Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women by Mary Rechner

Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women by Mary Rechner


A woman sewing a dress for her anniversary night out finds herself presiding over her young daughters as they cut apart their own clothes. A four year old boy going earnestly about the business of being a four year old boy is perplexed as to why his behavior seems to have dramatic effects on his mother. An elementary school volunteer learns about a role-playing card game from a young boy, and then sees the roles play out in her own home. College friends and couples reunite for a drink, and find that although their campus couplings are in the past, their sexual competitions are still very much present.

Over the course of these nine stories, Mary Rechner brings a frank, humorous, and ultimately illuminating narrative voice to the subjects of sex, marriage, family, and work. Her characters strain against expected behaviors and received opinions about emotional life: a grieving woman considers pursuing her dead lover's twin, a master gardener envies the freedom of her widowed friend, a poet considers which of her pieces will work best when read in a strip club, and a patient in the dentist's chair finds her appointment her best chance to reflect on her otherwise hectic life.

Nominated for awards and the recipient of fellowships from organizations on both sides of the country, Mary Rechner's prose leavens moments of despair with moments of humor, and recognizes the knotted relationship between pleasure and pain. The patient, uncompromising work of a writer who has carefully observed the moments of possibility and peril that appear—and that we often deliberately seek—in the journey from youth to adulthood, Nine Simple Patterns for Complicated Women is a debut collection that signals the arrival of a significant new voice in contemporary fiction.

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"The nine stories have a distinct ring of truth and a narrow range of experience that feels personal, closely observed. A child's bare foot isn't just small, instead 'her heels were so close to her toes.' With no frills, no gimmicks, just a gimlet eye and quicksilver prose, Rechner defamiliarizes the mundane and makes it marvelous." —Malena Watrous, The Believer

"A tight, incisive and darkly funny series of vignettes about mothers, wives and the people who unwittingly become them." —Kelly Clarke, Willamette Week

"Nine Simple Patterns is cockeyed smart, sharply written, and very funny. A much-needed new voice for women and men has arrived in this debut collection." —Nancy Zafris, The Kenyon Review

"The more I think about these stories, the more I appreciate their quiet brilliance." —Sheila Ashdown, Review of the Day

"Mary Rechner's astounding, perfectly wrought stories of what it means to be a modern woman are witty, provocative, and honest enough to make you gasp. She's the Mary Gaitskill of motherhood." —Karen Karbo, author of The Gospel According to Coco Chanel

"Rechner’s collection [is] lovely to behold, well-designed and smart. The book has French flaps and thick pages with soft ragged edges known in publishing as a deckle edge...And the stories are just as strong. Most of Rechner’s protagonists are smart women engaging in moments of mischief or brutal honesty or both." —Jamie Passaro, Eugene Register-Guard

"Mary's writing is spare and exact. Her words are chosen with great care. This is the kind of writing that takes time to create and thus is wonderful to read. Truly lovely." —Jennifer Lauck, Prolifically Raw

"Her stories, told in lucid, seamless prose, feel instantly familiar, like continuing a conversation with an old friend." —Karen Munro, Reading Local

"Whether mothers, daughters, or friends, the protagonists in her stories are wholly rendered and vibrantly real. Rechner writes with startling acuity, delving into singular lives with the full-hearted knowledge that to love means to be besieged, to love means to suffer, but that, in the end, to love is the only way to truly be alive." —Debra Gwartney, author of Live Through This


Mary Rechner's fiction has appeared in publications including Kenyon ReviewWashington SquarePropeller Quarterly, and Oregon Literary Review. Her criticism and essays have appeared in The Believer and The Oregonian. She is a recipient of an Oregon Literary Fellowship, and in 2006, her story "Hot Springs" was printed as a limited edition letterpress chapbook by Cloverfield Press. She grew up on Long Island and currently lives in Portland, Oregon.