skip to page content | skip to main navigation
      William Saroyan International Prize for Writing

Pamela Erens

The Understory

About the Author

The Understory, Pamela Erens's debut novel, was the winner of the Ironweed Press Fiction Prize, as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for First Fiction. Her short fiction and essays have appeared in a variety of literary and general-interest magazines, including Chicago Review, The Literary Review, Glamour, and O, The Oprah Magazine.

About the Book

Set in New York City and in a Buddhist monastery in rural Vermont, The Understory is both a mystery and a psychological study and reveals that repression and self-expression can be equally destructive. An attraction to another man, a near stranger, takes the narrator by surprise, destabilizes his precarious balance, and culminates in unexpected violence.

Critics / Reviews

"A mesmerizing tale... a universal human cry for love."
ForeWord Magazine, September/October 2007

"An elegant, understated study of physical and psychic dislocations . . . artfully detailed and beautifully rendered."
Chicago Tribune, December 22, 2007

"Jack Gorse, the bookish, obsessive protagonist of Pamela Erens' debut novel, is part of a long line of literary wanderers. Like Binx Bolling, from Walker Percy's The Moviegoer, Jack is an astute observer, a metaphysician of the ordinary, but a faltering amateur at living the life he so skillfully dissects.... The Understory is a worthy Northern counterpart to Percy's metaphysical exploration, and a reminder that originality and depth can be found in a fiction's language, not just in the breadth of the experience it represents."
Small Spiral Notebook, October 8, 2007

"Erens is an exceptional writer."
El Paso Times, October 28, 2007


Return to 2008
Winners & Finalists


Stanford seal Last modified: July 18, 2008
©2005 The Board of Trustees of the Leland Stanford Junior University. All rights reserved.
[an error occurred while processing this directive] July 18, 2008