Better Times


Better Times

Short Stories

Sara Batkie

The Raz/Shumaker Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction Series

156 pages


September 2018


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2018


$17.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)
Ebook purchases delivered via Leaf e-Reader

September 2018


$17.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Winner of the Prairie Schooner Book Prize in Fiction, the stories in Better Times focus on what’s happening in places people don’t think to look. Women, sometimes displaced, often lonely, are at the heart of these stories. In Better Times Sara Batkie focuses on the moments in women’s lives when the wider world is wrapped up in other matters: a father and daughter, separated by time and an ocean, dreaming of each other; a girl in a home for “troubled women” imagining the journey of the first dog in space; a phantom breast returning to haunt a woman after her mastectomy; a young woman giving birth to a litter of eggs. Such are the ordinary women weathering extraordinary circumstances in Better Times.

Divided into three sections covering the recent past, our current era, and the world to come, the stories gathered here—with characters stymied by loneliness, motherhood, illness, even cataclysmic climate change—interrogate the idea that so-called better times ever existed, particularly for women. 


Author Bio

Sara Batkie was born in Seattle and raised in the wilds of Connecticut and Iowa. Her stories have been published in various journals, received mention in the 2011 Best American Short Stories anthology, and honored with a 2017 Pushcart Prize. Currently she lives in Brooklyn and works in Manhattan as the Writing Programs Director for the Center for Fiction.


“Batkie’s stories shrewdly commingle the hopeless and the hopeful. Her women, demoralized by the absence of fathers and husbands, by stunted careers and aimless children, are locked in self-doubt and self-flagellation, though rarely do they lose faith in ‘better times,’ even when they’ve had slim experience of them.”—Mike Peed, New York Times Book Review

"Nine tales—four from the past, four in the present, one set in the not-too-distant future—compose Batkie's stellar debut, all memorably portraying an ineffable yearning from well-drawn characters who may have known or will know better times. . . . In this remarkable collection, Batkie creates strong, evocative imagery with economy and precision. She elevates both the common and uncommon experiences of her characters, resulting in something quite extraordinary."—Publishers Weekly, starred review

"Moving from the recent past into the future, Sara Batkie's short story collection Better Times traverses lives that are subtly or drastically twisted away from what is familiar. Mystery and surrealism underlie the mundane, their charges lingering in the air."—Foreword Reviews

“Sara Batkie is a writer for our times: lyrical and smart, clear-eyed and true. Better Times may portend just that—better times, at least for literature, in these dark hours.”—Darin Strauss, author of Half a Life, winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award

“With a controlled ferocity of perception, Sara Batkie lays bare a world in which all of us are spies and strangers, both to one another and ourselves. She’s a kind of Jean Rhys for our time, and this is a haunting first collection.”—Brian Morton, author of Florence Gordon and Starting Out in the Evening

Better Times is a book of quiet passions, narrated with grace. In these nine finely observed stories Batkie explores with empathy the impolite agonies that change the gravity of her characters’ worlds.”—Tracy O’Neill, author of The Hopeful

“These stories are epic in scope with a frank beauty that embellishes the book’s stirring insights. A debut of gems, Batkie’s work is important fun.”—Seth Fried, author of The Great Frustration

“The men and women in Better Times are adrift. Yet they keep looking for ways to connect and love, and each of Sara Batkie’s beautiful sentences tethers them more deeply, to the reader’s heart and our collective human soul.”—Hannah Tinti, author of The Good Thief and The Twelve Lives of Samuel Hawley

“In her debut collection, Sara Batkie displays the inventive brio of Karen Russell and the omnivorous range of Jim Shepard. Artfully crafted and tenderly told, these stories will break your heart and set fire to your imagination.”—Jon Michaud, author of When Tito Loved Clara

Table of Contents


The Recent Past:
When Her Father Was an Island
No Man’s Land     

The Modern Age:
North Country, Early Morning

The World to Come:
Those Who Left and Those Who Stayed 

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