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If I'd Known You Were Coming

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In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye for emotive detail, the author of this unforgettable collection sets intersections in motion that will leave you both winded and wanting more. In one story, a mother, driven by greed, unwittingly finds out how far her needs will push her. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter in another. With poetic deftness, a woman evaluates the meaning, the familial stories, that we carry with us from birth. In a story ripped from the headlines, a woman pines for the legs her husband lost in a freak accident at a Santa Monica farmer's market. A medical clerk, restless and alone, takes advantage of a disabled neighbor. Kate Milliken knows the ties that bind and how tautly we will pull them. These are stories about desire, betrayal, love, regret, and family. Like all great fiction, If I’d Known You Were Coming possesses that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves.


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In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye for emotive detail, the author of this unforgettable collection sets intersections in motion that will leave you both winded and wanting more. In one story, a mother, driven by greed, unwittingly finds out how far her needs will push her. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter in another. With poetic deftness, a woman evaluates the meaning, the familial stories, that we carry with us from birth. In a story ripped from the headlines, a woman pines for the legs her husband lost in a freak accident at a Santa Monica farmer's market. A medical clerk, restless and alone, takes advantage of a disabled neighbor. Kate Milliken knows the ties that bind and how tautly we will pull them. These are stories about desire, betrayal, love, regret, and family. Like all great fiction, If I’d Known You Were Coming possesses that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves.

30 review for If I'd Known You Were Coming

  1. 5 out of 5

    Edan

    I read this book on a flight. I didn't intend to--I enjoyed it more than I expected and one story after another lured me in. I loved the voice and style: sharp and graceful, an edge that is belied by the prose's musicality. Milliken's work reminds me of Joan Didion's crossed with Tom Drury crossed with Lorrie Moore. But she is all her own. I can't wait for her to write a novel! I read this book on a flight. I didn't intend to--I enjoyed it more than I expected and one story after another lured me in. I loved the voice and style: sharp and graceful, an edge that is belied by the prose's musicality. Milliken's work reminds me of Joan Didion's crossed with Tom Drury crossed with Lorrie Moore. But she is all her own. I can't wait for her to write a novel!

  2. 5 out of 5

    Nicole

    This collection was fine, but maybe a touch too deep for me. I particularly liked "Bottleneck" and "Detour," and enjoyed watching the characters wander in and out of each other's stories. I didn't pick up on this until the fourth or fifth though, possibly because many of them seemed to be the same characters with different names, and a bit bland. I finished several of the stories feeling like I missed the point, but wasn't interested enough to re-read to find it. There are a few good ones in her This collection was fine, but maybe a touch too deep for me. I particularly liked "Bottleneck" and "Detour," and enjoyed watching the characters wander in and out of each other's stories. I didn't pick up on this until the fourth or fifth though, possibly because many of them seemed to be the same characters with different names, and a bit bland. I finished several of the stories feeling like I missed the point, but wasn't interested enough to re-read to find it. There are a few good ones in here, but it's only worth it if you're ready to puzzle over the book to figure out what the author is getting at. I never did.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Christine

    This is very fine first collection of stories by a writer who has a firm command of her characters and their psychology. She also does a marvelous job of evoking southern California, both its glamour and its desperation and sun-struck grubbiness. Many of her characters are beautiful but tired: tired of wanting things they're not getting, tired of each other, tired of seeing other people, some of them friends or former friends, get what they want and are sure they deserve instead. I loved reading This is very fine first collection of stories by a writer who has a firm command of her characters and their psychology. She also does a marvelous job of evoking southern California, both its glamour and its desperation and sun-struck grubbiness. Many of her characters are beautiful but tired: tired of wanting things they're not getting, tired of each other, tired of seeing other people, some of them friends or former friends, get what they want and are sure they deserve instead. I loved reading this book.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Ben

    Stories that squirrel their way into our brain, then shake us and insist we pay attention.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Abby

    I’d give this 3.5 stars. The stories were very short but cut to the chase emotionally. The same characters were used repeatedly throughout the book so that the reader came to know them a little more than just if they had appeared in one short story. I agree with others here - I’d like to see this become a novel.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    It's good to have writer friends on Facebook. They're always recommending books. And when one of them recommends a book, I take note, head to my library catalog, and put a request in. Then I completely forget about it. Which is fitting for a book titled If I'd Known You Were Coming. If I'd remembered it were coming I would have made a spot for it at the top of my two-foot stack of books. Kate Milliken has sewn together a wonderful book of short stories, each of which carries an emotional punch. I It's good to have writer friends on Facebook. They're always recommending books. And when one of them recommends a book, I take note, head to my library catalog, and put a request in. Then I completely forget about it. Which is fitting for a book titled If I'd Known You Were Coming. If I'd remembered it were coming I would have made a spot for it at the top of my two-foot stack of books. Kate Milliken has sewn together a wonderful book of short stories, each of which carries an emotional punch. It's more than just a patchwork of stories as well. Characters carry over from one story to the next so by the end of the book we've read stories which cover a span of close to 20 years. Milliken has a wonderful gift of giving life to her characters before the reader has even stepped into the story. A page or two in and there's real motivation and real emotion for each character. We're right in the middle of the strained marriage of the young couple in the opening story, played out over a not-as-fancy-as-they-want-it-to-be dinner party. In another story, we're immediately on the side of a man who works as a hand model even though he might not be that much better than the other characters he seems to secretly despise. Milliken breaks the longer stories up with four- or five-page shorter stories, kind of serving as intermissions to the heftier tales. Milliken earned a well-deserved 2013 John Simmons Short Fiction Award from the Iowa Writers' Workshop for this work. Though the stories pass quickly and the collection is only 126 pages, the chracters and tales will stay with the reader for a long time.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Alana

    I enjoyed this collection of short stories and like that some of the characters actually intercept but at different periods in time. The let down for me was that once I had connected a few of the stories I was expecting them all to end up connecting in some way and they didn't so I felt a bit let down at the end. That being said, the way the author brings you inside the minds of these very odd collection of characters is remarkable and it's definitely worth a read. I give If I'd Known You Were Com I enjoyed this collection of short stories and like that some of the characters actually intercept but at different periods in time. The let down for me was that once I had connected a few of the stories I was expecting them all to end up connecting in some way and they didn't so I felt a bit let down at the end. That being said, the way the author brings you inside the minds of these very odd collection of characters is remarkable and it's definitely worth a read. I give If I'd Known You Were Coming 3 out of 5 stars. Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. My Rating System: 1 star: I will never post a 1 star review because this means it was so bad I couldn't finish it, and I don't won't publicly rate a book I haven't read all the way through. 2 stars: I may have liked the story but it was badly written or it may have been a boring story well written. Something about it kept me reading but I didn't enjoy it. 3 stars: A good, enjoyable read. If the description appeals to you I'd recommend reading it. 4 stars: A really good book that I thoroughly enjoyed and may even read again. I will want to read other books by the same author. Highly recommend. 5 stars: Reserved for books that blew me away and whose characters I can't get out of my head. These are books that I will definitely read again, possibly several times. If I read an e-book version I may even have to go buy a hard copy for my shelves. Why are you still here? Go read this book right now.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Olivia

    I got this book through Net Galley - I got a couple of books from University of Iowa Press at the same time - and fell into the tone and pace of the book quickly. I liked it, and I liked that she weaves similar characters through the book (there are a few characters that pop up in several stories) but that her stories are not the same. The book feels a bit similar to a mix maybe between Wells Tower and Raymond Carver, which is a bit of a cliche because they are the types of writers that everythi I got this book through Net Galley - I got a couple of books from University of Iowa Press at the same time - and fell into the tone and pace of the book quickly. I liked it, and I liked that she weaves similar characters through the book (there are a few characters that pop up in several stories) but that her stories are not the same. The book feels a bit similar to a mix maybe between Wells Tower and Raymond Carver, which is a bit of a cliche because they are the types of writers that everything gets compared to. I felt, though, that you had similar scenes: dinner parties, for example, or the more disturbing scenes of a couple days of a passion between a woman and her autistic neighbour. But it didn't get to that core of disturbing disorder that Wells Tower gets to (although I didn't even like his book very much), and it doesn't get to the level of loneliness that you can sometimes get with Raymond Carver. Overall, I did like it but would give it a 3.5 perhaps - but or a 3.4 (so I would round down). Note: I didn't have a chance to collect my quotes from this book, so it is hard to remember a lot of specifics of the writing.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    So I've been on a short-story kick lately, trying to find something that speaks to me. i have complicated feelings on the short story as an art form. i want to love it - or at least get it, but i dont know if this collection sways me one way or the other. This is just...I don't know... Don't get me wrong, this is an impeccably written collection. Milliken's talent as a writer is unquestionable. And, despite my lack of connection to Goon Squad, I was pleased to discover that some of the characters So I've been on a short-story kick lately, trying to find something that speaks to me. i have complicated feelings on the short story as an art form. i want to love it - or at least get it, but i dont know if this collection sways me one way or the other. This is just...I don't know... Don't get me wrong, this is an impeccably written collection. Milliken's talent as a writer is unquestionable. And, despite my lack of connection to Goon Squad, I was pleased to discover that some of the characters came back for encore appearances in later stories. But at the end of the day, I was left as I usually feel with short stories, like I read really pretty language about characters I did not know, understand or care about. Although this collection has won awards, so we can probably file this whole review under "what the fuck do I know?" I've given this a 3 because I'm not sure if my feelings are with Milliken's work, or with the form in general. If you like short stories, I dare say you'll really like these. I received a free copy of this book from NetGalley in exchange for my honest, unbiased review .

  10. 5 out of 5

    Susan Bazzett-Griffith

    My father gave me this book, even though he knows I do not usually like short stories, and, as he predicted, I really enjoyed it. The ONLY criticisms I have of the book are the same ones I have of all short stories as a reader, in that I always want MORE. Kate Milliken, however, has managed to actually develop some really well-drawn characters in very few pages, and I found myself completely drawn in. One aspect of her writing that helped is that in some stories, the characters do overlap in min My father gave me this book, even though he knows I do not usually like short stories, and, as he predicted, I really enjoyed it. The ONLY criticisms I have of the book are the same ones I have of all short stories as a reader, in that I always want MORE. Kate Milliken, however, has managed to actually develop some really well-drawn characters in very few pages, and I found myself completely drawn in. One aspect of her writing that helped is that in some stories, the characters do overlap in minor roles. She is a master of the show-don't-tell skill when it comes to characterization and I really appreciated her ability to make the ordinary beautiful and dark. A solid read....if you can get in the mood for short stories. ;)

  11. 5 out of 5

    Leah

    Interesting book of related short stories. I felt the writing was a little flat at times, like the whole book was on some sort of mood-regulating medication. It probably needs to be. It's a slightly bleak and dysthymic world. It also had a very strong 1980s vibe. Not sure where that comes from. I couldn't really pin down a time frame, other than that it's many years post-Roe and no one is on their cell phone, so 80s doesn't seem wrong. I had a hard time remembering the characters' names from stor Interesting book of related short stories. I felt the writing was a little flat at times, like the whole book was on some sort of mood-regulating medication. It probably needs to be. It's a slightly bleak and dysthymic world. It also had a very strong 1980s vibe. Not sure where that comes from. I couldn't really pin down a time frame, other than that it's many years post-Roe and no one is on their cell phone, so 80s doesn't seem wrong. I had a hard time remembering the characters' names from story to story, which detracted from the connectedness of the stories. All in all, not my favorite, but enjoyable in some ways.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Literary Mama

    The short stories in Kate Milliken's stunning debut collection, If I'd Known You Were Coming, are heartbreaking tales of absence, abandonment, and loss. In particular, many depict daughters forsaken by their mothers. The theme of the absent mother has been prevalent in literature by women for a long time. Dead mothers populate a good deal of nineteenth-century women's novels—the lack of an idealized mother figure becoming the impetus for an imaginative woman to draw, paint, and write herself int The short stories in Kate Milliken's stunning debut collection, If I'd Known You Were Coming, are heartbreaking tales of absence, abandonment, and loss. In particular, many depict daughters forsaken by their mothers. The theme of the absent mother has been prevalent in literature by women for a long time. Dead mothers populate a good deal of nineteenth-century women's novels—the lack of an idealized mother figure becoming the impetus for an imaginative woman to draw, paint, and write herself into being. Read Literary Mama's full review here: http://www.literarymama.com/reviews/a...

  13. 4 out of 5

    Angie

    With this collection of short stories, Kate Milliken shows she has a good grasp on character development and is a literary voice that we'll hear more from in the future. That said, I didn't particularly love this. It's good, it's well written, it's all...fine. It's perfectly fine. The individual stories were fine and the characters were fine and the fact that the characters popped up in other stories, intertwining the lives of each of the protagonists was a nice touch. It was all fine. There was With this collection of short stories, Kate Milliken shows she has a good grasp on character development and is a literary voice that we'll hear more from in the future. That said, I didn't particularly love this. It's good, it's well written, it's all...fine. It's perfectly fine. The individual stories were fine and the characters were fine and the fact that the characters popped up in other stories, intertwining the lives of each of the protagonists was a nice touch. It was all fine. There was something about it that I didn't connect with despite great writing. Perfectly fine.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Pam Thomas

    This is a set of stories complex and full of suspense portraying complexity of their lives. Each story is a stand alone, yet is still capable of intriguing the reader until you read it to the end. The author has a keen eye for detail, provides insight into the lives of all the characters, they could be any man or woman on the street, only their lives are intertwined by the ties that bind them together.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Susy

    I love short stories, but I haven't read any for awhile. These were sad and dark snapshots of different people's lives, with a common thread running through some of them. (I may have missed some of the thread!) I picked this up on a whim at the library, from the "What's New" shelf, when the book I really wanted was checked out. Lucky it turned out to be so good! I love short stories, but I haven't read any for awhile. These were sad and dark snapshots of different people's lives, with a common thread running through some of them. (I may have missed some of the thread!) I picked this up on a whim at the library, from the "What's New" shelf, when the book I really wanted was checked out. Lucky it turned out to be so good!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Scott

    Many of these stories are profoundly sexual, animated by an intelligence that frequently does not fully reveal its power until the last page. You may want to read these more than once. I certainly did.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Kristen

    12 short stories but all connected...some more obviously, others more subtle. I love that you come to know characters both by listening to their story and then hearing about them through the eyes of another. I'd like to read a novel about them. 12 short stories but all connected...some more obviously, others more subtle. I love that you come to know characters both by listening to their story and then hearing about them through the eyes of another. I'd like to read a novel about them.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    Emotionally charged stories woven together in a way that leave an impact. The best compliment I can give this author is that the stories will stick with me and leave me thinking about them long after I finished reading.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Lupe Dominguez

    Different from anything I've usually read, and a little on the dark and twisted side of humanity. But really well written. Different from anything I've usually read, and a little on the dark and twisted side of humanity. But really well written.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Kathy

    Characters were too vastly scattered and popped into and out of the story with no frequency. I guess this just isn't my genre. Characters were too vastly scattered and popped into and out of the story with no frequency. I guess this just isn't my genre.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Natali Petricic

    Very well-written. I really felt for the characters.

  22. 4 out of 5

    N.T.

    Highly recommend these short stories. Characters and story--across the stories--will draw in the novice or literary reader and the writing's straight and on fire. Highly recommend these short stories. Characters and story--across the stories--will draw in the novice or literary reader and the writing's straight and on fire.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Equaan

    these characters were haunting. I am still thinking about these people a month later. It is better than I expected and more fun than I wanted.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Kathy

    the characters are not the most likable in the world - they represent some of the darker parts of human thought and action, but very well written and captivating to read.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Alexandra Macgregor

  26. 5 out of 5

    audrey baldauf

  27. 4 out of 5

    Christine

  28. 4 out of 5

    Christin Lee

  29. 5 out of 5

    Vanessa Rapatz

  30. 4 out of 5

    Brian

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