The Universal Physics of Escape by Elizabeth Gonzalez


The Universal Physics of Escape by Elizabeth Gonzalez


Winner of the 2015 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction

SBN 978-1-941209-31-8

8.5 x 5.5 paperback, 151 pages

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Judge's comment:

“Elizabeth Gonzalez is a master of dialogue, an artist at creating vivid settings, and an encyclopedia of knowledge about the world surrounding her characters. These stories uncover truths that makes the reading experience memorable and each story remarkable.”

Kevin Morgan Watson, Publisher, Press 53, who served as final judge

Praise for The Universal Physics of Escape

"I loved every story in this collection by Elizabeth Gonzalez. With quiet authority, in prose of luminous clarity, she travels fluidly between the natural world and her characters' secret interiors. These science-inflected tales include octopus escape artists, 'reclamation specialists,' cracked geodes, and the intractable laws of physics. Out of a bedrock of fact, Gonzalez raises a lush set of questions about our mysterious species: why do we stay, when do we go, how do we build our selves and our homes?"

—Karen Russell, author of Swamplandia!, finalist for the Pulitzer Prize

Small Press Book Review

Bats and moths, eels and octopuses, geodes, black holes, birds and mathematical ratios: all are used not as symbols, but as voices. As a language for navigating the often terrifying loneliness of trying to find your place and your relationship to others in the world. […] It is this continual development, I think, that makes Gonzalez’s collection so rich for me. 

—Steph Post, author of A Tree Born Crooked

Necessary Fiction

Many of these characters are grappling with their place in the world, especially in comparison to the vast universe, the long stretch of history, and the finality of death. They know that there exists “a world self-sufficient and whole from which [the self] might be erased without consequence.” An old man dying of cancer mail-orders meteorites, “specks of dirt in little plastic boxes with somber labels,” that once blazed brilliantly through the sky. […] This self-awareness is present not only in the characters, but in the stories as a whole. They zoom in and out from the micro to the macro, from the mundane to the bizarre, from the interior thoughts of a character to a law of physics. The result is stories than feel bigger than themselves.

—Celia Laskey


onzalez has an ear for dialogue and her settings are vividly rendered whether they are rural Pennsylvania or wintry Michigan, which makes this book a pleasure to experience. With language that is evocative but not superfluous, Gonzalez captures the emotion and complexity of her characters’ experience as well as offering an array of knowledge about the world around them; from war to animals and from cancer to physics. This is an impressive debut from an author whose work I’ll be following.

—Amanda Kelle


About the Author

Elizabeth Gonzalez’s short stories have appeared in Best American Nonrequired Reading, New Stories from the Midwest, SolLit Selects, Greensboro Review, Post Road, and many other publications. In 2011, she received the Howard Frank Mosher Prize from Hunger Mountain for “The Speed of Sound,” and in 2012 she received the Tusculum Review Prize for “Shakedown.” She works as a freelance writer and editor in Lancaster, PA, where she lives with her husband and two daughters. The Universal Physics of Escape is her debut story collection.