Love is necessary but not easy in these stories of love's joys and challenges, regrets and uncertainties. Complicated people fall in and out of love, care for each other, delight each other, disappoint each other, hurt each other, yearn for each other. Campbell tells of all sorts of love: young love, lost love, love found perhaps too late, family love, love between friends. Her writing has been praised for its realism and grace. These untraditional love stories illustrate that love is essential, but not for the faint of heart.
Ellen Prentiss Campbell is the author of Frieda's Song: A Novel (Apprentice House, May 2021), the short story collections Known By Heart (Apprentice House, May 2020) and Contents Under Pressure (Broadkill River Press, February 2016), which was nominated for The National Book Award, and the novel The Bowl with Gold Seams (Apprentice House, May 2016) which received the National Indie Excellence Award for Historical Fiction. Her short fiction has been featured in numerous journals including The Massachusetts Review, The Fourth River, The Potomac Review, and The MacGuffin. Her essays and reviews have appeared in The Fiction Writers Review, where she is a contributing editor, and The Washington Independent Review of Books. She lives in Washington, D.C. For more see www.ellencampbell.net
In a short book, in tightly woven stories, Campbell palpably explores different kinds of love (marital, parental, sibling, neighborly, lost, unrequited) and different seasons of those loves. Each story is relatable - I found myself thinking, “I didn’t realize anyone else felt that way.” I also found myself rereading sentences to savor the prose. The collection has several Easter Eggs when characters cross into other stories, revealing different dimensions. These are stories to revisit time and again.
I highly recommend Known by Heart! The stories in this collection are emotionally suspenseful and satisfying to the end. Most are about sensitive people trying to figure out how to survive on shreds of love and bits of good news. There's the husband who realizes his wife is losing her bearings, the Quaker Meeting that has Friends becoming enemies, the teenager chatting in the front seat seconds before a crash. Without flinching, the writer shows how everyday life can be ruptured by tragedy--both the violent kind, and the slow, steady kind. But the writing has poignancy and psychological insight so the stories are somehow uplifting.
I and the rest of my book group, located in Washington, DC, thoroughly enjoyed reading and discussing this collection of short stories. These stories capture the complexity of human beings. The characters are neither angels nor villains; rather, they are a mixture of our good and our self-centered, even petty, traits. The stories are gripping such that I find myself wondering what became of these characters after the stories ended. Love and humor and sadness and compassion are mixed in. We highly recommend this book to other readers and other book groups.
I just finished this book and it is marvelous! Finished is the wrong word, as I’m going right back to the beginning to read it again.
It’s a delight to visit characters during different life moments across stories. My heart wrenched at the losses and sang with the love and friendships the author describes. There are beautiful phrases (“The light curtains shiver with the soft breath of dawn.”) and strong connections to universal experiences. This is a lovely portrait of the human story.
Each evocative beginning entices the reader into the stirring stories of Ellen Prentiss Campbell’s collection of crystalline prose. In a few short pages, Prentiss-Campbell takes the reader on an intimate journey of experiencing what love means through her characters—who might be any of us—ordinary people who have experienced the extraordinary joys and hurts of loving. I didn’t want any of these fifteen stories to end.