“A debut story collection of the rarest kind ... you wish that every single entry could be an entire novel." —Entertainment Weekly
Fresh, intimate stories of women’s lives from an extraordinary new literary voice, laying bare the unexpected beauty and irony in contemporary life
A college freshman, traveling home, strikesup an odd, ephemeral friendship with the couple next to her on the plane. A mother prepares for her son’s wedding, her own life unraveling as his comes together. A long-lost stepbrother’s visit to New York prompts a family’s reckoning with its old taboos. A wife considers the secrets her marriage once contained. An office worker, exhausted by the ambitions of the men around her, emerges into a gridlocked city one afternoon to make a decision.
In these eleven powerful stories, thrilling desire and melancholic yearning animate women’s lives, from the brink of adulthood to the labyrinthine path between twenty and thirty, to middle age, when certain possibilities quietly elapse. Tender, lucid, and piercingly funny, Objects of Desire is a collection pulsing with subtle drama, rich with unforgettable scenes, and alive with moments of recognition each more startling than the last—a spellbinding debut that announces a major talent.
About the Author
CLARE SESTANOVICH, named a “5 Under 35” honoree by the National Book Foundation in 2022, is a fiction writer whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Harper's, The Drift, and Electric Literature. Objects of Desire, a finalist for the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize, is her first collection. She lives in Brooklyn.
A PEN/ROBERT W. BINGHAM PRIZE NOMINEE• A Best Book of the Summer: The Wall Street Journal, Entertainment Weekly, Vogue, Lit Hub, Vulture, Esquire, Refinery29, and The Millions • One of Electric Literature's Best Short Story Collections of the Year • Clare Sestanovich was selected as one of The National Book Foundation's "5 under 35" for Objects of Desire
“A debut story collection of the rarest kind: One in which you wish that every single entry could be an entire novel."
—Seija Rankin, Entertainment Weekly
“Sparingly told, evoked with lacerating intimacy, these stories explode across the fault lines of the small decisions that make a life . . . Extraordinary.”
“Sestanovich's stories bear tender, perceptive rigor, fully unfurled. . . . lively and profound . . . wildly perceptive . . . Objects of Desire is a full-throated arrival of a striking voice.”
--Leslie Jamison, Electric Lit
“Astonishing—one of the best story collections I’ve read in a long time. The stories in Objects of Desire are subtle and sophisticated, written with sensitive lucidity and warmth; their emotional effects are brought about naturally . . . one leaves each of the stories feeling a little homesick. I feel like I've found a new favorite writer.”
—Brandon Taylor, author of Filthy Animals and Real Life
“Smart and accomplished . . . Sestanovich’s prose is poised and understated, sensorily precise . . . [Her characters] are wryly astute in their assessments of others; it is a pleasure to see the world through their sharp eyes. Sestanovich’s gift is to make ordinary moments shine brightly.”
—Kirstin Valdez Quade, The New York Times Book Review
“With Sestanovich, the everyday is a little shinier. Objects of Desire is filled with [the] kind of details that make up the world . . . both the vivid and the mundane . . . haunting."
—Clare Marie Schneider, NPR
“Sestanovich’s clear and singular prose illuminates these stories a way that truly makes this debut collection stand out.”
—Emma Specter, Vogue
“Sestanovich’s steady hand and bone-clean prose recall such foremothers as Joan Didion, Zadie Smith, and Jhumpa Lahiri. Moments of epiphany, or at least self-understanding, accompany everyday activities. . . . Through hysterectomies, miscarriages, and unstable relationships, her cast of canny protagonists come to terms with their wants and needs.”
—Elinor Hitt, The Paris Review Daily
“The stories in Objects of Desire offer something of the same thrill [as] eavesdropping at brunch. Sublimely polished . . . sharp . . . topical . . . Sestanovich’s characters [are] immaculately drawn . . . Her pleasurable, discrete dramas achieve something extra: along with their acute social observations and pithy elegance, they collectively probe the gap between how we’re seen and how we might long to appear.”
—Hephzibah Anderson, The Guardian (UK)
“Luminous . . . Sestanovich writes with a kind of bracing cold-plunge clarity. Objects of Desire taps into the peculiar, primal struggle of becoming who you are, and all the stories you have to tell yourself to get there. Grade: A”
—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
“Exquisitely observed, and sure to stay with you long after you’ve finished."
“Hilarious . . . deadpan . . . In Objects of Desire, we meet a large, angsty, mostly privileged cast of characters who nonetheless seem to reflect a society that’s been knocked back on its heels. Sestanovich is an elegant writer whose stories deftly capture the foods, clothes and customs of contemporary life.”
—Ann Levin, Associated Press
“Filled with subtle yet significant gestures . . . Sestanovich remains attuned to the often precarious dynamics between her characters. She reveals how friends, family, and lovers perform or fail to perform for one another—how there will always be mystery, miscommunication, and strangeness even in the most intimate of relationships.”
—Poets & Writers
“A fun read [that] reminds us that we’re all human.”
—Kaia Gerber, quoted in The Wall Street Journal
"Objects of Desire is one of those rare collections that is both deeply emotional and affecting and also just so much fun to read. Clare Sestanovich writes a sentence sharp enough to cut yourself on. A magnificent debut."
—Nathan Englander, author of Dinner at the Center of the Earth
“Clare Sestanovich’s stories compelled me like gravity, and offered sharp, surprising, singular bursts of grace. Her characters are observed with wry, prism-gazed tenderness; sketched deftly and persuasively with just a few perfect strokes. The details go off like bombs. These stories know strange, important truths about what it feels like to be alive.”
—Leslie Jamison, author of The Recovering and The Empathy Exams
“Objects of Desire reminds me of the soulful stories that emerged in mid-century America, the heyday for the form. Each one is bursting with small, explosive moments, like fireworks illuminating the bareness of the protagonists’ lives . . . Sestanovich is a skilled craftswoman, each sentence a carefully positioned tile in a mosaic.”
“Nuanced, beautifully shaped ... In Sestanovich’s hands, the mundane feels surprising—mesmerizing, even.”
“These stories offer a master class in capturing the complexities of everyday life.”
“Elegant . . . captivating . . . filled with shrewd observations and emotional truth.”
—Malcolm Forbes, Minneapolis Star Tribune
“Sestanovich’s elegant prose takes seriously the quiet unrest that can ravage a life, and makes room for the pleasure and discovery that can be found in that ruin.”
—Raven Leilani, author of Luster
“These stories are wickedly perceptive—Sestanovich precisely measures the distance between how people think of themselves and how the world reads them. A mesmerizing, exquisite debut.”
—Dana Spiotta, author of Wayward
“Objects of Desire is a marvel. With pointillist precision, Clare Sestanovich captures the apparently inconsequential decisions on which a life turns: the phone call made or ignored; the email replied to or archived; the invitation accepted or declined. Her observation of ordinary moments is transformative—I loved this book.”
—Miranda Popkey, author of Topics of Conversation
“Sestanovich’s debut collection demonstrates a gift for pithy detail [and] a high command of craft. [Her] observations…give way to poignant insights into the characters’ psyches. Objects of Desire finds cohesion around the quiet angst of narrators who long for experiences, other people, and states of being just beyond their grasp… Intelligent, technically accomplished stories.”