Fiction Collective Two is an author-run, not-for-profit publisher of artistically adventurous, non-traditional fiction.

helen keller really lived

helen keller really lived
by Elisabeth Sheffield



What does it mean to really live? Or not?

Set in eastern, upstate New York, Helen Keller Really Lived features a fortyish former barfly and grifter who must make a living in the wake of her wealthy husband’s death, and who finds work in a clinic helping women seeking reproductive assistance. The other main character is the grifter’s dead ex-husband, a Ukrainian hooker-to-healer success story, who prior to his demise was a gynecologist and after, an amateur folklorist, or ghostlorist, who collected and provided scholarly commentary on the stories of his fellow “revenants.”

Their intertwined stories explore the mistakes, miscarriages, inadequacies, and defeats that may have led to their divorce, including his failure (according to her) to “fully live.”

As it investigates the theme of what it means to “really live” or not, Elisabeth Sheffield’sbrilliant new novel is also an exploration of virtual reality in the sense of the experience provided by literature. It is a novel awash in a multitude of voices, from the obscenity-laced, Nabokovian soliloquys of the dead Ukrainian doctor, to the trade-school / midcentury-romance-novel-constrained style of his dead mother-in-law.


“Elisabeth Sheffield's new novel is multilayered, smart, beautifully written, and funny. I was taken in by the first paragraph and held firmly through the roller coaster of a ride. The depth of the novel was evidenced by the constantly shifting meaning of the title itself. In fact, the entire work never changes its meaning, but somehow, seamlessly, simply means more. This is a rare and memorable piece of work.”
—Percival Everett, author of Erasure and Assumption

“One is immediately then persistently struck in considering Elisabeth Sheffield's new novel by the sheer brilliance of the writing, by the marvelous, ferocious energy of the sentences, by the deadly serious playfulness of the intricate design. Sheffield already has first-rate novels under her belt, but Helen Keller Really Lived pushes even farther, punches even more deeply. It is her finest work to date.”
—Laird Hunt, author of Kind One