In the brilliantly original story collection The First Hurt, Rachel Sherman evokes the wonders and horrors of a young woman’s life, from girl to teenager to adult, through crushes, sex, family, and the agonies and ecstasies of finding one’s way. The First Hurt heralds the arrival of a singularly fresh and remarkably assured new voice.

Sherman’s beautifully direct and deceptively simple prose produces accessible, shockingly real narratives that combine a disarming sexual edge with great sensitivity and humor. From a high-school girl’s crush on her female teacher, to a family’s serenity threatened by a sexy Danish au pair, to a girl’s sexually outrageous soldier penpal, all the way to a young couple’s horrifying yet life-affirming experience of learning to love their brain-injured newborn twins, this collection wends its way around the deepest of struggles with unusual frankness and wisdom.


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“Rachel Sherman’s stories are real wonders—brave, dangerous fictions full of heart and wit. She gets to the creepy, despairing, hilarious core of adolescence like few writers I’ve read. This is an amazing debut.”
Sam Lipsyte

“Rachel Sherman writes stories like splinters: they get under your skin and stay with you long after you’ve closed the book. These haunting stories are both wonderfully, deeply weird and unsettlingly familiar.”
Judy Budnitz

“In this excellent first collection, the human body is a promise of future happiness and a source of present embarrassment. The prose is another matter: polished, poised, sure of itself. It’s a very grown-up way of recording the queasy intimacies, the frighteningly raw perceptions, and the almost cosmic desolation of a suburban adolescence.”
Benjamin Kunkel

“[Sherman's] pared-down yet oddly poetic prose has the delicacy—and the potential pain—of a dentist’s glittering probe. Even though her touch is light, when she hits the nerve, you flinch. [These stories are] sharp, smart, and able to deftly limn the subtle, shifting outlines of alienation and sorrow.”
Yona Zeldis McDonough, Bookforum

“A startling debut collection…As in A. M. Homes’s The Safety of Objects, the angst here is set in well-groomed places—developments, summer houses, manicured streets…Sherman’s straightforward prose provides a contrast to her characters’ unsettling behavior.”
Lara Tupper, The Believer 

“Laser-cut narratives . . . Full of great, quirky lines, the book would be a good read even if it did condescend to its flawed characters, but it doesn’t. Instead, it takes the constraints of its context seriously, wondering not how its characters will escape—their bodies, their boring neighborhoods, their unreciprocated lust—but how they’ll behave when they can’t.”
Michael Miller, Time Out New York

“If Sherman were a photographer, she’d be a paparazzo exposing people’s most desperately concealed flaws. But unlike a cold soul with a zoom lens, the author renders her subjects clearly and empathetically, and her airy, poetic prose is a perfect match for the brittle environments she describes . . .The mood of the book is downcast, but Sherman’s prose never becomes melodramatically glum or tedious . . . Her melodic style, rife with dream imagery, gives these stories a lift—her deceptively revealing dialogue and direct sentences lay her characters bare but never pummel them.”
Kirkus

“In a highly promising debut collection of stories, Sherman writes of alienated lower-end white suburbia in a manner that shifts perspectives with an effortlessness that mitigates her characters’ sad stuckness . . . By the time one reaches the last story . . . one has given up any resistance to Sherman’s grotesques and settled all the way in to a very uncomfortable place.”
Publishers Weekly

“[Sherman] seamlessly protrays the world of adolescent girls who, on the brink of sexual experience, find themselves surrounded by adults who cavort like teenagesrs. Sherman’s writing is so refined; it is a pleasure to find that her characters are not…Anyone who can remember the stirrings caused by shoulders rubbing in homeroom, or the agonies of squandered teenage love with find a companion in The First Hurt.”
Caroline Seklir, The Brooklyn Rail

“Hilarious and disturbing . . . Sherman deals with sexuality on candid terms, depicting the fine line between what we want and what we know with precision. The simplicity of Sherman’s prose allows the reader speedy entry into the painfully familiar world of adolescence and young adulthood. There are few fireworks here, but no less bang.”
Elizabeth Crane, Time Out Chicago

“Sherman’s writing is sharp, hard, and honest; there’s a fearlessness in her work, an I’m-not-afraid-to-say-this quality. Becasue she knows that most of us have thought the same but didn’t have the guts to say it.”
Nina Maclaughlin, Boston Phoenix

“Rather than a mountain-steep line that stops abruptly in adolescence, the learning curve of the human body is gradual and endless. Each age offers its own set of embarrassments and obsessions; the characters in Rachel Sherman’s debut short-story collection are no exception…Thankfully, these unsettling stories avoid florid descriptions and tidy resolutions. Like her characters’ own self-assessment, Sherman’s spare, detatched style yields a somewhat cold take on sexuality, reminiscent of A.M. Homes and Mary Gaitskill.”
Karla Starr, Seattle Weekly