Two Nurses, Smoking
Author: David Means
Finalist for the 2023 Joyce Carol Oates Prize
A new collection of stories by David Means, a visionary "master of the form" (The Observer).
Two nurses meet in the hospital parking lot to share a cigarette. They flirt and imagine a future together. They tell stories of patients lost and patients saved, of the darkest corners of human suffering and the luminous moments that break through, even here, in the shadow of death.
In David Means’s virtuosic new collection, time unfolds in unexpected ways: a single, quiet moment swells with the echoes of a widower’s complicated marriage; a dachshund, given a new name and a new life by a new owner, catches the scent of the troubled man who previously abandoned her; young lovers become old; estranged couples return to their vows; and those who have died live on in perpetuity in the memories of those whom they touched. The stories in this collection—which have won the O. Henry Prize and the Pushcart Prize, and have been featured in The Best American Short Stories—confirm the promise of a writer who “believes in the power of stories to rescue and redeem people” (Max Liu, Financial Times).
A revelatory meditation on trauma and catharsis, isolation and communion, Two Nurses, Smoking reflects the dislocations and anguish of our age, as well as the humanity and humor that buoy us.
Farrar, Straus and Giroux