“A gritty, emotionally sensitive clutch of stories.”
EastOver Press is proud to announce the publication of the second edition of Keith Pilapil Lesmeister’s 2017 short story collection, We Could’ve Been Happy Here, originally published by MG Press, and now re-issued with a new story and an introduction by Midwestern Gothic co-founder Robert James Russell.
The release of this second edition marks the beginning of a new venture for EastOver Press to re-issue reprints of great books first published by other small presses. The first edition of We Could’ve Been Happy Here, set exclusively in the upper Midwest, exemplified MG Press’s mission to “[shine] a spotlight on Midwest authors by focusing on works that showcase all aspects of life—good, bad, or ugly… [and] to celebrate what makes the Midwest such a unique place.” The books published by MG Press hewed closely to this mission for a decade. They showcased to the world the urgent, diverse, and ever-important canon of Midwestern literature. But like so many small presses—run by a crew of stalwart volunteers with limited time and resources—MG Press closed its doors in 2021 after a brilliant ten-year stint. This meant We Could’ve Been Happy Here would no longer be available to the general public. Now EastOver Press is thrilled to extend the life of this book.
In We Could’ve Been Happy Here, Lesmeister plows out a distinctive vision of the contemporary Midwest: A recovering addict chases down a herd of runaway cows with a girl the same age as his estranged daughter; a middle-aged couple rediscovers their love for one another by robbing a bank; the daughter of a deployed soldier wages a bloody war on the rabbits ravaging her family’s farm. These stories peer into the lives of those at the margins—the broken, the resigned, the misunderstood.
“The deceptively quiet stories in Keith Pilapil Lesmeister’s We Could’ve Been Happy Here lay bare the inner lives of deceptively ordinary people in the deceptively normative state of Iowa. Like a heartland Chekhov, Lesmeister artfully refuses to tell us how things turned out—did that slacker stay sober? Did that nice middle-aged couple who robbed a bank on a lark ever get caught? Instead, he reveals how things are in his characters’ souls: often strange and dark, yet not without hope and love.” —David Gates, author of A Hand Reached Down to Guide Me and Preston Falls
“These are brutal stories—brutally good, brutally urgent, brutally hopeful. In this extraordinary collection, Keith Pilapil Lesmeister has granted his lucky readers a rare and stirring look into the soul of the middle west. His prose is as clean as the prairie wind, his characters as dangerous and refreshing as summer storms. We Could’ve Been Happy Here is a real achievement, a book that won’t let you go and you’re all the better for it.” —Bret Anthony Johnston, author of Remember Me Like This and Corpus Corpus Christi: Stories
“Once in a great while, you pick something up, and its great, subtle beauty hits you slowly and hard like the wave an ocean. That’s the case for We Could’ve Been Happy Here, except the ocean is in Iowa…[T]he people who inhabit this collection are strange and sad and unique, and deeply familiar; I hurt for them. Collections like this only come around once in a while.” —Erika T. Wurth, author of White Horse and Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend
“A lovely heartache of a collection.” —Benjamin Percy, author of The Dead Lands
In addition to We Could’ve Been Happy Here, Keith Pilapil Lesmeister is the author of Mississippi River Museum (WTAW Press). His fiction has appeared in American Short Fiction, Gettysburg Review, New Stories from the Midwest, North American Review, Redivider, SLICE, Terrain.org, and many others. His nonfiction has appeared in The Good Men Project, River Teeth, Sycamore Review, Tin House Open Bar, Water~Stone Review, and elsewhere. He received his M.F.A. from the Bennington Writing Seminars and serves as editor of Cutleaf. He lives in Iowa’s Driftless region. Learn more at keithlesmeister.com.
We Could’ve Been Happy Here ▪ Keith Pilapil Lesmeister ▪ Released December 12, 2023
Available now on: Bookshop.org ▪ Barnes & Noble ▪ Amazon
ISBN 13: 978-1-958094-46-4
Review on Goodreads ▪ Review on Amazon