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“Leftwich is a gifted stylist, her prose characterized by novel word choices and phrasings that never go astray. The concerns here are human broadly speaking, issues of life and death, relationships, and emotions; but Leftwich’s work shouldn’t be mistaken for standard suburban minimalism. Her perspective is dark and off-center making these stories both surprising and a pleasure to read.” The Nervous Breakdown

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“Somewhere between poetry and story, Leftwich’s cross-genre collection examines grief, violence, heartbreak, body, and identity.” The Coil, Most Anticipated Books, 2019


Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock is a multi-genre collection that examines grief, violence, heartbreak, and the universal challenge of living in a body that is always vulnerable. In this greyscale kaleidoscope of the familiar and the uncanny, muted voices shout, people commit to devastating choices, and mundane moments are filled with silent hauntings. A sleep paralysis and a séance of voices long dead, this collection’s characters illuminate both our own darkness and our strength, revealing how love can emerge from the most impossible of conditions.

These vignettes travel through a life—young, urban, domestic, mother-making, myth-making– and at turns contain cursed images, hilarity, and tender moments of sincere vulnerability. Leftwich’s characters curve out of what is expected: they surprise you, they confess, they hide, they snark, they love and long. Each character feels unique and new, but together this collection becomes a protean whole of the many faces of hurt, complete and glittering. Leftwich shows us them, flaws and all, unable to escape their rawest moments. –Elle Nash, author of Animals Eat Each Other

Hillary Leftwich’s Ghosts are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock is comprised of seventy-two brief narratives that jab & gesture at intimacy, not the comforting fantasy of it, but the bewildering state at the core of intimacy, where all is lawless, collapsing boundaries between right & wrong, self & other, truth & fantasy. The pieces feel like pages ripped from the diaries of lost souls, sometimes deadpan & direct, sometimes fluttering through fever dreams & teetering realities in which intimates reveals themselves to be a hole, or to be pieced together of broken seashells, or cleaning up strangers’ used sex toys at a Motel 6. Through the book’s often-bleak experiences, the repeated form of the vignette shows a way of, if not transcending, at least progressing out of life’s traumas & confusions. No matter how bad it can get, Leftwich tells me, we can get through it.–Mathias Svalina, author of The Wine-Dark Sea

For years I’ve heard aloud, and read in multiple journals, pieces from Ghosts Are Strangers Who Knock. After each reading or listening I wrote down these haunting and caring images on receipts, bookmarks, coffee sleeves. What made me write these things was their honesty—the things that are hard to say but need to be said. Hillary Leftwich has written something special where vulnerability is a form of resistance. Where vulnerability drags shame and guilt from their shadows and sets them on tables as centerpieces so we can view them from all angles.–Steven Dunn, author of Potted Meat

This wonderful book is made of lightning bolts and thunderclaps. Each page is a different kind of human storm. Some carry you up into the sky, others send the moon careening down to you. Hillary Leftwich is an extraordinary talent.-–Bud Smith, author of Calm Face and Work

In this hybrid collection of works, Hillary Leftwich speaks to us in her own deeply authentic, inimitable voice. Innovative in approach and breathtaking in execution, Ghosts Are Just Strangers Who Know How to Knock is a haunted and haunting work of art. By turns gut-wrenching, dark, funny, and ultimately transcendent, this is a must-read book by a writer of considerable depth and originality.–Kathy Fish, author of Wild Life: Collected Works from 2003-2018



Cover photo Jay Halsey, cover design by Michael J. Seidlinger

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