Cities I've Never Lived In

Fearlessly riding the line between imagination and experience, fact and fiction, the linked stories in Sara Majka’s debut collection offer intimate glimpses of a young New England woman whose life must begin afresh after a divorce. Traveling the roads of Maine and the train tracks of Grand Central Station, moving from vast shorelines to the unmade beds of strangers, these fourteen stories circle the dreams of a narrator who finds herself turning to storytelling as a means of working through the world and of understanding herself. A book that upends our ideas of love and belonging, and which asks how much of ourselves we leave behind with each departure we make, Cities I’ve Never Lived In exposes, with great sadness and great humor, the ways in which we are most of all citizens of the places where we cannot stay.

Cities I've Never Lived In is the second book in Graywolf's collaboration with the literary magazine A Public Space. It was Published Feb 16, 2016. Read an excerpt from Graywolf here. Order from Amazon here. Or order from your local indie bookstore here.

“Prodigal with insight into why and how people love and leave, and love again. Humane, dazzling, and knowing.”     — Kelly Link

Interviews for Cities I've Never Lived In

Here's an interview with A.N. Devers for A Public Space, one with American Short Fiction, and one at Ploughshares. Also, a recent interview with Michael Deagler at Hobart and one about reading on The Spine.


Reviews / Praise for Cities I've Never Lived In

A New York Times Editors' Choice

"These are modest-seeming stories that hold deep truths, by a writer of great promise." —John Williams, New York Times

"From certain angles, it’s a kind of New England gothic, where the lost children and dead women and doppelgängers serve to add atmosphere and meaning to the narrator’s past peregrinations, her dalliances and uncertainties. It turns out in the end that this is in fact a book about an arty person with a complicated personal life. But it’s a lovely one, written in a moving and uncanny register."—Lydia Kiesling, New York Times Book Review

"I read Sara Majka's Cities I've Never Lived In a week ago and I still can't get some of her perfect assessments of the human condition out of my head. Her writing is matter-of-fact (though very beautiful), and her characters are sad, occasionally desperate. In one story, she offhandedly notes that sometimes you can love someone and then not remember loving them at all in the same moment, and it's these things that stuck with me. She's incredibly effective."—

"Their characters speak with such astonishing curiosity and independence that they stake out a space for themselves--where, fully alone and alive in language, they finally become free."—Oprah Magazine

"“Whether traversing mainland or islands, on terra firma or cut adrift, Majka’s narrator is wonderfully sympathetic. We see her, and others, battling loneliness and existing ‘a while without love,’ without ever sinking into self-pity. With great beauty and subtlety these 14 interlinked tales speak volumes about "what happens when what makes life possible disappears.'"—Star Tribune review

“Majka’s stories gently remind us that we take our preoccupations with us wherever we go as we follow the narrator to vividly rendered places from the shoreline towns of Maine to small islands, from decaying Midwestern cities to Greenpoint by the BQE. The prose is lucid and spare, with crystalline moments of gut-punching insight on every page.”—Rebecca Worby, Electric Literature

"These stories are a marvel and will break your heart. Majka's debut is breath-stopping."—A. N. Devers, Longreads

"[Cities I've Never Lived In] is a human and eloquent exploration of isolation."—Publishers Weekly

"Majka's words find a way to tear at your insides as they come together to form a vivid picture of isolation. Deeply moving, these stories are the kind that'll make you stare straight into that roaring fire while you think hard about what's important to you."—Elle Magazine, 11 Addictive New Books To Keep You Warm During the Cold Winter

“A man leaves a woman; a woman leaves a man; in bars, hostels, and even soup kitchens, people search for connection. . . . Every story [in Cities I’ve Never Lived In] comes back to the themes that occupy the young narrator’s mind the most: loneliness and loss, the in-between spaces of life, and the struggle to understand ourselves and the people around us.”—Booklist

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“These stories are sparse and fierce and move elegantly to the very heart of the reader. The voice remains with me, has left an emotional trace like a person I lived with and loved and often recall.”—Catherine Lacey

“The characters in Sara Majka’s haunting collection drift through cities and landscapes like refugees from feeling, searching for something they can’t begin to name. These stories confound all our expectations: they fade in and out like memories or dreams, at once indelible and impossible to grasp. Again and again they broke my heart. Majka is a daring and enormously gifted writer, and this is a thrilling, devastating debut.”—Garth Greenwell

“Cities I’ve Never Lived In is like no other book I’ve read: graceful and poignant, original and wise. Its stories unfold in the bars, thrift stores, and rented rooms of a Maine you won’t find in tourist guidebooks or outdoor catalogs, but their deeper territory is the human heart: loss and loneliness, desire and grief, and the strange beauty to be found in desolation. Like the memories that haunt her watchful, wounded characters, Sara Majka’s exquisite prose stayed with me long after I had turned the last page of this terrific debut.”—Mia Alvar

“This is a beautiful and destabilizing book filled with ghosts. Majka is a writer I’d read anything by.”—Diane Cook

“I cannot remember a book that more perfectly achieves the sensation of, as Majka describes, ‘being nowhere, or in someone else’s life, or between lives.’ With each subsequent story, the feeling intensified until, as only the very best writing can do, I felt transformed by the experience. Cities I’ve Never Lived In is a momentous book, and Majka is a writer operating at a very high level of insight.”—Kevin Wilson

“Like Alice Munro and Raymond Carver, Sara Majka writes stories of people on society’s ragged edge—in money trouble, work trouble, heart trouble—and does so with tremendous subtlety and a grave sophistication all her own.  Every one of the spare sentences in this book is heavy with implication and insight.  It’s impossible to read these stories too closely.”—Salvatore Scibona

A collection that leaves you longing—as one longs to return to much loved, much missed homes and communities and cities—for places that you, the reader have never been. Prodigal with insight into why and how people love and leave, and love again. Humane, dazzling, and knowing.”—Kelly Link