Long-listed for the 2016 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize “”A wonderful debut . . . Undeniably moving and emotionally true.”” —Publishers Weekly (starred and boxed review)
Most of us have experienced what it’s like to know what someone is going to say right before they say it. Or perhaps you have been shocked by the irrefutable phenomena of coincidence, when your life intersects with another’s in the most unlikely way. In gripping prose marked by stark simplicity, Another Place You’ve Never Been by debut novelist Rebecca Kauffman explores the intersection of human experience amidst the minutiae of everyday life. In her mid-thirties and still living in her hometown Buffalo, NY, Tracy spends most days at the restaurant where she works as a hostess, despite her aspirations of a career that would make use of her creative talents. Tracy’s life is explored not only though her own personal point of view, but also through the viewpoints of other characters, wherein Tracy may only make a peripheral appearance or even emerge at different periods in her life. This wonderful novel hails the emotional complexity and narrative scope of A Visit from the Goon Squad, and resonates with the strong mystical nature of Swamplandia. At its core, Another Place You’ve Never Been is a broad investigation of such bold ideas as the possibility that any person, at any time, in any place, could find themselves shivering in the presence of great and ancient forces; and the notion that love is perhaps “far less voluntary” than we might believe it to be.”
Kauffman’s immediately involving novel-in-stories, delivered in crisp language and with a strong sense of the characters surrounding her . . . is an accomplished debut—at times emotionally gritty but always emotionally true.
[A] wonderful debut . . . Watching how these characters intersect is incredibly satisfying. In clear and vivid prose, Kauffman potently depicts lonely and isolated lives, marked by rash decisions made in the hope of finding connection. By the end of the novel, the pieces of the puzzle that is Tracy’s life fit together, her disappointments as much a part of her as her small victories, resulting in an undeniably moving and emotionally true portrayal of the kitchen sink of human experience.
Kauffman’s compassion for her lonely characters is evident.
Through the eyes of the characters in these stories—many tragic but making the best of what they have—we glimpse Kauffman’s deep and abiding empathy.
Kauffman’s prose is spare and vivid. She knows just the right details to bring a place or a person to life. It’s fun to anticipate the connections among characters from story to story, and to watch Tracy realize how the relationship with her father has colored her choices . . . Another Place You’ve Never Been is a moving, elegantly constructed tribute to human frailty and loss, and to our stubborn insistence on striving for human connection despite a slew of obstacles. In the character of Tracy, Kauffman has given us a fascinating portrait of a modern, tragic heroine, and a lens into our own darkest, most hopeful places.