Unknown Caller

Louisiana State University (Yellow Shoe Fiction), 2016

Beginning with an aggravating phone call, a strange request, and the sudden disappearance of a mother and her daughter, Unknown Caller moves backwards in time and across several continents to tell a funny, moving, and genuinely surprising story about families, misunderstandings, secrets, falls from grace, and chances for redemption.

Unknown Caller is an extraordinary and quite wonderful novel. Its suspense runs on the surprises wrought by very real characters who happen to be impossible people--I couldn’t stop reading. Vibrant and wildly perceptive, the book moves us to contemplate the shifting nature of what’s true.

—Joan Silber, Fools and Size of the World

We fans of Debra Spark's work love her dearly for her rich characters, dazzlingly complex emotional landscapes, and gentle irony. I'm glad to say that all of these things are found in joyous abundance in Unknown Caller, which advances its human entanglements in the oblique way that a jigsaw puzzle comes together--a piece of blue sky here, a curl of a sail there--until, voila, we find ourselves holding the whole picture in our hands.

—Lauren Groff, Fates and Furies and Aracadia

Intricate, Pinteresque, and wholly compelling, Debra Spark's new novel spans countries and decades, messes with time, and continues to upend everything you thought you knew about the characters. It's masterful and I devoured it.

— Lily King, Euphoria and Father of the Rain

Debra Spark's Unknown Caller is a pageant of mysteries: the breathless mystery of its page-turning narrative, the deeper mystery of the affections that connect her far-flung characters, and the abiding mystery of how this virtuosic author has infused her story with such an embarrassment of emotional riches. It's the kind of book you'd rather be reading than doing whatever else you're doing. I enjoyed it immensely.

—Steve Stern, The Pinch and The Book of Mischief

Unknown Caller is a kaleidoscopic, wide-ranging novel about the fragility and durability of family and the near impossibility of knowing the truth about even the people closest to us. Moving unpredictably across the decades, Debra Spark illuminates the secret histories of her characters with uncommon insight and compassion.

— Tom Perrotta, The Leftovers and Little Children


The Pretty Girl

Four Way Books, 2012


From Victorian toy theatres to a painting with a mysterious story behind it to a graphic novelist’s battle with the schizophrenia that causes her cartoon characters to march off the page, the novella and six stories in Debra Spark’s The Pretty Girl revolve around artists, artistry, and the magical—sometimes malicious—deceptions they create.

“The Pretty Girl ends exactly as it should (a rare feat), and yet I hated for the novella to be over. Spark is a writer both to admire and to enjoy. Among the pleasures: her sly wit, her deep affection for her characters, her mastery for dialogue, her curiosity about the world, her sheer invention, and the way she seems to effortlessly thread the strands of her stories together. This collection is wonderful company."

— Jane Hamilton

“Reading this book, I felt the world I live in melt away. Each story is so different from the next, each character a little code to be cracked, each time period and geographical location completely convincing, each life thoroughly absorbing. A strange, illuminating, and compelling book. Like falling into a cloud.”

— Monica Wood


Good for the Jews

University of Michigan Press, 2009

Winner of the Michigan Literary Fiction Award

Debra Spark's humor crackles in her third novel, a smart and sexy story set in Madison, Wisconsin and concerning family and friends who clash over an anti-Semitic mystery, office politics, and romantic relationships.

“Spark is at her sly, funny, and cutting best in her third novel, a clever and affecting variation on the biblical story of Esther.”

— Booklist


Curious Attractions:
Essays on Fiction Writing

University of Michigan Press, 2005

In this collection of nine entertaining and instructive essays, Spark pursues key questions that face both aspiring and accomplished fiction writers.

“[Spark’s] lines of inquiry are significant. Her observations about craft are fluent. And her ability to both analyze fiction and respect its mystery makes for a suitably frank and bemused perspective…”

— Booklist


The Ghost of Bridgetown

Graywolf Press, 2001

In Debra Spark’s second novel, Charlotte Lewin navigates the heat of Barbados—jewel-encrusted menorah in hand—and tries not to upset the delicate relations between the island’s Jews and non-Jews.

“A page turner—a break in the often artful yet sluggishly paced ranks of literary fiction.”

— Newsday


Coconuts for the Saint

Faber and Faber (hardcover), 1994
Avon (paperback), 1996
Engine Books, 2016

Winner of the John C. Zacharis First Book Award
Barnes & Noble BookSense Selection

Debra Spark’s recently reissued debut novel opens on the doorstep of a bakery on a blue street in Puerto Rico, where Maria Elena faints…only to be revived by sweet morsels of wedding cake.

“Eloquent and enchanting... a delightful novel...reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende.”

— The Boston Book Review


20 Under 30

Scribner Paper Fiction,1986
Reissued with a new introduction, 1996

At just 23-years-old, Debra Spark edited this anthology of early stories by David Leavitt, Lorrie Moore, Susan Minot, Ann Patchett, Bret Lott, and many more.

"The after-effect of this anthology is good goose bumps."

— Carolyn Chute



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