A Goop15 May 2020 Feature * One of Apartment Therapy's "7 Must-Read Books Everyone Will Be Talking About This Summer" * One of Debutiful's "9 Books You Should Read This June" * One of Publishers Weekly's "Upcoming Indie Press Books" *Hailed by Lauren Groff as "fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be," and written with "incantatory crispness," Sleepovers, the debut short story collection by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips.
This collection takes us to a forgotten corner of the rural South, full of cemeteries, soybean fields, fishing holes, and Duck Thru gas stations. We meet a runaway teen, a mattress salesman, feral kittens, an elderly bachelorette wearing a horsehair locket, and a little girl named after Shania Twain. Here, time and memory circle above Phillips' characters like vultures and angels, as they navigate the only landscape they've ever known. Corn reaches for rain, deer run blindly, and no matter how hungry or hurt, some forgotten hymn is always remembered. "The literary love child of Carson McCullers and John the Baptist, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' imagination is profoundly original and private," writes Rebecca Lee. Sleepovers marks the debut of a fearless new voice in fiction.
Sleepovers is the winner of the 2019 C. Michael Curtis Short Story Book Prize, selected by Lauren Groff.
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About the Author
Ashleigh Bryant Phillips grew up in Woodland, North Carolina, a town with no stop light. She earned an MFA from the University of North Carolina, Wilmington. Her stories have been published in The Nervous Breakdown, Hobart, and others. They've also been nominated for Best of the Net, awarded Best Small Fictions 2019, and taught in creative writing classrooms. She currently lives in Baltimore.
"This collection stands out in the field of current Southern fiction." --Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
"A deeply human, unforgettable debut." --Booklist
"Sleepovers is an unflinching collection through which the complexities, curiosities, and complications of rural Southern life come through."--Foreword Reviews
"Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' excellent debut collection is bracing and vivid." --Keith Mosman, Powell's Books, Portland, Or.
"The most original short story collection I've read this year." Webster Groves, Mo.
"Ashleigh's prose often holds an incantatory crispness that lulled me into forgetting that I was reading, particularly in extraordinarily sad stories like 'The Virgin' and 'An Unspoken, ' both of which derive their power from an almost unbearable dramatic irony and an equally deep hunger for human connection and compassion. I see in this collection a steely writer, one deeply moved by her place and her people, but also fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be." --Lauren Groff, author of Florida
"There's some kind of crazy magic at work here--the way that Ashleigh Bryant Phillips takes all the little pieces of daily life that are there in plain sight just laying around and when she gathers them together they become holy, hilarious, transcendent, and unspeakably beautiful. Her style is utterly her own, with wonderful echoes of Carson McCullers, Flannery O'Connor and Larry Brown mixed in. Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is shockingly talented. I don't think the voices of her characters will ever leave my head." --Mesha Maren, author of Sugar Run
"Very rarely a voice comes along that is astonishing in its originality and fresh wisdom. I don't think anybody sees the cruelty and the vitality of life as relentlessly and beautifully and brilliantly as Ashleigh Bryant Phillips. With Sleepovers, Phillips has intimately given us an entirely new way of seeing traditional life in small-town America. This book is so hard-core, so hard-won, so much a fabric of complicated gorgeous beauty. Part Sermon on the Mount, part Sylvia Plath's darkest images, part actual diary written from the heart of a sleepover, and part song of poverty and strife and genius, this is a book unlike any other written before it." --Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
"It's hard not to be hyperbolic about Sleepovers. I can't remember a time when I've read a story collection so funny and sad and lyrical, all at the same time. In Sleepovers, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips gives us a book that's so much more than a story collection. It's a wild place we haven't been to before. And it isn't the South, or rural North Carolina, but a brand new place we can call 'Ashleigh Bryant Phillips.' This book is haunted." --Scott McClanahan, author of The Sarah Book
"Every once in awhile, a book comes along and slugs you upside the head, making you wonder why you've been wasting your time with those other comparably bland and polite books. Sleepovers is that book, that slugger. There is something in here that is so alive and beautiful and tragic that it feels violent. Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is a dazzling and mighty talent." --Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac
"Sleepovers is everything for me, partly because Ashleigh Bryant Phillips allows voices to narrate who are usually confined to dialogue in "literary" works: the voices of children, the grammar of country folks, and the dead/not-so-dead. I keep returning to her image and ritual of burying afterbirth in a swamp, and that feels like what Phillips is doing with this book as whole--respecting and acknowledging, and writing from within the delicate space between life and death. Like me, I'm sure you will also feel like you're sitting on a porch listening to these stories, knowing they're being told to you out of necessity from an urgent and generous place." --Steven Dunn, author of Water & Power
"Ashleigh Bryant Phillips' voice helps readers understand that being nurtured and wounded by the south can cause various times, and places, and norms to be mixed up together. Sleepovers sings not only to readers from rural America, but to any reader who appreciates precision, mystery, and love." --Clyde Edgerton, author of Raney
"Ashleigh Bryant Phillips's destroyed and defiant characters have a certain power and they know it. Reading this book is like listening to a child or an angel tell the truth -- you can't turn away. The people in these stories are unflinching, and undeniably, uncomfortably real. We know these folks from the post office, the grocery store, from church. Their broken hearts are more alive than ours will ever be and they know this counts for nothing in our world. Nobody is innocent here, not even babies or dogs, yet heaven is so close it can be touched, floating casually through the back yards and ruins of America's forgotten and broken down towns. Phillips is working in Denis Johnson territory, or maybe Howard Finster territory, in these stories, bringing us the news we can sense but never quite see. This book is otherworldly beautiful." --Wendy Brenner, author of Phone Calls from the Dead