"There are certain books that have an intangible quality that transcends the nuances and the mechanics of good writing and literature. Such books somehow have, through their language and the emotions they evoke on the page, the ability to transport the reader right back to a pivotal and critical time in one's life. Night Swim is that kind of book for me."-- The Betty and Book Chronicles


Welcome! Look for my new story collection,Women In Bed; and a new printing of Night Swim. Also, just out: Night Swim goes international, published in Germany!


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photo by Roger Gordy
I have many interests--nature, people, home design, books, music, travel--but in the end, all these things converge and root back to one thing that I find compelling: how we relate to ourselves and to others. In my writing, I love unraveling interpersonal sagas and exploring how people reshape their histories in a hopeful, life-altering way. I believe we're all vessels of history, imagined or real. What drives people to make choices, good or bad? Writing is my way of delving into the complex nature of humanity.

I'm also fascinated by how people define their personal nesting grounds, how they create physical comfort and private space or fail at this. When I write home design articles, people open up when talking about their living spaces. Check out my blog: Confessions of a Hermit Crab for more essays and photos on this subject.

Most of us harbor secrets, consciously or unconsciously. Fiction is one way to shine light on these emotional caves we all have inside us.

And, then, there's my long-standing interest in health that comes from my early experience with a life-threatening illness, and as a recipient of an experimental bone marrow transplant (I'm talking late '70s here). I was one of the first. My story, Recovery, was inspired by this transformative event and won Redbook's second prize in fiction.

Got a question? Don't hesitate to get in touch. I'd love to hear from you.

Best wishes,

Jessica

Praise for Night Swim
"Like the adults in Rick Moody’s “Ice Storm,” the central couple in this novel of 1970s suburbia are remote alcoholics. “Love was something distant that retired to a room on the second floor,” Sarah, the 16-year-old narrator, says, referring to her stay-at-home yet absentee mother. This is a woman who makes a divot in the soil for her drink glass while tending her roses...This earnest debut centers on Sarah as she tunnels through new depths of loneliness...moving."
"Keener’s prose is spectacular, almost poetic. I found myself rereading many of the passages just to experience the beauty of her written word. She gives the reader the gift of a wonderful, honest, coming-of-age story. At just under 300 pages it is not a long read, but one that will resonate. "
“vivid…dreamlike quality. Keener's evocation of a young woman coming into her own is … moving.”
"Keener’s observations perfectly capture a certain kind of 1970s adolescence: the adults who tried too hard, the sudden appearance of a joint when in the presence of older cousins, the way a grownup party could spin from fun to disturbing in a blink. Most exhilaratingly, she taps into the thrilling moments when a girl of 16 can see her future, whether in music or books or a boy’s smile. Sarah watches her mother’s rose garden after her death. Like her children, some “bloomed haphazardly while some wilted,’’ a living symbol of what goes on, no matter what."
"Rooted in personal sorrow, this memorable debut will strike a universal chord with readers: "Life was full of befores and afters."
"Keener understands deeply that scene writing creates powerful moments for her characters. We learn of Sarah’s irritation, fear, reticence, and desire not through discussion, but through her actions and interactions with others. And Keener’s writing is lovely; she manages to build sentences that are both precise and ornate. While Keener’s Night Swim tells of a girl who has lost her bearings, her hold on her novel is both assured and poised."
"Jessica Keener's debut novel Night Swim is a masterfully told tale. Dysfunctional family dynamics are revealed in language evocative and honest, and her characters so well-drawn they could be our own kin. The emotional depth of this novel has me constantly recommending it to friends in book clubs."
About Night Swim
"Set in 1970's Boston high-society, Night Swim tells the tale of the Kunitz family, who hide their deep tensions behind a shimmering facade of parties and affluence before tragedy breaks their stable dance." (Brookline Booksmith)
Feature articles
About a hundred feature articles published in The Boston Globe and other national magazines. Google my name as Jessica Keener or Jessica Brilliant Keener