KATE MILLIKEN
KATE MILLIKEN
Kept Animals, a new novel by Kate Milliken. In bookstores April 21, 2020.
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INDIE BOUND AMAZON BAM! BARNES & NOBLE BOOK PASSAGE

A bold, riveting debut novel of desire, betrayal, and loss, centering on three teenage girls, a horse ranch, and the tragic accident that changes everything.

Rory Ramos works as a ranch hand at the stable her stepfather manages in Topanga Canyon, California, a dry, dusty place reliant on horses and hierarchies. There she rides for the rich clientele, including twins June and Wade Fisk. While Rory may have unwittingly drawn the interest of out-and-proud June, she’s more intrigued by Vivian Price, the beautiful teenager with the movie-star father who lives down the hill. Rory’s blue-collar upbringing keeps her largely separate from the likes of the prices—but, perched on her bedroom windowsill, Rory steals glimpses of Vivian swimming in her pool nearly every night.

After Rory’s stepfather is involved in a tragic car accident, the lives of Rory, June, and Vivian become inextricably bound together. Rory discovers photography, begins riding more competitively alongside June, and grows closer and closer to gorgeous, mercurial Vivian, but despite her newfound sense of self, disaster lurks all around her: in the parched landscape, in her unruly desires, in her stepfather’s wrecked body and guilty conscience. One night, as the relationships among these teenagers come to a head, a forest fire tears through Topanga Canyon, and Rory’s life is changed forever.

Kept animals is narrated by Rory’s daughter, Charlie, twenty years after that fateful 1993 fire. Realizing that the key to her own existence lies in the secret of what really happened that unseasonably warm fall, Charlie is finally ready to ask questions about her mother’s past. But with Rory away on assignment as a war photographer, Charlie knows she must unravel the truth for herself.

ADVANCE PRAISE

 “Kept animals is a darkly beautiful book, tender yet powerful, an exquisite exploration of hurt and desire, the why of wanting, taking and giving. And Kate Milliken knows her stuff when it comes to horses.”
—Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and Half Broke Horses

“With precise and sensuous prose, so gorgeous it’s gasp-inducing, Kept Animals tells an epic story of loss, identity, and that which binds—and unravels—a community. Milliken’s unforgettable characters face dangers of all kinds, be it familial, romantic, or of the natural world. To experience, as a reader, this mysterious, mesmerizing, and menacing pocket of Southern California is a true pleasure and thrill. Kate Milliken has talent to burn. I love this novel.”
—Edan Lepucki, author of California and Woman No. 17

“What do you get when you add horses, heat, teenagers, violence, alcohol, love, class, competition, fame, and desire to a raw California landscape? You get one giant conflagration of a debut novel. Kate Milliken has written an epic coming-of-age story of three young women whose families are falling apart just as they are beginning to recognize their own sexual power. Dangerous and dark, sexy and haunting, glamorous and gritty, Kept Animals is a book you’ll read as if it’s on fire.”
—Eleanor Henderson, author of the Twelve-Mile Straight and Ten Thousand Saints

“Kept Animals is a searing, beautifully written look at a place, a time, and a community set along the fault lines of class, race, climate, and coincidence. This novel will stay with me for a long time.”
—Lydia Kiesling, author of The Golden State


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UNIVERSITY OF IOWA AMAZON INDIE BOUND BARNES & NOBLE

Winner of the Iowa Award for Short Fiction and a San Francisco Chronicle recommended read.

In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye for emotive detail, the author of this unforgettable collection sets intersections in motion that will leave you both winded and wanting more.

In one story, a mother, driven by greed, unwittingly finds out how far her needs will push her. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter. With poetic deftness, a woman evaluates the meaning, the familial stories, that we carry with us from birth. In a story ripped from the headlines, a woman pines for the legs her husband lost in a freak accident at a Santa Monica farmer’s market. A medical clerk, restless and alone, takes advantage of a disabled neighbor.

Kate Milliken knows the ties that bind and how tautly we will pull them. These are stories about desire, betrayal, love, regret, and family. If I’d Known You Were Coming possesses that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves.

REVIEWS

 “The interesting and unexpected connections between the characters in the linked stories create a strong sense of plot and a distinct fictional world…[Milliken’s] got what it takes and she knows how to use it.”
Kirkus Review

“The most interesting and satisfying thing about Milliken’s debut collection is the ingenious way the 12 stories fit together. Though each selection stands alone, several characters reappear throughout in different contexts…The whole is greater than the sum of the already pretty impressive parts.”
Publishers Weekly

“Kate Milliken’s haunting debut collection [is] best consumed in one sitting…set predominantly in the unglamorous, middle and lower-middle-class environs of Los Angeles, but ambling all the way east to Maine, the consistency of tone and effect renders the narrative whole greater than the sum of its individually accomplished parts.”
SF Chronicle

“This is a stunning debut collection, one that leaves a dark but vivid impression.”
The Rumpus

 “Kate Milliken’s stories burn straight to the darkest places in our hearts, speaking aloud the thoughts we hardly dare to call our own. In twelve flawless pieces, Milliken expertly illuminates the aftermath of abandonment; her characters, cast adrift, find themselves painfully alone, futilely seeking what was torn away long ago. Milliken writes with merciless precision about women and men, about the old and the young, about the betrayers and betrayed. You will stay up all night to learn the fates of these people, who will become as real to you as anyone you know.”
—Julie Orringer, author, The Invisible Bridge and How to Breathe Underwater

“These twelve elegant, edgy, and deftly made stories are full of ravenous women, hungry for money, attention, fame—sometimes even fame by proxy—and sometimes even food. Highly compelling and a little bit terrifying, If I’d Known You Were Coming is a terrific debut.”
—Pam Houston, author, Contents May Have Shifted

“The startling, darkly beautiful stories of Kate Milliken will make you uncomfortable, disquieted, suspicious, even weirdly aroused—and you will be left with the realization you don’t know everyone you thought you knew, the equivalent of a camera pressed through the bedroom blinds of the couple next door. She never flinches, but you will.”
—Benjamin Percy, author, Red Moon

“These twelve marvelous stories expose the tenacity of blood memory: tender, accusatory, sometimes off course. Here, the aftermath of abandonment is replete with risk, sensuality, and truth; loss and replacement repeat in endless cycles, both vital and sorrowful. In these brilliantly wise, emotionally haunting stories, Kate Milliken reminds us how wildness can overtake the most mundane circumstance, how the quietest inclination toward loyalty or betrayal can alter, even determine, fate.”
—Melissa Pritchard, author, Spirit Seizures

“Subtle and suspenseful stories filled with the kind of precise and original detail that portrays all the complexity of our lives.”
—Sheila Kohler, author, The Bay of Foxes