Skip Navigation

Seven Stories Press

Works of Radical Imagination

Book cover for The Involuntary Sojourner
Book cover for The Involuntary Sojourner

A debut collection of stories, uncanny and profound.

Read an excerpt on Literary Hub

In this striking debut, S. P. Tenhoff takes us to real and imagined countries around the globe, where characters find themselves passengers on voyages beyond the boundaries of their familiar world and their understanding of themselves. A town is split in two, a line painted down the middle, when two warring governments decide, arbitrarily, to redraw borders. A man hits a boy in a car accident that he begins to suspect might not have been an accident after all. An aging puppeteer in Edo-period Japan struggles to choose a successor before dementia overtakes him. And in the title story, a mysterious illness causes its victims to travel like sleepwalkers to distant countries, where they wake to discover that they are now fluent in languages and cultures they previously didn't know at all. Uncanny and profound, the ten stories in The Involuntary Sojourner capture those pivotal moments when our sense of place and self is forever shaken, and we must chart a new course.

Book cover for The Involuntary Sojourner
Book cover for The Involuntary Sojourner

Buying options

“Borges meets Saunders in Tenhoff's debut collection of 10 cerebral stories that tilt toward fabulist and unfold in places real and invented, familiar and far-flung, contemporary and futuristic. . . . [T]hese stories soar and his insights deliver a visceral punch. Fantastic (and fantastical) work from a writer who appreciates that borders of all kinds are often just a fiction.”

The Involuntary Sojourner imagines the borders society has imposed upon itself and the struggles to overcome them: a regional boundary literally dividing a woman’s house in two, a man longing for interaction with the father of the child he accidentally killed, a lonely dentist drawn to a new immigrant in spite of social taboo and mammoth language and cultural barriers, a self-important and respected showman in search of a successor astonished to find artistic camaraderie in an indigent disabled street performer. Tenhoff’s spare, elegant prose and authentic immersions into unique communities (magicians, a family puppetry dynasty) catapult the reader into extraordinary worlds while maintaining in tender expression the universal desire for human connection.”

The Involuntary Sojourner is a collection of the most empathic fiction. Tenhoff’s stories span countries, societies, and stages of life, and in so doing, they give narrative and character to the slow, intricate entangling that we call living. Few authors could gather Japanese magicians, children of dystopic civilizations, callous daughters, and guilt-ridden American men into one short story collection, but Tenhoff’s deftly woven work does so triumphantly. This collection is a tapestry of the human heart in all its complexity.”

“S. P. Tenhoff possesses the enviable talent of blending complex narratives with effortless honesty. Intricate, thrilling, utterly absorbing fiction.”

“In ten short stories that stand out for their originality and range from empathetic portraits to satire, Tenhoff immerses the reader in a range of settings in Japan, the U.S., and elsewhere.”

S. P. Tenhoff's writing has appeared in ConjunctionsThe Gettysburg ReviewAmerican Short FictionThe Southern ReviewThe Antioch Review, Ninth Letter, Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, and elsewhere, and has been excerpted on Longform. He is a recipient of the Editor's Reprint Award and Columbia University's Bennett Cerf Memorial Prize for Fiction. His short fiction has been selected as a finalist for the Italo Calvino Prize in Fabulist Fiction, among other awards. Tenhoff's story collection The Involuntary Sojourner was a finalist for the Mary McCarthy Prize and the Autumn House Fiction Prize.