OUTSIDE IS THE OCEAN
Iowa Short Fiction Award
Matthew Lansburgh's collection of linked stories, Outside Is the Ocean, was selected by Andre Dubus III as the winner of the 2017 Iowa Short Fiction Award and will be published by the University of Iowa Press this fall.
“Matthew Lansburgh has a keen eye and ear, and he puts them to great use in this lovely and, frankly, mesmerizing linked collection that explores, among other things, the tenuous tie between mother and son, between the Old World and the New, between what was and what is. And Lansburgh illuminates all of this gracefully, moving with ease from first-person to third and capturing not only the sounds of his various characters but their particular world views as well, each fraught with trouble and a sometimes darkly comic drama that is never self-conscious but always moving. Outside Is the Ocean is a gem.”
– ANDRE DUBUS III, New York Times bestselling author of The House of Sand and Fog (finalist for the National Book Award), The Garden of Last Days, and Townie
"Matthew Lansburgh is a great writer in the Raymond Carver vein. Deceptively simple, emotionally deep, his work shimmers with sneaky passion. He's the real deal."
– DARIN STRAUSS, author of Half a Life and Chang and Eng
"Matthew Lansburgh's Outside Is the Ocean is one of the best short story collections I've read in years. It's sharp and funny and it sweeps the reader along through the lives of a cast of difficult and damaged characters. But there are no villains here; the joy of reading Lansburgh's stories is that he keeps spinning his characters around, finding tenderness alongside their abjection, compassion alongside hurt, until finally the people in this book feel as human and real as anyone you've known."
– PAUL LA FARGE, author of The Night Ocean and Luminous Airplanes
"At the core of Matthew Lansburgh’s linked stories are Stewart and his mother Heike, one of the most unforgettable characters I've encountered in fiction recently. Whether Heike is stealing her tenant’s dog or adopting a child from Russia in an attempt to secure filial love and piety, Lansburgh writes with humor and, most of all, deep compassion about loneliness and the disappointments of family. Outside Is the Ocean is that rare collection in which individual stories create a whole that is much more than the sum of those wonderful and deeply satisfying parts. What a lovely, sad, funny new voice this is."
– LORI OSTLUND, author of After the Parade and The Bigness of the World
"Every so often a work of fiction presents us with the great gift of an entire life. What Matthew Lansburgh has given us here, like the points of a constellation, is the breadth of a family, across many decades, through all their hardships, unspeakable heartbreaks, and small victories. Outside Is the Ocean is a book full of grace and endurance. It’s an exceptional debut, and we’re lucky to have it in this world, now."
– PAUL YOON, author of Once the Shore and Snow Hunters
"Matthew Lansburgh writes with a remarkable mixture of empathy and humor. These stories are taut with the most meaningful of tensions: the painful complexity of love between two flawed souls trying to find their places in each other's lives. Outside Is the Ocean is a poignant and perceptive collection of bravely explored stories built into a deeply affecting debut."
– JOSH WEIL, author of The New Valley and The Great Glass Sea
"Outside Is the Ocean offers the thrilling revelations of masterful short stories, and the deep satisfactions of a novel. Stewart and Heike are hilarious and heartbreaking—often in a single sentence—and feel as real to me now as any close, flawed friend."
– ANNA SOLOMON, author of Leaving Lucy Pear and The Little Bride
About the Book
Outside Is the Ocean tells the story of a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II and who leaves her home soon after her 20th birthday to cross the Atlantic and start a new life. The book traces Heike's struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina who Heike hopes will give her the affection and companionship she craves. As Galina grows up, Heike's grasp on reality frays, and she writes a series of letters to the son she thinks has abandoned her forever. It isn't until Heike's death that her son finds these letters and realizes how skewed his mother's perceptions actually were.
Outside Is the Ocean is about a mother and son who spend their lives searching for a sense of belonging that neither is able to find. Ironically, this turns out to be one of the few traits they share in common. This collection of linked stories examines the tenuous nature of family in America today—the struggles we undertake to distance ourselves from those we are supposed to love, and our ill-fated efforts to form bonds with the strangers we come across in our journey through life.