From a lightning death on an isolated peak to the intrigues of a small town orchestra, the glimmering stories in this debut collection explore how nature—damaged, ﬁerce, and unpredictable—worms its way into our lives. Here moths steal babies, a creek seduces a lonely suburban mother, and the priorities of a passionate conservationist are thrown into confusion after the death of her son. Over and over, the natural world reveals itself to be unknowable, especially to the people who study it most. These tales of scientists, nurses, and ﬁreﬁghters catalog the loneliness within families, betrayals between friends, and the recurring song of regret and grief.
“I couldn’t help but think of Andrea Barrett when I read this collection with all its funny, inventive stories in which the natural world and humanity collide with each other. There’s such careful attention paid in these stories, to people and the environment alike.”—Carmen Maria Machado, judge, 2019 Iowa Short Fiction Award
“Populated with all manner of wild animals, endangered species, and ﬂawed people, the endlessly readable stories in Not A Thing to Comfort You remind me of campﬁre ranger talks, if the rangers are Annie Proulx or Raymond Carver and the untended campﬁre burns down an entire forest. Wortman-Wunder now certainly enters the ranks of our ﬁnest naturalist writers, yet what gives these stories their remarkable power and depth is her lifetime of meticulous ﬁeld work on the always unpredictable human heart.”—Justin Hocking, author, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld: A Memoir
“Emily Wortman-Wunder’s stunning stories demand our attention. Graceful in style, bountiful in their knowledge of the natural world, they move eﬀortlessly from Beethoven concertos to bear hibernacula, from suburban homes to rural trailers. These stories don’t mind getting their hands dirty excavating secrets, but they just as painstakingly illuminate lives in search of love and connection. A rich and aﬀecting collection.”—Steven Schwartz, author, Madagascar: New and Selected Stories
“Not a Thing to Comfort You is a virtuosic debut collection of fiction. This book reminded me why I love short stories.”—Steven Church, author, I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part: On Work, Fear, and Fatherhood
“There’s a sleight-of-hand magic in Not a Thing to Comfort You. Emily Wortman-Wunder’s characters are palpable and complex, and her psychological insights rival the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Jane Smiley. Yet she accomplishes this in a few pages of story, rather than a novel. Don’t come to this book seeking sentimentality or tired tropes. Wortman-Wunder’s voice and her sensibility are fresh, sometimes alarming, and always deeply satisfying.”—BK Loren, author, Theft: A Novel
2020 Colorado Book Award Winner, Short Story Collection