Eleven unforgettable women grapple with hostile reality in a collection that sparkles with humor, empathy, and depth.

The women featured in these stories have one thing in common: They’re having a terrible day.

There’s the housewife so entranced by the pristine order of her neighbors’ belongings that she can’t stop herself from breaking into their home. There’s the mother easing her young son through the trauma of a murder, suddenly confronted with the reappearance of his father. There’s the vulnerable middle-aged woman stuck in a coffee-chain job alongside snooty college kids, the talent manager supervising a corral of misguided young stars, and the spiky-haired artist who literally dumps her slacker fiancé – from a moving car – and moves angrily through Vegas, hitting the bars and casinos before engaging in an ill-advised fling with a sleazy player named Ramon.

Janice Shapiro has created a cast of utterly distinct outsiders, yet her earthly warmth and asymmetrical humor so suffuse the stories that they surge with a collective voice, and the reader’s experience is that of getting to know a group of close-knit but independent friends. Shapiro’s gift for pitch-perfect dialogue – along with her instinctual ease in writing about such fraught topics as commercial sex, death, and the everyday tragedies of growing older – makes her voice one to be relished: tough-minded, sardonic, intimate, and free.


“Shapiro’s writing is crisp, refreshing and affecting—highly recommended.”
Kirkus (starred review)

“The breath of life flows through every one of Janice Shapiro’s wonderful stories, and you can feel the heart beating very close to the surface. BUMMER is terrifically smart, with a kind of comic energy that can swerve at any moment into eloquent brokenheartedness. I loved this book”
–Charles Baxter, author of The Feast of Love

“BUMMER is an exciting collection by a writer with an engaging and distinctive voice. Janice Shapiro’s stories are darkly funny, sexy and very smart.”
— Tom Perrotta, author of The Abstinence Teacher, Little Children, Election

“Janice Shapiro’s beautifully interwoven story collection, BUMMER, is about the drive to always locate satisfaction the next precinct over. This drive is often phrased as sex, or desire, or romance, the yearning for the other, but to me all this sex talk is just a metaphor for the larger human hunger for “meaning,” satisfaction, fulfillment, peace, contentment – which aren’t going to arrive, not in your or my lifetimes. This amazingly gutsy, fully voiced book bears comparison with the best work of Antonya Nelson, Mary Gaitskill, Lydia Davis, Amy Hempel and Lorrie Moore.”
— David Shields, author of Reality Hunger, The Thing About Life Is One Day You’ll Be Dead, Dead Languages

Janice Shapiro’s BUMMER is bold, brave, and bitingly clever. Defying stereotypes and easy characterizations, Shapiro’s female characters are sharp, intelligent, rebellious, bighearted, stubborn, independent, and emotionally fraught all at one. Shapiro’s keen ear for dialogue and her deep and appealing humor make this collection an undeniable pleasure to read.
–Victoria Patterson, author of Drift

“Janice Shapiro writes at both an ironic, hilarious remove and with deep empathy for her characters. Droll yet sincere, funny yet pleasurably painful, the stories in BUMMER let us feel we’re in on it all: the sad joke of existence, and the pathos too. Shapiro’s stories deliver smart weirdos and self-consciously extraordinary women, men and children with angst aplenty. They exist as both curiosities and happy, articulate, funny personifiers of the symptoms of an epidemic of humanity. Women break into neighbor’s houses, love dying men, kiss special ed students. They struggle against their real if often goofy oppression, with Shapiro always winking and nodding in our direction. She asks us big questions — funny, punk, smart and sexy. Readers will laugh, tremble, shake with recognition, then look up from this remarkable collection to make sure nobody has seen them react. They’ll re-read to make sure they’ve understood and then, like me, start over from the beginning for more of the delight of Shapiro’s asking.”
–Andrew Tonkovich, Editor, Santa Monica Review