The Book of Right and Wrong

Matt Debenham

The Ohio State University Prize in Short Fiction


Fiction/Short Stories
126 pp. 6x9

$24.95 paper 978-0-8142-5173-7
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$9.95 Kindle 978-0-8142-7467-5
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Table of Contents


“The stories are absolute gems of truth about the fragility and the resilience of the human heart, in all its ages and incarnations.” —Read All Day

“Matt Debenham’s collection The Book of Right and Wrong has everything I look for in a reading experience: engaging characters, compelling stories, and universal themes. But the unexpected moments were what I appreciated most—when I laughed out loud or paused to reread a lyrical sentence or put the book down to think not just about the characters’ lives but about my own. These stories are funny and heartbreaking and dark all at once, yet somehow the author manages to achieve an effortless feeling of interconnectedness, one story flowing into the next. Debenham writes about the forgotten, the offbeat, and the outcast in his beautifully unconventional way, giving voices to those who often go unheard. This is a stunning debut from a distinctive new presence in American storytelling, among the best collections I have read.” —Amy Greene, author of Bloodroot

Outrageous, tender, hilarious, bewildered: Matt Debenham’s The Book of Right and Wrong is so full of life that it’s a miracle the binding can hold it all together. A spectacular debut. —Paul Lisicky, author of Lawnboy and Famous Builder

Matt Debenham’s stories are for people who think they don’t like short stories.These stories don’t leave off in mid-breath; instead, they feature characters who seem to live on even after their closing pages. The humor in The Book of Right and Wrong makes the jarring moments that much more jarring, and the tender moments that much more tender.

At once heartbreaking and hilarious, the eleven stories in The Book of Right and Wrong capture their characters at the defining moments of their lives. A mother finds herself defending her son’s biggest bully from a tormentor of his own; a young man watches as his cape-wearing former high-school classmate proves himself more adept at making friends; a social worker gambles everything on expediting an adoption—and causes unforeseen consequences for every person in her life; a boy standing in for Jimmy Carter in his elementary school’s mock-election inadvertently starts a bloody playground war; an ex-con single father finds himself on the inside of his town’s social circle, with no clue as to how the game is played.

With lively storytelling and empathy to spare, The Book of Right and Wrong defies the notion that full, memorable characters live only in novels.

Matt Debenham, whose work has been published in The Roanoke Review and The Pinch, lives and writes in Westport, Connecticut.