The Summer She Was Under Water

Publication Date: December 2017


“The Summer She Was Underwater introduces us to the vivid Pinskis, a family unwilling to be honest about its past and ill-equipped to alter its future. Jen Michalski movingly captures the way mothers and fathers, sons and daughters, sisters and brothers jab at and dance around each other, alternately trying to soothe and to wound.”

-Pamela Erens, author of Eleven Hours

Jen Michalski’s The Summer She Was Under Water is a marvel of a novel whose dead-on portrayal of working-class American life poses that hard, uncomfortable question we’ve all asked ourselves: how do we address the wrongs of the past even as we attempt to love and be loved by our families? For Michalski’s unforgettable Pinski clan, the danger of trauma is that it’s never fully in the past, that it reverberates like an unseen wake on the surface of the river, ready to knock you from your mooring at any moment. In that way, The Summer She Was Under Water doesn’t just tell novelist Sam Pinski’s story; it tells the story of how each of us, in our own way, wants to grow beyond our perceived limitations and make peace with the people we once were. Put more simply: Jen Michalski is a writerly heavyweight and with The Summer She Was Under Water, we’re seeing her at the very top of her game.”

-Nate Brown, editor, American Short Fiction

Over a long weekend, Sam Pinski is confronted with her family’s difficult past and her own uncertain future. By turns harrowing and buoyant, Jen Michalski’s The Summer She Was Under Water weaves together present-day scenes with memory and even fantasy as Sam tries to reckon with the secret she’s kept nearly all her life. There are no easy answers here but instead a family’s dysfunction laid bare in all its messiness and heartbreak-and also its moments of occasional, near-accidental grace.”

-Katharine Noel, author of Halfway House

Jen Michalski has an extraordinary gift for revealing all the crooked tributaries that come together to form the ocean of the self. The Summer She Was Under Water brims with heat and longing and secrets, and yet again Michalski has delivered a story that dazzles and devastates.”

-Laura van den Berg, author of Find Me

Jen Michalski is a member of an exclusive club: that very small group of writers who could put out a novel, a novella, a story collection, a cereal box, a greeting card – and I’d read it all. She writes masterful, elegant, controlled works of fiction, yet she’s unafraid to write movingly, to write passionate people with problems – the kind of characters who are, let’s be honest, the reason we read with such hunger.”

-Amber Sparks, The Unfinished World and May We Shed These Human Bodies

About the Author

Jen Michalski

Jen Michalski is the author of three novels, three short story collections, and a couplet of novellas. Her last novel, You'll Be Fine, was a 2021 Buzzfeed "Best Small Press Book," a 2022 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Finalist, and was selected as one of the "Best Books We Read This Year" by the Independent Press Review. Her latest collection of short stories, The Company of Strangers, is available January 10, 2023 from Braddock Avenue Books. She's the editor of the weekly online literary weekly jmww and currently lives in Southern California, although she will always be a Baltimore girl by heart. Visit her at

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