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“I couldn’t help but think of Andrea Barrett when I read this collection with all its funny, inventive stories in which the natural world and humanity collide with each other. There’s such careful attention paid in these stories, to people and the environment alike.”—Carmen Maria Machado, judge, 2019 Iowa Short Fiction Award

“Populated with all manner of wild animals, endangered species, and flawed people, the endlessly readable stories in Not A Thing to Comfort You remind me of campfire ranger talks, if the rangers are Annie Proulx or Raymond Carver and the untended campfire burns down an entire forest. Wortman-Wunder now certainly enters the ranks of our finest naturalist writers, yet what gives these stories their remarkable power and depth is her lifetime of meticulous field work on the always unpredictable human heart.”—Justin Hocking, author, The Great Floodgates of the Wonderworld: A Memoir

“Emily Wortman-Wunder’s stunning stories demand our attention. Graceful in style, bountiful in their knowledge of the natural world, they move effortlessly from Beethoven concertos to bear hibernacula, from suburban homes to rural trailers. These stories don’t mind getting their hands dirty excavating secrets, but they just as painstakingly illuminate lives in search of love and connection. A rich and affecting collection.”—Steven Schwartz, author, Madagascar: New and Selected Stories

Not a Thing to Comfort You is a virtuosic debut collection of fiction.This book re-minded me why I love short stories.”—Steven Church, author, I’m Just Getting to the Disturbing Part: On Work, Fear, and Fatherhood

“There’s a sleight-of-hand magic in Not a Thing to Comfort You. Don’t come to this book seeking sentimentality or tired tropes. Wortman-Wunder’s voice and her sensibility are fresh, sometimes alarming, and always deeply satisfying.”—BK Loren, author, Theft: A Novel

From a lightning death on an isolated peak to the intrigues of a small town orchestra, the glimmering stories in this debut collection explore how nature—damaged, fierce, and unpredictable—worms its way into our lives. Here moths steal babies, a creek seduces a lonely suburban mother, and the priorities of a passionate conservationist are thrown into confusion after the death of her son. Over and over, the natural world reveals itself to be unknowable, especially to the people who study it most. These tales of scientists, nurses, and firefighters catalog the loneliness within families, betrayals between friends, and the recurring song of regret and grief.

For more information or to order: Not a Thing to Comfort You

Reviews and Interviews

“An honest look at the complexity of human emotion and the influence the natural world can have in everyday lives.”- Kirkus Reviews

“What happens to the old fierce loneliness of the prairie? Does it just go away, like the lark buntings and the lizards?” – Interview with University of Iowa Press

“As I read these stories, I was reminded of so many of the dualities of our time: the joys of modern life set against the environmental costs of modernity, the pull toward family that can come at the expense of self, and the ways in science offers solutions to many problems yet cannot save us.” – The Normal School

“The book proffers an eclectic range of people, but all gleaming with verisimilitude. We know these people. We are these people.” – Lana Austin, The Colorado Review

“These stories come from my struggle to understand the ways human life and nature coincide, collide, and impact each other, both in the wilderness and in more managed environments.” – Interview with The Colorado Sun

“Her stories hold a bewitching quality as if spoken late into the night amidst fire-lit cave walls.” – The Billings Gazette

Not a Thing to Comfort You should be added to the growing canon of writing by women that reexamines women’s relationship to nature.” – Hasanthicka Sirisena, Fiction Writers Review

“One thing that has consistently surprised me is how many scientists engage in magical thinking. Many of my stories explore this contradiction (if it is a contradiction.)” – Interview with the UCDALI newsletter