*** Winner selected! Congratulations to Chris in Willits, California! ***

This Is Between Us Kevin SampsellIf the love stories of your own life seem more a disjunct collage of contradictory moments than a clear-cut romantic narrative, you’ll love Kevin Sampsell‘s first novel. This Is Between Us (Tin House, 2013) tells the story of a tumultuous, contemporary love affair, dissected in intimate fragments — from the infatuated, fantasy-filled beginnings to the real-life logistics of combining lives and families.

A man and a woman are pulled towards each by their immediate, obsessive attraction. From there they start the fragile process of forging a relationship — with their kids, their past divorces, and all their other baggage in tow. It doesn’t happen easily. There are jealousies, accusations, breakups, and the boredoms of the everyday mundane. But alongside them come unexpected pleasures, wonders — the complex mix of desires that somehow manage to keep a couple together, a love intact.

What I love about this novel is the tenderness and intimacy combined with raw sexuality, disturbing moments of disconnection, and occasional bouts of cruelty. That, and the fragmentary writing style — a bit like Dept. of Speculation, but way sexier, and not so depressing.

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Come back mid-month to read a Five Firsts interview with Kevin Sampsell!