Pages: 208 Size: 5.5x8.5
In How Other People Make Love, Thisbe Nissen chronicles the lives and choices of people questioning the heteronormative institution of marriage. Not best-served by established conventions and conventional mores, these people—young, old, gay, straight, Midwestern, coastal—are finding their own paths in learning who they are and how they want to love and be loved, even when those paths must be blazed through the unknown. Concerning husbands and wives, lovers and leavers, Nissen’s stories explore our search for connection and all the ways we undercut it, unwittingly and intentionally, when we do find it. How do we hold ourselves together—to function, work, and survive—while endlessly yearning to be undone, unraveled, and laid bare, however untenable and excruciating?
How Other People Make Love contains nine stories. "Win’s Girl" features a single woman who works at an Iowa slaughterhouse and uses the insurance money from a car accident to update the electric system in her dead parents’ old house, only to be unwittingly embroiled with a shady electrician who ultimately forces her to stand up for herself. In "Home Is Where the Heart Gives Out and We Arouse the Grass," a young woman flees after cheating on her husband and winds up at a Nebraska roadside motel populated by participants in a regional dog show who help her decide what to do next. In "Unity Brought Them Together," a young man heads to his favorite New York coffee shop intending to finish the Christmas cards his vacationing fiancée insists on sending, but winds up meeting another displaced young Midwestern man there and going home with him instead. All these stories explore the question, "how do we love?" as well as the answers we find, discard, follow, banish, and cling to in all our humanness and desperation.
How Other People Make Love asserts that there aren’t right and wrong ways to love; there are only our very complicated and contradictory human hearts, minds, bodies, and desires—all searching for something, whether we know what that is or not. These are stories for anyone who has ever loved or been loved.
These stories provide exactly what the title promises: they help us understand how other people love—or do not love—each other, how and why they marry or divorce, how they do or do not cope with a loved one’s illness. Whether rich or poor, urban or rural, gay or straight, religious or unbelieving, female or male or nonbinary, Nissen treats her characters with generosity and compassion. What she has given us is a wise, moving, and often hilarious guide to the human heart.
– Eileen Pollack, author of The Professor of Immortality and former director of the Helen Zell MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of Michigan
Thisbe Nissen has long been one of my all-time favorite story writers, and this new book not only confirms it but ups the ante exponentially. Few people track as acutely the ways we not only make love but the ways we try and fail to make that love. And how we get back up again and start all over. How Other Make People Love is glorious and funny and bursting with imperfect life and humanness. And for me it couldn't come at a better time.
– Peter Orner, author of Maggie Brown & Others
Full of tenderness, compassion and wit, these stories in How Other People Make Love may as well share another title: How Your Laughter, Ache, and Loneliness Are Also Mine. Thisbe Nissen is an astute observer of intertwining tragedies and comedies of everyday American life. What a great joy to read a new collection from her.
– Yiyun Li, author of Must I Go and Where Reasons End
Thisbe Nissen knows the terrain of love. Her characters love in fallible ways, some haunted by losing it, but all of them still craving it. Read these stories, live with her characters, and you'll feel your own heart. These people and their stories of love stay with me, vividly alive.
– Susanne Davis, author of The Appointed Hour
Original, superbly written, thought-provoking and memorable.
– Midwest Book Review