Hailed by Lauren Groff as “fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be,” and written with “incantatory crispness,” Sleepovers, the debut short story collection by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, takes us to a forgotten corner of the rural South. Read More
Hailed by Lauren Groff as “fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be,” and written with “incantatory crispness,” Sleepovers, the debut short story collection by Ashleigh Bryant Phillips, takes us to a forgotten corner of the rural South, full of cemeteries, soybean fields, fishing holes, and Duck Thru gas stations. We meet a runaway teen, a mattress salesman, feral kittens, an elderly bachelorette wearing a horsehair locket, and a little girl named after Shania Twain. Here, time and memory circle above Phillips’ characters like vultures and angels, as they navigate the only landscape they’ve ever known. Corn reaches for rain, deer run blindly, and no matter how hungry or hurt, some forgotten hymn is always remembered. “The literary love child of Carson McCullers and John the Baptist, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips’ imagination is profoundly original and private," writes Rebecca Lee. Sleepovers marks the debut of a fearless new voice in fiction.
"Ashleigh's prose often holds an incantatory crispness that lulled me into forgetting that I was reading, particularly in extraordinarily sad stories like 'The Virgin' and 'An Unspoken,' both of which derive their power from an almost unbearable dramatic irony and an equally deep hunger for human connection and compassion. I see in this collection a steely writer, one deeply moved by her place and her people, but also fully committed to the truth no matter how dark or difficult or complicated it may be." —Lauren Groff, author of Florida
"There’s some kind of crazy magic at work here—the way that Ashleigh Bryant Phillips takes all the little pieces of daily life that are there in plain sight just laying around and when she gathers them together they become holy, hilarious, transcendent, and unspeakably beautiful. Her style is utterly her own, with wonderful echoes of Carson McCullers, Flannery O’Connor and Larry Brown mixed in. Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is shockingly talented. I don’t think the voices of her characters will ever leave my head." —Mesha Maren, author of Sugar Run
"Very rarely a voice comes along that is astonishing in its originality and fresh wisdom. I don't think anybody sees the cruelty and the vitality of life as relentlessly and beautifully and brilliantly as Ashleigh Bryant Phillips. With Sleepovers, Phillips has intimately given us an entirely new way of seeing traditional life in small-town America. This book is so hard-core, so hard-won, so much a fabric of complicated gorgeous beauty. Part Sermon on the Mount, part Sylvia Plath's darkest images, part actual diary written from the heart of a sleepover, and part song of poverty and strife and genius, this is a book unlike any other written before it." —Rebecca Lee, author of Bobcat and Other Stories
“It’s hard not to be hyperbolic about Sleepovers. I can’t remember a time when I’ve read a story collection so funny and sad and lyrical, all at the same time. In Sleepovers, Ashleigh Bryant Phillips gives us a book that’s so much more than a story collection. It’s a wild place we haven’t been to before. And it isn’t the South, or rural North Carolina, but a brand new place we can call ‘Ashleigh Bryant Phillips.’ This book is haunted.” —Scott McClanahan, The Sarah Book
"Every once in awhile, a book comes along and slugs you upside the head, making you wonder why you’ve been wasting your time with those other comparably bland and polite books. Sleepovers is that book, that slugger. There is something in here that is so alive and beautiful and tragic that it feels violent. Ashleigh Bryant Phillips is a dazzling and mighty talent." —Juliet Escoria, author of Juliet the Maniac
"Sleepovers is everything for me, partly because Ashleigh Bryant Phillips allows voices to narrate who are usually confined to dialogue in “literary” works: the voices of children, the grammar of country folks, and the dead/not-so-dead. I keep returning to her image and ritual of burying afterbirth in a swamp, and that feels like what Phillips is doing with this book as whole—respecting and acknowledging, and writing from within the delicate space between life and death. Like me, I’m sure you will also feel like you’re sitting on a porch listening to these stories, knowing they’re being told to you out of necessity from an urgent and generous place." —Steven Dunn, author of Water & Power