ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell



First 3 People to Answer a Discussion Question in the Comments Section Below Win a FREE eBook Edition of This Is Between Us!


For This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell

Chronicling five years of a troubled romance, This Is Between Us offers an intimate view of one couple’s struggle—from the illicit beginnings of sexual obsession to the fragile architecture of a pieced-together family. Full of sweet moments, emotional time bombs, unexpected humor, and blunt sexuality, the daily life of this man and woman, both recently divorced, with children and baggage in tow, emerges in all of its complexity. In this utterly engrossing debut novel, Kevin Sampsell delivers a confessional tale of love between two resilient people who have staked their hearts on each other. 

“Sampsell’s novel This Is Between Us is an excellent, very funny and very creepy story of a relationship. It’s narrated by a man who’s telling the story to his girlfriend, who the book’s about. This is the sort of book you should blank out an afternoon for, because you’ll want to read the whole thing all at once.” —The Stranger

“Sampsell moves on from the personal essays of his book A Common Pornography, and gives readers this sad and sweet tale of a love that doesn’t seem right.” —Flavorwire (picked This Is Between Us as a 10 Must-Read Books for November)

“The warmer moments in this novel have all the real-life glow of a flowering relationship. Sampsell’s crafting of these scenes is commendable. He is unafraid of the ‘unmentionables,’ and gracefully and bravely takes on these characters’ many sex scenes…” —Bustle

“It makes for a reading experience that feels both uncomfortably voyeuristic and engrossingly personal. This Is Between Us is a remarkable achievement.” —Joseph Riippi, Tweeds: Magazine of Literature and Art 

“Well written . . . . consisting of telling moments and epiphanies rendered in precise, poetic prose.” —Publishers Weekly

“Sampsell’s phrasing and imagery never fall short of wonderfully surprising or equally heartbreaking.” The Austin Review 

This Is Between Us lets the reader under the covers of what it means to be in human relationships—not the lame-o story everyone so desperately wants to smoothly fit within, but the crumpled and stained and yet still beautiful version we actually live. Kevin Sampsell has written the pieces of our glorious failures and fleeting victories with such poignancy my head and my heart are laughing, bleeding, and, above all, dreaming onward. You want this book more than facebook and chocolate. I love it with my whole body.” —Lidia Yuknavitch, The Chronology of Water


For A Common Pornography by Kevin Sampsell

“Sampsell shares loneliness with such intensity that his book almost defeats it—both his and yours. Five stars.” — TIME OUT NEW YORK

“Sampsell has written a memoir almost unlike any other…a fascinating read.” — TIME OUT CHICAGO

“Its droll style and its archaeological attentiveness to the debris of American life – the remote controls, video recorders, tight ends, and one-hit wonders of yesteryear – combined with Sampsell’s talent for observing the ordinary, infuse the most ‘common’ incidents of growing up with wit and meaning.” — HARPER’S MAGAZINE

“[A] rather miraculous act of artistic self-creation…his story alone is an adequate metaphor for itself, the life it describes, and its hard-won pleasures.” — BOOKFORUM

“The material perfectly fits the form, shards of memory fused into a compelling concretion of moments. A worthy addition to the work of such contemporary memoirists as Nick Flynn, Augusten Burroughs, Dave Eggers, and Stephen Elliott” — BOOKLIST

“Embarrassing and honest, heartbreaking and hilarious. A Common Pornography is a great memoir from one of the Northwest’s best writers.” —Willy Vlautin, author of Northline and The Motel Life

“Kevin Sampsell’s stories are brief incantations, uppercuts to the gut, prose poems given over to the bloodiest realms of the self. It’s all here: the emotional squalor, the sweet bite of loneliness. Make no mistake: Sampsell can write like hell.” —Steve Almond, author of My Life in Heavy Metal

“This is a heartbreaking and magnificent book….I am reminded of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. This is the kind of book where you want to thank the author for helping you feel less alone with being alive.” —Jonathan Ames, author of Wake Up, Sir! and The Double Life is Twice as Good

“For beauty, honesty, sheer weirdness, and a haunting evocation of place, Kevin Sampsell is my favorite Oregon writer. Ken Kesey, Chuck Palahniuk—make some room on the shelf.” —Sean Wilsey, author of Oh the Glory of it All


This Is Between Us EXCERPT on Collagist
This Is Between Us EXCERPT (animated!) at The Portland Mercury
This Is Between Us EXCERPT at Tinhouse


Publisher Information & Purchase Links

  • Tin House Books
  • Page Count: 240
  • Direct Price: 12.75
  • List Price: 15.95
  • 5 x 7 3/4
  • November 2013
  • 978-1-935639-70-1
  • E-BOOK


Discussion Questions for This Is Between Us

  1. How realistic do you think the depiction of this relationship is? Which elements are familiar, unfamiliar, on your bucket list?”
  2. How does history play a foundational role in the couple’s relationship? How do their individual histories and collective history drive their futures?

  3. If these characters were your parents, what road trip would you describe your childhood as happy or a nightmare?

  4. How does the prosaic/poetic language add to your connection with the characters?

  5. How do the “drug talks” in Sampsell’s novel reflect the same secondary setting in Johnson’s “Emergency”? 
  6. How does the entity of death take an important place within this narrative? How does it form and reform?  



Kevin Sampsell is the author of the memoir A Common Pornography (2010 Harper Perennial) and the short story collection Creamy Bullets (Chiasmus) and the editor of the anthology Portland Noir (Akashic). Sampsell is the publisher of the micropress Future Tense Books, which he started in 1990. He has worked at Powell’s Books as an events coordinator and the head of the small press section for fifteen years. His essays have appeared recently in Salon, the Faster Times, Jewcy, and the Good Men Project. His fiction has been published in McSweeney’s, Nerve, Hobart, and in several anthologies. He lives in Portland, OR, with his wife and son.


Eckleburg Book ClubEckleburg Book Club is an outreach of The Doctor T. J. Eckleburg Review, supporting good books and talented authors/poets. Check out our other outreach projects at The Eckleburg WorkshopsThe Eckleburg Bookstore, The Eckleburg Gallery and Rue de Fleurus Salon & Reading Series in NYC, DC, Baltimore & More.

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The Editors

18 Replies to “ECKLEBURG BOOK CLUB | This Is Between Us by Kevin Sampsell”

  1. This is awesome, the way drug history and culture is reflected in pop culture, and to a degree literature, is usually way off base. This feels real, honest, and definitely worthy of the attention.

    1. Completely agree on this, William, and I think this reflects much of the critical attention Kevin received on this book. That quality of vulnerability is really what I seek in reading, and Kevin offers this to his readers. Well said.

  2. ‘This is Between Us’ was a fantastic read. I really enjoyed it. It certainly doesn’t hurt that Kevin is one of the nicest people I’ve ever met! <3

  3. This book looks awesome! I haven’t read it yet, so I’m wondering if anyone knows how it’s structured. Is it a straight narrative? Does it hop around any?

    Also, from the discussion questions, it looks like there’s some pretty rad stuff going on with language in this book. Can’t wait to find out what that’s all about!

    1. Hi Chelsey. I wouldn’t call it a straight narrative but it’s also not hard to follow. Most people describe it as an book of short scenes that probe deeper and deeper into a complicated relationship. There’s a sort of cumulative effect that sneaks up on you. I hope you’ll give it a try. Thanks!

      1. That’s sounds great! I’m in LOVE with narratives that place scene against scene and kind of let them speak to each other. I read more nonfiction and short stories than I do novels, because I’ve been exposed to more pieces in those genres that do that than novels.

        When I was at AWP, essayist Lia Purpura was talking about sound and structure of essays and said that when she write she tries to write in a way that parallels “the non-linear feel of being alive.” I like that. And so I think I will drool all over your book!

  4. Finally finished it and I must say it was one of the most daring and honest portrayals of not just a relationship but the ways in which we live, with ourselves and each other, so awesome.

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