Winner of the 2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award, Heather A. Slomski’s debut story collection takes loss as its primary subject and holds it up to the light. In prose spare and daring, poised yet startling, these stories take shape in reality, but reality, they sometimes show us, is not a separate realm from the fantastic or the surreal. Two couples meet for dinner to acknowledge an affair. A mannequin recalls a lover and the life she mysteriously lost. Two girls observe a young widow’s grief through a café window. A man’s hat is as discerning as Cinderella’s shoe.
In the fifteen stories that comprise this collection—some short as breaths, two of them novelettes—Slomski writes with a keen eye about relationships. About the desires that pull us together and the betrayals that push us apart. About jealousy, obsession, loneliness and regret—the byproducts of loving someone that keep us awake at night.
The characters in these stories share meals, drink wine, buy furniture and art. They live domestic lives, so often wanting to love someone yet ending up alone. In one story, a woman’s fiancé leaves her when she goes to post some mail. In another story, a man can’t move past an affair his wife almost had. Another story describes a series of drawings to detail a couple’s end. But while loss and heartache pervade these stories, there is also occasional hope. For, as the title story shows us, sometimes a breakup isn’t an end at all, but the beginning of your life.
"The stories in The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons comprise an implacable, uncommon contemplation of the systems of disquiet that underpin the common life. In prose of rare leanness and refinement, Heather A. Slomski accomplishes a powerful investigation into how we live and suffer and dine."—Wells Tower
"Heather A. Slomski’s stories are downright addictive. I kept promising myself to turn off the light after just one more, and then breaking that promise, beguiled by her cool, measured prose and by the surprises, tensions, and uncanny encounters simmering beneath its elegant surface."—Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author, Madeleine Is Sleeping
"The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons is a debut collection of tremendous charm. Charm as in delight; charm as if by magic. In a prose that's never less than lucidly graceful, Heather A. Slomski conjures stories distinguished by, and memorable for, their imaginative power."—Stuart Dybek
"Never far from a dining table, the characters in Heather A. Slomski’s limpid and elegant debut collection are not given to melodramatics. Civility reigns, voices are not raised, much goes unsaid. But just beneath the sophisticated composure are longing, loss, heartbreak. And how intensely familiar is the table itself, which made this reader suddenly understand how much of our real life takes place there. Heather A. Slomski is truly a fresh voice on the scene, and The Lovers Set Down Their Spoons is that rare thing, a new book as innovative in its design as it is compulsively readable."—Jaimy Gordon, National Book Award winning author, Lord of Misrule
"Slomski is a writer’s writer, with a gift for lyrical prose, clever plotting and significant detail that reveals depth of character."—Kirkus starred review
"…gripping from beginning to end."—Cedar Rapids Gazette
"The last story, especially, will break your heart. Sometimes you wonder how a writer can penetrate life’s mysteries so deeply."—Minneapolis Star Tribune
2014 Iowa Short Fiction Award