Advance Praise for Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories

“Exquisitely written, and deeply moving, Kaufman’s debut reads like the work of a seasoned master in a brilliant collection of stories about loss, love, and longing, all with a quirky sensibility that’s funny, poignant, and heart-wrenchingly redemptive, too.”

—Caroline Leavitt, New York Times best-selling author of
Is This Tomorrow and Pictures of You

“Crafted with a light hand and deftly imagined, these stories bloom like tiny effervescent explosions in the mind. Delectable, insightful, a pure joy to read.”

—Janet Fitch, New York Times best-selling author of Paint It Black and White Oleander

“The voices of Kaufman’s characters call out from the page. I didn’t just read them; I heard them. What a generous, tender, wildly perceptive writer we have here. Wendi Kaufman’s sharp eye takes in everything—makes us shudder and smile. She’s got an ear as perfectly on-key as a tuning fork.”

—Joyce Maynard, New York Times best-selling author of After Her and Labor Day

“There is an amiable intensity and comic intelligence to Wendi Kaufman’s writing that lets us understand and honor the reality of imagination. The work is tart and understated, powerful in its sympathy and warmth, and did I mention that it’s funny as hell? It is funny as hell.”

—Cathleen Schine, author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport and The New Yorkers

“With a gift of brevity that will take your breath away, Wendi Kaufman’s stories travel the universe of the heart in one sentence, then circle back again to reconsider that universe in the next sentence… there is so much beauty, wisdom, truth, and honesty in Kaufman’s vision, her words go straight to the deepest source without interference. Simply stunning.”

—Jessica Keener, author of Night Swim and Women in Bed: Nine Stories

“Wendi Kaufman serves up the precious emotional truths of life… Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories is clear-eyed, big-hearted, and immensely entertaining.”

—Jami Attenberg, New York Times best-selling author of The Middlesteins and Instant Love

“A gorgeous collection from a writer of sure grace and rare voice. Headlined by the extraordinary ‘Helen on 86th Street,’ Kaufman’s stories are subtle and elegant. She navigates the tricky landscape of the human heart, exploring the fine, frail connections that exist in families—the ways they break and the ways they save us. Her voice shines through each tale, infused with a wry, smart wit that makes this whole collection a pure reading pleasure.”

Joshilyn Jackson, New York Times best-selling author of Someone Else’s Love Story and Between, Georgia

“Wendi Kaufman’s widely anthologized and highly praised, perfect little bite-sized stories are captivating gems, full of remarkable and memorable characters. You will gobble them up and wish for more.”

Ayelet Waldman, New York Times best-selling author of Love & Treasure and Red Hook Road

“Wendi Kaufman’s stories explore the tricky, glorious connections between men and women, mothers and daughters, sisters, fathers and daughters. In them, people often leave each other. They break each other’s hearts. They realize how fleeting and fragile life is. And they triumph. Each story brings the reader a sense of hope in the end. A sense that, yeah, we can all keep going.”

Ann Hood, author of The Obituary Writer and The Knitting Circle

“With her charming, quirky characters and her mastery of the wry one-liner, Wendi Kaufman is proof of the human capacity to fall in love with a voice. This menagerie of women, from sly, sweet Vita of the title story to vulnerable Marie in ‘Tryst and Doubt,’ will stay with you long after the final page.”

Susan Coll, author of The Stager and Beach Week

“The characters in Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories are young, but they are wise and funny and observant and vulnerable, and they are drawn by Wendi Kaufman with such tenderness and care that they will live on with us, just as Kaufman herself will, long after we’ve read and reread this wonderful collection.”

Joshua Henkin, author of The World Without You and Swimming Across the Hudson

“Wendi Kaufman’s wise, funny, beautifully structured stories get where they’re going with a minimum of fuss, but the emotional currents run deep. She is a writer of rigor and tenderness who can find glints of grace in the most ordinary lives. I love this book.”

Louis Bayard, author of Roosevelt’s Beast and The Pale Blue Eye

“If a good novel is like a soup (go with me here), then the best short stories are bouillon cubes: complex flavors reduced to their essence. These are the kinds of stories Wendi Kaufman writes: She gives us tiny worlds, rich and self-contained, every element considered and necessary to the whole. She picks up her characters at the moment they need her most, and she stays with them until a half-beat before the reader is ready to let them go.”

Carolyn Parkhurst, author of The Dogs of Babel and The Nobodies Album

“While this debut collection, polished as beach glass, will break your heart many times over, Kaufman’s fresh voice, unexpected humor, and deep understanding of the human condition will ultimately make you whole again.”

Faye Moskowitz, author of And the Bridge Is Love and A Leak in the Heart

“Wendi Kaufman’s first story collection is an extraordinary debut. Her narrators, adults and children alike, try as hard as they can to make sense of the mysteries of love, marriage, and death in stories told with clear-eyed precision. It’s a book both sad and funny, and always luminous and wise. I won’t ever forget it.”

Christopher Coake, author of We’re in Trouble and You Came Back

“These stories are by turns provocative, tender, sly, heartbreaking, and laugh-out-loud funny. Wendi Kaufman wields the twin knives of irony and insight with the expertise of a fencing master, and then salves the wounds with the deep compassion of a true healer.”

Gary Krist, author of Empire of Sin and City of Scoundrels

“Wendi Kaufman’s depictions of childhood give me shivers, they are so piercingly authentic, but all of these stories are exquisite and each has, at its center, a hard, glowing core of hope. How I loved this book.”

Marisa de los Santos, New York Times best-selling author of Love Walked In and Belong to Me

“Wendi Kaufman’s stories are courageous, funny, sad, disturbing, and, finally, deeply comforting. For some moments after I finished this book, I became, as one of her characters puts it, ‘a child . . .who has seen, at the end of the day, the unsteady world put right.’”

David Huddle, author of Nothing Can Make Me Do This and The Story of a Million Years

“The characters who live inside Wendi Kaufman’s stories are funny, frightened, damaged, and redeemed, their world a cascade of familial and romantic tumult rendered so elegantly, so viciously, that it’s almost impossible to imagine they’ll ever get out alive. But they do. They do! Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories is a collection that crosses the intersection of life’s great expectations and great failures and never pulls back, never lets go, and the result is nothing short of revelatory.”

Tod Goldberg, author of Gangsterland and Living Dead Girl

“Wendi Kaufman’s stories, whether short sketches or those that go for longer stretches, glitter with detail, not just in her prose but in the lives captured by that prose. In chronicling the travails of families—traditional families, unconventional ones, children at odds with parents, parents at odds with themselves—Kaufman can break your heart, but she can also rebuild it.”

Ben Greenman, author of The Slippage and What He’s Poised to Do

“Wendi Kaufman is a writer who clearly knows a great deal about both wonder and despair. Like the skillfully drawn character of Vita in her much-loved title story ‘Helen on 86th Street,’ Ms. Kaufman’s prose evokes amazement at the mysteries of this world and its conventions. My favorite character in that story, however, is Vita’s mother, whose sadness is as palpable as her strength. She’s the kind of character a reader dreams of meeting in the real world. That, of course, is impossible, which makes me even more grateful for the story. It’s a gift, as is this long-awaited collection.”

Edward Falco, author of Toughs and Burning Man: Stories

“Wendi Kaufman recognizes that our child and adult selves coexist, often uncomfortably, and she zeroes in on those telling moments when the distinction blurs. In one story, a girl is ushered prematurely into the world of adult dysfunction. In another, a woman navigates the obstacle course of adultery. The people in this collection cross Rubicons both recognized and unrecognized: Patterns repeat, things come full circle, past and present coexist. Many of these gently nuanced pieces explore everyday life with an overlay of allegory and mythology and demonstrate how art both emerges from and is intertwined with it. Stories alternately funny and poignant explore the chromatics of abandonment; the resonance of divorce; the sustenance of family—what Kaufman calls ‘love and loss entwined, a knotted tangle of grief and desire.’”

Nicole Arthur, Editor, The Washington Post

Helen on 86th Street and Other Stories is a pleasure to read, rewarding to ponder, just the right mix of wisdom and wise-cracking—one of those rare literary gems that will appeal to a wide range of smart readers, from the Fault in Our Stars set to the savviest wine bar book club and countless airplanes and beaches in between.”

Joni Rodgers, New York Times best-selling author of Sugarland and The Hurricane Lover

“If you are a woman of a certain age—that is, you remember sitting in the front seat of the family car while your parents smoked beside you—this collection will make you weep. A delightful trip down emotional and cultural memory lanes. This one stays on the bedside table.”

Karen Bergreen, author of Perfect Is Overrated and Following Polly

“In these wry and tender stories, Wendi Kaufman beautifully describes the ties that bind lovers, friends, and, most of all, family—ties so tight that sometimes they almost break us, too. Like the writing of one of her protagonists, her work ‘tastes only like truth to the mouth.’”

Natalie Danford, author of Inheritance