Three days after her twentieth birthday, a young woman who grew up in Germany during World War II crosses the Atlantic to start a new life. Outside Is the Ocean traces Heike’s struggle to find love and happiness in America.
...a particularly complete and satisfying example of the linked genre ... This story leads us on—the way a con man might ... This kind of subtle reveal—a quarter twist of the corkscrew—is present in many of the stories and shows Lansburgh’s mastery of classic short story technique ... It’s worth reading this one from beginning to end. Lansburgh’s order keeps the whole structure under tension in a way that’s difficult to do outside of the novel and is one of the reasons the book is such a satisfying read ... Structure is everything in story-writing. Classic short stories package universality, economy, and an element of surprise. Each piece of Outside Is the Ocean accomplishes that. At the same, the broad architecture of the whole promises more and bigger work from Lansburgh.
The stories gradually introduce a cast of richly rendered characters ... Although some story collections encourage readers to skip around willy-nilly, the selections in Outside Is the Ocean ought to be read in order for maximum impact. Lansburgh, winner of the 2017 Iowa Short Fiction Award, excels at offhandedly dropping narrative questions and answering them many pages later ... The humor and the sadness contained in each story seem unforced, balanced so that neither overwhelms Outside Is the Ocean.
This collection masterfully details moments in which these characters work to understand each other and the heartbreak when their efforts too often fall short ... Lansburgh’s portraits of Heike and Stewart are unflinching in examining their neuroses, guilt trips, and emotional withholdings ... Not for the faint of heart, this collection is relentless and intense, but Lansburgh’s prose offers stunning moments of tenderness amid its stark depictions of loneliness. Arresting and pointed.