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We think about it every day, sometimes every hour: Money. Who has it. Who doesn’t. How you get it. How you don’t.
Bender uses this very powerful force to pull together a unified collection of stories that deeply explore the ways in which money and the subsequent estimation of value affect the lives of her characters. The stories in Refund reflect our contemporary worldswindlers, reality show creators, desperate artists, siblings, parents who struggle to figure out how to obtain money, how to give it, earn it, lose it, all the while trying to answer the question: What is the real definition of worth?
In Theft,” an eighty-year-old swindler, accustomed to tricking people for their money, discovers she has Alzheimer’s and boards a cruise ship to see if she can find something of true valuea human connection. In Anything for Money,” the creator of a popular reality show is thrown into the real world when his estranged granddaughter reenters his life in need of a new heart; in The Sea Turtle Hospital,” a young teacher and her charge survive another school lockdown to seek out comfort in stranded sea animals, as they learn to cherish themselves and all living things; and in the provocative title story, young artist parents in downtown Manhattan escape the attack on 9/11 only to face a battle over their subletted apartment with a stranger who might have lost more than only her deposit.
Set in New York City, the American South, and Los Angeles, these stories explore what we can afford and what we cannot and herald a work of singular literary merit by an important writer at the height of her power.
Karen E. Bender is the author of the novels Like Normal People and A Town of Empty Rooms. Her fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, Zoetrope, Ploughshares, Story, Harvard Review, The Iowa Review, and other magazines. Her stories have been anthologized in Best American Short Stories, Best American Mystery Stories, New Stories from the South: The Year’s Best, and have won two Pushcart prizes. She has won grants from the Rona Jaffe Foundation and the NEA. She is also co-editor of the anthology Choice: True Stories of Birth, Contraception, Infertility, Adoption, Single Parenthood, and Abortion. She has taught creative writing at Antioch University Los Angeles, the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, and Tunghai University in Taiwan. She lives in North Carolina with her husband, novelist Robert Anthony Siegel, and their two children.