Tara Laskowski's Bystanders

Tara Laskowski’s Bystanders



Author: Tara Laskowski

Series: SFWP Literary Award Winners

Paperback: 238 pages

ISBN-13: 9781939650382

Cover Design: Gwen Grafft

About the Book

Legacies of violence and tragedy haunt these thirteen stunning stories from Tara Laskowski, author of Modern Manners for Your Inner Demons. A woman becomes obsessed with her co-worker’s murderer; an investigative reporter with a nose for scandal finds his own life suddenly unraveling; eerie sights in a video baby monitor haunt a new mother. When the unexpected happens, these bystanders—who are not always innocent—come face to face with their own choices and fates. Bound together by danger, fear, paranoia, and the bumps we all hear in the night, these potent stories illuminate the darker side of the human condition. From a vicious newspaper strike that rocks a small Pennsylvania community to an unpredictable road trip in the vast desert of the American West, BYSTANDERS explores the ways in which terror and uncertainty both consume and invigorate us—and yet reveal our strengths, hopes, and passions.



“‘Short story’ and ‘thriller’ tend to be incompatible genres, but not in the hands of Tara Laskowski. BYSTANDERS is a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills.”

— Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad and The Keep

“Tara Laskowski’s stories show off a wonderful fusion of freshness and experience. She produces time after time the energetic steps and missteps of youth and the keenly measured estimate of what it all means, that ability which for most of us comes later in life rather than earlier. Match this with her talent for employing the colloquial American tongue to bring to life time-tried and tested flaws in the human species, and you have a new writer you need to conjure with.”

— Alan Cheuse All Things Considered

“Laskowski’s fine workings of tales that go creepy in the night make her a writer to watch.”

Kirkus Reviews

“Laskowski’s words draw you in and hold fast your attention. Her stories ride the spectrum of strange or unnerving to downright frightening.”

Small Press Book Review

“There’s still plenty left,” one of the characters in “ The Witness” says, referencing a cake, but the reader has been taken deep enough into the story to know that there’s no way that can be true, because there’s not enough of anything left for the main character. And in one story after another in this excellent collection, characters are tested when their expectations are strained and even shattered, not by the extraordinary, but more devastatingly, by the ordinary. Tara Laskowski’s collection will be welcomed by readers who care about witnessing the significant rather than the spectacular.”

— Gary Fincke, winner of the Flannery O’Connor Prize for Sorry I Worried You

“Tara Laskowski’s stories are deceptively cozy: soft suburban street lights out front, but a too-deep swimming pool out back. With a deft touch, she ravels and unravels her characters’ lives so seamlessly; they never know what’s coming until they’re in too deep, and what’s scarier, the reader doesn’t, either.”

— Jen Michalski, author of The Tide King and The Summer She Was Under Water

“In this debut that resonates, Tara Laskowski’s women and men drift through an imperfect suburbia, much like the disembodied souls who haunt her characters day and night. Laskowski has a natural ability to pen the banal, juxtaposed with the horror that often lurks just outside the light that spills from our windows. She digs into the crevices and corners of everyday lives to find the grit, the dirt, the ghosts—our deepest secrets—then finds a way to turn it all into crystal clear story moments that will enlighten her readers.”

— Tara L. Masih, Series Editor, The Best Small Fictions



“Even though she’s writing about arson, murder, obesity, infertility, etc., Laskowski maintains a warm core amongst her humor. She isn’t afraid to share some pain, rather than masking her feelings in jokes, and that depth makes this collection deeply satisfying to read.”

— CL Bledsoe, Prick of the Spindle

“The anxiety-ridden instructees of Laskowski’s stories tap dance their way through various awkward situations ranging from adultery to dementia. It’s fun to laugh at them, but by the end of each story, you can’t quite remember why you thought they were so dumb in the first place; these characters have problems and deal with their problems with dignity. Each of these stories start out in a sarcastic vein, yet the problems they address are heartbreaking, and each and every one of them realizes a protagonist, fully formed, with a past, a present, and a future.”

— LW Compton, The Collagist

“Sly, clever, original take on the sad, bewildering, dead-on truths of being human.”

— Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life and Together We Can Bury It

“A zippy, provocative collection–just as wicked as the cover art suggests.”

— Laura Ellen Scott, author of Death Wishing

“Highly inventive, but underneath, highly empathetic. Laskowski knows the human heart. For behind the devilish humor is raw emotion, even in such unsympathetic narrators as a pyromaniac.”

— Tara L. Masih, author of Where the Dog Star Never Glows

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