Lambda Literary Award, Gay Fiction finalist

Ferro-Grumpley Award for LGBTQ Fiction finalist

Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II, crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike’s struggle to find love and happiness in America. After two marriages and a troubled relationship with her son, Heike adopts a disabled child from Russia, a strong-willed girl named Galina, who Heike hopes will give her the affection and companionship she craves. As Galina grows up, Heike’s grasp on reality frays, and she writes a series of letters to the son she thinks has abandoned her forever. It isn’t until Heike’s death that her son finds these letters and realizes how skewed his mother’s perceptions actually were. 

"Not for the faint of heart, this collection is relentless and intense, but Lansburgh’s prose offers stunning moments of tenderness amid its stark depictions of loneliness. Arresting and pointed." ─ Kirkus
"Lansburgh’s linked stories succeed as a nuanced character study and a resonant commentary on the challenges of romantic and familial love." ─ Publishers Weekly
“Lansburgh has crafted a unique, captivating debut.”—Booklist
“Matthew Lansburgh has a keen eye and ear, and he puts them to great use in this lovely, and, frankly, mesmerizing linked collection that explores, among other things, the tenuous tie between mother and son, between the Old World and the New, between what was and what is. Outside Is the Ocean is a gem.”—Andre Dubus III, judge, Iowa Short Fiction Award 
“Every so often a work of fiction presents us with the great gift of an entire life. What Matthew Lansburgh has given us here, like the points of a constellation, is the breadth of a family, across the many decades, through all their hardships, unspeakable heartbreaks, and small victories. Outside Is the Ocean is a book full of grace and endurance. It’s an exceptional debut, and we’re lucky to have it in this world, now.”—Paul Yoon, author, Snow Hunters
“Matthew Lansburgh's Outside Is the Ocean is one of the best short story collections I've read in years. It's sharp and funny and it sweeps the reader along through the lives of a cast of difficult and damaged characters. But there are no villains here; the joy of reading Lansburgh's stories is that he keeps spinning his characters around, finding tenderness alongside their abjection, compassion alongside hurt, until finally the people in this book feel as human and real as anyone you've known.”—Paul La Farge, author, The Night Ocean
“Matthew Lansburgh writes with humor and, most of all, deep compassion about loneliness and the disappointments of family. Outside Is the Ocean is that rare collection in which individual stories create a whole that is much more than the sum of those wonderful and deeply satisfying parts. What a lovely, sad, funny new voice this is.”—Lori Ostlund, author, After the Parade 
“Matthew Lansburgh is a great writer in the Raymond Carver vein. Deceptively simple, emotionally deep, his work shimmers with sneaky passion. He’s the real deal.”—Darin Strauss, author, Half a Life
“Matthew Lansburgh writes with a remarkable mixture of humor and empathy. These stories are taut with the most meaningful of tensions: the painful complexity of love between two flawed souls trying to find their places in each other’s lives. Outside Is the Ocean is a poignant and perceptive collection of bravely explored stories built into a deeply affecting debut.”—Josh Weil, author, The Great Glass Sea
Outside Is the Ocean offers the thrilling revelations of masterful short stories and the deep satisfactions of a novel.”—Anna Solomon, author, Leaving Lucy Pear 

2017 Iowa Short Fiction Award

2018 Ferro-Grumley Award for LGBTQ Fiction, Finalist

2018 Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction, Finalist

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Publication Details

Publication Date
192 pages
Trim size
5 1/2 x 9 1/4 inches