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This Is Between Us

3.68  ·  Rating details ·  442 ratings  ·  87 reviews
Chronicling five years of a troubled romance, This Is Between Us offers an intimate view of one couple’s struggle—from the illicit beginnings of sexual obsession to the fragile architecture of a pieced-together family. Full of sweet moments, emotional time bombs, unexpected humor, and blunt sexuality, the daily life of this man and woman, both recently divorced, with child ...more
Paperback, 234 pages
Published November 1st 2013 by Tin House Books (first published October 21st 2013)
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3.68  · 
Rating details
 ·  442 ratings  ·  87 reviews

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Apr 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  (Review from the author)
Shelves: all-time-faves
I'm so happy for all the nice attention this book has been getting. It was actually really fun to write (which is not always the case). I was inspired by a lot of friends and writers while working on this. Friends: look at the thank you list on pg 237-238. Writers not mentioned on those pages who also deserve props: Leonard Michaels, Cheryl Strayed, Sharon Olds, Ben Mirov, Dan Magers, and Michael Kimball. Thanks, everyone, for your thoughtful reviews and for giving your attention and heart to th ...more
Jun 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing
The other night, I was in bed with the person I love and I was reading Kevin's book, which is about two people in love. I was reading this scene that included a bunch of tension between the two people in the book who are in love, and the person I love turned and moved a little, and I felt annoyed. I felt some tension between myself and the person I loved.

But it was just the book. I had sit for a moment and think about it and realize that it was just the book. It had taken over. That's how good
Jan 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I opened this book and couldn't put it down until I had seen every letter. Me. The woman who keeps four books on her nightstand at a time and goes months without flipping a page. Kevin tells a love story that kept me leaning in, panting. You're his friend, on the couch, hearing his heartbreak. Damn you, Kevin Sampsell. Damn you for keeping me from sleep.
Jason Glover
Aug 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This Is Between Us is a beautiful portrayal of two people in love growing together, and apart, and together, and apart, and... it's the warm beating heart of a real relationship with all its ups and downs, difficulties and touching moments. The language pulls at your chest as you read, gradually softening your heart open. I'm always a sucker for the melancholy-tinged second person POV — with the narrator addressing their lover directly, it makes you feel like a fly on the wall, witnessing the in ...more
Sarah Anne Grossman
Apr 09, 2014 rated it it was amazing
this was a humbling account of a relationship and the love within it. The question that remains to me is kind of arbitrary - were they a couple that fell in and out of love multiple times? Or were they a couple that experienced the ecstacy and mundanity of a domestic partnership together. The difference may be minimal but it puts harder boundaries around Love and Being In Love. intimate, honest, unpretentious, comfortable, erotic. None of the writing was brandished or over-referenced, it read ve ...more
Brad Wojak
Jun 24, 2013 rated it really liked it
A strong novel, chronicling 5 years of a relationship. This book is honest and has a fantastic voice. I enjoyed it so much I went out and grabbed another book by Sampsell right away. I will follow this writer's work eagerly.
Clay Cassells
Apr 11, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"We're at the age when we start to forget things from our lives. You're worse than I am--you don't even remember all your boyfriend's names. That's why I want to store my things away, keep them where I can find them. The good stuff for sure. Sometimes even the broken stuff. There's a lot of that around too. I can't bring myself to throw it out. I always think to myself: I'll fix that someday." - from 'This is Between Us'.

Kevin Sampsell's 'This is Between Us' is filled with miraculous passages li
May 18, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2014
Reading this I couldn't help but think repeatedly, "Is this how guys think?" Because if it is, I have vastly underestimated the amount of time they are thinking about sex. And that's with studies being published telling me they think of sex every six minutes or so. This book is a tale of a five years of a couple's life. A lot of sex. A lot of thinking about sex. I found it rather hot, though weird that the guy who wrote it is the guy who introduces the authors for readings at Powell's.
Dec 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Overall, I liked this book. It was fast-paced, quirky, realistic, and occasionally toed the line of TMI.

This novel is the story of a couple’s relationship told in little snapshots. I really liked this method of story telling because things happened so fast that you had to pay attention and you never had the opportunity to lose interest. But I was a little disappointed that some larger picture never really came into view. It was difficult to pick out the big picture plot with a bunch of little s
Jul 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I give a lot of books five stars b/c I prettymuch only finish a book if it's 4 or 5 stars. Maybe a good, solid glittery 3. I love writing abt the things I love and prefer to stay quiet on the things I don't love so much. I feel like this benefits both me and other ppl. Some ppl disagree on this and that's okay too. Humans are complicated. Regardless, it is the way I choose to do things and I do what I want. That being said I LOVED THIS BOOK. It reminded me a lot of The Hottest State by Ethan Haw ...more
Oct 28, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've been waiting and waiting to read this book. I heard Sampsell read at an offsite event at AWP Chicago and I swear he said it was from a book he was working on. It just struck me heavy and I had to see the whole thing. Since then, I've been watching and watching for the novel to come out. I just couldn't wait, and then it was here. I'm virtually certain this is the book that piece he read was from, though I can't say for certain or whether, if so, that piece made it in the final book. Regardl ...more
Aug 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sampsell's gorgeous novel is an intricate and layered account of a relationship on its trajectory of either success or failure. The tiny snippets of interaction between the nameless couple begin to pile up and form the texture of this sometimes troubled, sometimes blissful union. The use of "you" and "I" as the only identifiers connects the reader to the characters in a profound way; this relationship is mine and yours and everyones. Beautifully illustrating the slightly skewed way in which we s ...more
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: EVERYONE
I just finished This is Between Us and I LOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVEEEED it. Every spare moment I had the last three days was spent utterly absorbed in it. Kevin Sampsell gifts us with vignettes so utterly relatable (even when they're not) because his characters are so unabashedly HUMAN. I completely admire his organization, flashing us to moments in the past which provide depth and relevance we didn't even know we were missing. Sometimes, the imagery was so beautiful I re-read portions over and over jus ...more
Sep 11, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this book. I really, really like the way it was written with the short paragraphs about different things. It really gave a broad, true picture of how relationships work with all of the dirty details. Great read.
Lauren Perez
Sep 14, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Devoured this book in a night--it combines guilty, voyeuristic pleasure with great prose. You ride in the narrator's head through the beginning of a relationship, its near dissolution and ultimate tenderness. Sampsell writes so honestly it feels reckless.
Jun 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
What an intimate and funny novel. These are the most naked words I've read in a long time.
Apr 06, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: 2014
Do you want to listen to an uninteresting jerk prattle on about his relationship for five years? No, neither do I.
Ezekiel Tyrus
Feb 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
This is my first sampling of the author's work. I literally picked the book up at a bookstore because I liked the title and the first page got me. This is literary fiction as life. Very relatable. The characters aren't always likable but that's the point. Though I don't have any children, the books feels like the relationships I've had including a 4 year fling that just ended a few months before I picked up this novel. The tension, the humor, (in the beginning when everything they do is cute and ...more
Jamie Iredell
Nov 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I've thought about what I would say about this book for about seventeen miles. Those were all miles that I jogged, and while jogging I thought about this book. Sometimes I'd be running up a hill, and I'd think about the narrator and his lover and their kids and I'd think about the fights they had, but I had to stop thinking about that because I was running up a hill and it got too hard to think about much else other than breathing, and my muscles, and how tired I was. Although when I tried real ...more
Brandon Will
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
This is the kind of book we should encode into sounds and shoot out to space for the aliens to pick up and understand who we are better. If we want to be honest with the aliens.

This is the most illuminating-of-the-confusingly-normal books I've read from the flip-side of my experience as one of the many kids who grew up in divorce and re-marriage.

So real and honest and observant and human, there's no easy arcs or sentiments here, but muddled, at-times cathartic cataloguings of the first five year
Aug 21, 2013 added it
While this could simply be the case of a book that's not to my taste, I did find it cringe-worthy in many places. It epitomizes the navel-gazing introspection that characterizes so much of contemporary literature. Not only would I not want to be any of these people, I don't want to read about them--particularly the sad sack of a protagonist.

Content aside, what is most annoying about this book (and its brethren) is that there is really no narrative to speak of, just anecdotes linked with the flim
Wendy Ortiz
Nov 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing
When Kevin read from This Is Between Us at Skylight Books last week, I got this shiver of recognition--and then felt like I'd been found out for some of my own (maybe) odd, (maybe) perverse, (definitely) love-struck behaviors in the midst of a relationship. It's like reading layer upon layer of intimate moments that careen through all the emotions one can possibly feel in a relationship as it matures. So many great vignettes holding so many great lines. Beautiful and deeply real.
Oct 20, 2013 rated it really liked it
The most intimate look into a fledgling modern relationship. The peephole perspective Sampsell provides his readers will leave you feeling like a voyeur, and maybe not so bad about your own shortcomings floundering about in urban monogamy.
Aug 21, 2014 rated it really liked it
So honest, beautiful, broken and redeemed. Not a field guide, but a front line emotional report on what it means to be human and to love, without a novel's usual (easier) leap into hyperbole.
Travis Fortney
Nov 25, 2013 rated it really liked it
My review from the Chicago Center for Literature and Photography, which you can find here :


This is Between Us is a beautiful novel that functions as something like a five-year slice-of-life, capturing the sexual and emotional ties that bind a pair of aging hipsters in Portland. Author Kevin Sampsell uses a somewhat experimental style, wherein the confessional first person narrator is writing to his beloved--hence, the two characters are referred to throughout as "you" and "
Sep 18, 2013 added it
There is nothing slow about getting to know This is Between Us. One moment it is foreign, and the next you are dunked full body and naked into freezing water with the characters. The narrator is entirely frank and unmediated: sometimes I hated him and oftentimes I was just as baffled as he was by his partner and kids. Having these polarizing experiences with the narrator made me love the book even more. He doesn’t try to win you over like I sometimes feel characters are in books. But part of wha ...more
Holly Laycock
Sep 13, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I read this book in two days, and I'm surprised it took me that long, honestly. Kevin Sampsell's writing kept me up all night, and I eventually fell asleep with the book in my hand, not wanting to close it. Told in a series of vignettes, This is Between Us chronicles the relationship of a man and woman over five years, from their first days together to their times apart, and back again. Sampsell captures all the ins and outs of this relationship in a way that feels both uniquely special to the c ...more
Apr 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: oregon
Kevin Sampsell's new novel is the story of a relationship, told in an up-close, intensely personal series of scenes and vignettes, organized neatly by year, but within each year, the narrator skips from moment to moment, each one as vivid as the last, cycling through doubts, joys, parenting, sex, and quiet moments--the stuff of life. The narrator, who remains nameless, addresses his girlfriend as you, opening the door to their house, their lives, their bedroom, and ushering the reader to witness ...more
Kris V Bernard
Nov 10, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unique-love
With the structure as it is, an ongoing conversation of memories and struggles separated only by years, it's hard to know when to stop reading.
But the story is why I truly ate this book up.
So many emotions during and after having read this wonderful novel.
Feelings of envy, guilt, and even nostalgia as I looked back on my own romantic past wondering if I've ever come close to opening myself up to another person the way these two characters did.
So fully formed, and perfectly flawed - these are thr
Oct 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Sat down with This Is Between Us and read straight through it. Interesting that Patrick deWitt writes one of the blurbs, because Between Us reminded me of The Sisters Brothers in some ways. Narration that's seemingly simple and then clobbers you over the head with true insights about the toughness of life. I like Sampsell's bluntness and his refusal to glamorize an emotionally complex situation. Plus the use of second person feels like a feat. I always think of Mrs. Bridge when I'm reading a nov ...more
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I am the publisher of Future Tense Books in Portland, Oregon. I work at Powell's Books and also make collage art. I write reviews and articles for various papers and mags. I have a few books out. My memoir, A Common Pornography, was published by Harper Perennial and my novel, This Is Between Us, was published by Tin House Books. I also edited Portland Noir, a book of crime fiction published by Aka ...more