Published by Tin House Books
Publication date: November 1st 2013
This is Between Us is an intimate look at the minutia that comprises a relationship. And not in that lovey-dovey, fictional way but in the real, confusing, tedious, painful way. Author Kevin Sampsell navigates the terrain of affairs, blended families, teenagers, and jealousy in quirky little vignettes. The story covers five years that begin as an affair on both sides, move through divorce, dating, and to living together.
The book reads like a diary—small paragraphs of events and thoughts jotted down from the male narrator’s perspective. Sampsell’s stream-of-consciousness prose is effective at relaying the complex banalities of love
You started to think I was falling out of love with you. You said I didn’t share things with you anymore. I asked you what you meant and you said I hadn’t read out loud to you in months. And you said I didn’t take your picture anymore…You said I said no more often. I didn’t even push the cart at the grocery store when we went together. You said my hands felt cold. You said my lips didn’t open so easily. You said I was not all here. And I asked you, “Where?”
But while the ‘I’ can create intimacy, the novel’s format keeps the reader at a remove. It’s difficult to get attached when things are related in such broken bits. With no string to the narrative there is no way to emotionally engage and instead the novel feels dispassionate. Although I never connected with any of the characters in This is Between Us, Sampsell’s writing is strong enough that I’ll be interested in where he goes next.