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“A brilliant debut.”

CHARLES BAXTER, author of The Soul Thief and There’s Something I Want You to Do

The suspense creeps in and takes hold in seven stories about troubled characters grappling with rare illnesses, menacing chance encounters, sexual awakening, impending natural disasters, and New Age cults.

Within these pages, the everyday meets the uncanny as two high school friends go out for one unforgettable night. A boy, haunted by dreams of a catastrophic flood, becomes swept up in an encephalitis epidemic. A hypochondriac awaits her diagnosis at a Caribbean health resort. A disease researcher meets his nemesis on a train. A father searches for his missing son in a remote mountain lodge where nothing is quite as it seems. A teenager is sent to a “therapeutic” boarding school with disturbing methods and is reunited with a staff member years later. An elderly pharmacist protects his adopted nephew, who found a mermaid in a bottle, from a coastal village gripped by hysteria.

Even at its most surreal, this polished and lyrical debut remains grounded in the emotional lives of people teetering atop widening chasms of confusion and doubt.

“With a keen eye for detail, Booker announces himself as a premier storyteller whose work crosses genre boundaries, appealing to fans of mystery, suspense, and literary fiction.”


“Booker’s writing is raw, haunting, and otherworldly in the pursuit of his characters’ emotional lives.”


“In Booker’s short stories, our monstrous and innocuous desires become illnesses, illnesses beget fever and confusion, and in this altered state reality merges with dream....Booker’s greatest strength as a writer is his ability to render surreal, dreamlike exacting detail, making them feel familiar in spite of their strangeness.”


“Brian Booker’s work joins a new canon of queer literature.”


“Brian Booker’s stories contain a phantasmagorical hilarity, along with a headlong momentum that only accelerates as the stories’ events grow more dire. You can open this book to any page and will find there amazing events related in a deeply unsettling style. I don’t know of any writing quite like his. Are You Here For What I’m Here For? is a brilliant debut.”

CHARLES BAXTER, author of The Soul Thief and There’s Something I Want You to Do

“An unforgettable collection of people trying to learn how—and whether—to trust their own minds. Like Kafka and W.G. Sebald, Booker’s theme is dislocation, as much from the physical world as from the world of others and of thought. The writing brims with intelligent detail, but always in the service of its characters—people striving for ‘new, uncharted places,’ reachable nowhere else but in these singular stories.”

SALVATORE SCIBONA, author of The End

“Reading Brian Booker’s stories is like lolling on your sofa, or strolling the streets of your town, when you look around and it dawns on you that everything you thought you recognized is suddenly … different. The unnerving newspaper headline, those weird jars in the fridge, the off-kilter conversation with that too-friendly stranger—the quotidian and the unremarkable are rendered strange and new, and the effect is, to quote the author, 'a little like nectar and a little like poison.' These are terrific stories, and Booker is a terrific writer.”

DANIEL OROZCO, author of Orientation

“Brian Booker is a realist the way Kafka or Ishiguro are realists—he works at the seams of our experience, in those anxious moments where we cannot be sure of our senses, our memories, or our selves. In these extraordinary and uncanny stories, anxiety, neurosis, disease, and hallucination overtake his characters and haunt the worlds they inhabit.Are You Here For What I’m Here For? teems with unsettling wisdom about all those things our minds and hearts contain that we wish they did not.”

CASEY WALKER, author of Last Days in Shanghai

“Brian Booker’s stories are contagiously readable. Like many of the maladies they so vividly describe, they seem at once believable and otherworldly, casting the spell of an uncanny fever dream. But while the characters in these tales may languish, their reader—braced by Booker’s delightfully unsettling imagination—emerges always invigorated.”

MICHAEL LOWENTHAL, author of Charity Girl and The Paternity Test