Kristopher Jansma, author of Our Narrow Hiding Places, in conversation with Tim Horvath

An elderly woman recounts her Dutch family's survival during the final years of Nazi occupation, shedding new light on old secrets that rippled through subsequent generations.

Eighty-year-old Mieke Geborn's life is one of quiet routine. Widowed for many years, she enjoys the view from her home on the New Jersey shore, visits with friends, and tai chi at the local retirement community. But when her beloved grandson, Will, and his wife, Teru, show up for a visit, things are soon upended. Their marriage is threatening to unravel, and Will has questions for his grandmother--questions about family secrets that have been lost for decades and are now finally rising to the surface.

But telling Will the truth involves returning to the past, and to Mieke's childhood in coastal Holland. There, in the last years of World War II, she survived the Hunger Winter, a brutal season when food and heat were cut off and thousands of Dutch citizens starved. Her memories weave together childhood magic and the madness of history, and carry readers from the windy beaches of the Hague to the dark cells of a concentration camp, through the bends of eel-filled rivers, and, finally, to the story of Will's father, absent since Will's childhood.

Our Narrow Hiding Places is a sweeping story of survival and of the terrible cost of war--and a reminder that sometimes the traumas we inherit come along with a resilience we never imagined.


Praise for Our Narrow Hiding Places:

"Blending history on an epic scale with folklore and with the most deeply human realism, Our Narrow Hiding Places is a war story--and a love story--as powerful in its particulars as in its sweep. Jansma sets his sights on the largest of historical concerns, which have (as history tends to) become current again: war as a force of inhumanity, the many smaller brutalities that occur in its wake, and the many unrecorded generosities and acts of heroism, too. This novel is a magnificent anthem to the magic of survival in all its forms." -- Clare Beams, author of The Illness Lesson and The Garden

"Never losing hope as its focus, Our Narrow Hiding Places is evidence of the many meanings of survival, and how, even in the midst of chaos, our capacity for courage persists. How we must always fight to preserve the best parts of ourselves, especially in the face of indignity. I can't think of a novel better suited to the current historical moment, in which humanity, empathy, and giving a damn are more needed than ever before. Read this, learn, then act." -- Mateo Askaripour, author of Black Buck


Kristopher Jansma is the author of the novels Why We Came to the City and The Unchangeable Spots of Leopards, the winner of the Sherwood Anderson Foundation Fiction Award and a Pushcart Prize, and the recipient of an honorable mention for the PEN/Hemingway Award. His short fiction has been published in the Alaska Quarterly ReviewPrairie SchoonerStory, and ZYZZYVA. His nonfiction has been published in the New York TimesThe Sun, The MillionsSalonReal SimpleThe Believer, and Electric Literature. Kristopher is an associate professor of English and the director of the creative writing program at SUNY New Paltz.

Tim Horvath is the author of Understories, (Bellevue Literary Press), which won the New Hampshire Literary Award for Outstanding Work of Fiction, and Circulation (sunnyoutside), and in collaboration with composer/cellist Rafaele Andrade, Un-bow. His stories have appeared or are forthcoming in journals such as Conjunctions, AGNIPloughsharesHarvard Review, and elsewhere. His story “The Understory” was selected by Bill Henderson, founder and president of the Pushcart Press, as the winner of the Raymond Carver Short Story Award. He currently teaches English at Phillips Exeter Academy, as well as being a Visiting Assistant Professor in the Creative Writing Program at Stony Brook University, as well as faculty for the MFA in Writing for Warren Wilson. In addition, he teaches classes for GrubStreet, StoryStudio Chicago, Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance, and elsewhere. 

Event date: 
Thursday, August 22, 2024 - 7:00pm
Event address: 
Water Street Bookstore
125 Water Street
EXETER, NH 03833
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Published: Ecco - August 13th, 2024

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Published: Bellevue Literary Press - May 1st, 2012