Review. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.
Author photo © L M Brockett
Featured on The TV Book Club on More4 on 11 March 2012. An evocative and moving debut novel - based on the true story of the worst UK civilian disaster of the Second World War, when 173 people were crushed to death at Bethnal Green tube station during the Blitz.
Here, a woman is floored by the loss of her young child and struggles to disentangle her superstitious fears from her terrible sense of guilt. A recent college graduate living in New York City finds himself in a strangely complicated friendship with his Korean dry cleaner and her son. A daughter accompanies her father to Israel, where, seeing a new side of him away from her mother, she makes an unusual bargain. Through twelve finely crafted stories, some stand-alone, others woven with linked characters, Kane explores the tensions between friendship and acquaintance, between love and like, between duty and choice, and reveals the everyday patterns that can - with time and repetition - swerve a life off course.
In Lesson, a mother challenges her son to a feat of strength, confident of her own physical and moral sturdiness. A little boy helps his mother prepare for an extraordinary yard sale in First Sale, coming to terms with the notions of trade, exchange and irretrievable loss in the process.
A naive young man, recently arrived in New York City, accidentally strikes up a rapport with his dry cleaners and finds himself uncomfortably suspended between customer and saviour.
Holly is a very careful driver, living with her nonagenarian father, eschewing neighbourly contact and living within proudly self-imposed boundaries - until a single surprising sight pierces her resolve.
A woman is haunted by the sudden death of her young toddler, and compiles a complex trail of signals, riddles, hints and puzzles that she believes holds the key to the tragedy.
In Night Class, a teacher develops a unique way to teach the meaning of parentheses, while in Double Take, a promising young lawyer's suicide forces his former Yale roommate and his aging mother together for a meal that will echo through the rest of their lives.
Sarah takes a holiday to London with her husband and their teenage daughter. Thrown together in the uneasy otherworld of tourists, the family are forced confront their lack of familiarity with one another.
When Hannah's mother takes to her bed, Hannah accompanies her father on holiday in Jerusalem, only to find herself out of her depth in the world of adult relationships.
A cat's innocently cruel game with a mole at a family beach house pushes a cautious married couple towards a potentially devastating confrontation.
An old academic's birthday party marks the inevitable division and isolation of his family and professional life, but also offers the chance of acceptance.
From rainy Paris, to Hyde Park and busy Manhattan, we are plunged right into other people's worlds as characters struggle with the unspoken secrets of relationships and what it means to feel 'at home'. When newly-weds look after a plush house in Washington they get carried away re-designing a home that isn't theirs. In 'First Sale' a boy helplessly watches his mother attempt a new start by selling off all their belongings; and in 'Evidence of Old Repairs', a mother's need, both at home and abroad, is almost too much for her daughter to bear. In New York a publicist almost loses the will to live, while in Seattle an author has a paralysing fear of exposure. These are graceful, varied and exciting stories where characters constantly attempt new beginnings, setting out with heartfelt resolutions that are sometimes humorous, often calamitous. As the characters shift lives, loves and homes there are enduring predicaments - how do we reconcile the anguish of understanding ourselves all too well, and master the trick of balancing dreams against a lack of faith in the future?