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The Summer She Was Under Water by Jen Michalski

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The Summer She Was Under Water by Jen Michalski

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The Summer She Was Under Water by Jen Michalski

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It has been twenty years since Sam Pinski, a young novelist, has spent the Fourth of July weekend with her family at their cabin on the Susquehanna River. There, she must confront a chaotic history of mental illness, alcoholism, and physical violence, and struggle to find perspective in the pulse of things familiar and respite from the shame of the taboo relationship that courses through her. As she does, a subplot emerges: Excerpts are included from Sam's metaphoric novel in which a pregnant man tries to solve the mystery of his fertility and absolve himself of his past. Then tragedy strikes the Pinskis and they must draw together, tentatively realizing that they will continue to spin off in their own orbits unless they begin the hard work of forgiveness themselves.


"Jen Michalski's second novel is an intense emotional commitment, but a worthwhile one."-- Ploughshares

"The intersection of family and sex and dysfunction is where The Summer She Was Under Water makes its bones."-- The Collagist

"The story pulls the reader into a dark and uncomfortable place. This is where Michalski's ability to engage the reader's compassion and sensitivity is most profound." -- The Rumpus

"The result is a stark but absorbing portrait of the complex intersection of love, frustration, forgiveness, and anger that make up this -- or any -- family."-- The Washington Independent Review of Books

"Through Michalski's unusual and but effective structure and her insightful and deeply personal writing, we begin to understand just how much strength it takes for a personal to peel back the layers of a troubled past." -- Baltimore Magazine

"Although The Summer She Was Under Water provides no neat resolutions, it offers hope that people can find ways to move forward with the realities of their lives, with or without each other." -- Small Press Picks

"The Summer She Was Under Water is an emotional giant." -- Grab the Lapels

The Summer She Was Underwater introduces us to the vivid Pinskis, a family unwilling to be honest about its past and ill-equipped to alter its future. Jen Michalski movingly captures the way mother and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers jab at and dance around each other, alternately trying to soothe and to wound. - Pamela Erens, The Virgins and Eleven Hours

"Jen Michalski is a member of an exclusive club: that very small group of writers who could put out a novel, a novella, a story collection, a cereal box, a greeting card - and I'd read it all. She writes masterful, elegant, controlled works of fiction, yet she's unafraid to write movingly, to write passionate people with problems - the kind of characters who are, let's be honest, the reason we read with such hunger." - Amber Sparks, The Unfinished World and May We Shed These Human Bodies

"Jen Michalski is a writerly heavyweight and with The Summer She Was Underwater, we're seeing her at the very top of her game." - Nate Brown, editor, American Short Fiction

"There are no easy answers here but instead a family's dysfunction laid bare in all its messiness and heartbreak --and also its moments of occasional, near-accidental grace." - Katharine NoelHalfway House

"Jen Michalski has an extraordinary gift for revealing all the crooked tributaries that come together to form the ocean of the self. The Summer She Was Under Water brims with heat and longing and secrets, and yet again Michalski has delivered a story that dazzles and devastates." - Laura van den Berg, Find Me


Jen Michalski lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She was voted one of the best authors in Maryland by CBS News, one of "50 Women to Watch" by The Baltimore Sun, and "Best Writer" by Baltimore Magazine (Best of Baltimore issue, 2013).

She is the author of the novels THE TIDE KING (Black Lawrence Press, 2013; winner of the Big Moose Prize) and THE SUMMER SHE WAS UNDER WATER (Queens Ferry Press, forthcoming August 2016), of two collections of fiction, CLOSE ENCOUNTERS (So New, 2007) and FROM HERE (Aqueous Books, 2014), and a collection of novellas, COULD YOU BE WITH HER NOW (Dzanc Books, 2013). She also edited the anthology CITY SAGES: BALTIMORE, which Baltimore Magazine called "Best of Baltimore" in 2010. She is the founding editor of the literary quarterly jmww, hosts the monthly reading series Starts Here! in Baltimore, and interviews writers at The Nervous Breakdown.