You Have Never Been Here

Mary Rickert  - published November 2015

trade paper · 320 pages · $16 · 9781618731104 | ebook · 9781618731111
New and Selected Stories

None of this has ever happened. You haven’t either.

World Fantasy Award finalist
Shirley Jackson Award finalist
Locus Recommended Reading List

Locus interview.

Open this book to any page and find yourself enspelled by these lush, alchemical stories. Faced with the uncanny and the impossible, Rickert’s protagonists are as painfully, shockingly, complexly human as the readers who will encounter them. Mothers, daughters, witches, artists, strangers, winged babies, and others grapple with deception, loss, and moments of extraordinary joy.

Mary Rickert has long been an undiscovered master of the fantastic. Her first collection, Map of Dreams, received the Crawford and World Fantasy awards, and stories from this collection of new and selected work have received the Shirley Jackson and World Fantasy awards.

Read an interview.


“Each protagonist deals with their own fantastical yet distinctly human interactions with love. In ‘Memoir of a Deer Woman” for example, when the protagonist hits a deer on New Years’ Eve, it is her relationship with her husband that holds the reader’s attention as impossible events and repercussions unfold.”
— Mary Kay McBrayer, BookRiot

“My favorite collection of the year – a voice that is chilly, sharply intelligent and quite unique.”
— Henry Farrell, Washington Monthly

“A few years ago Mary Rickert achieved the rare distinction of winning two World Fantasy Awards in one year, for a story and a collection. That story, ‘Journey into the Kingdom,’ is a highlight of this retrospective collection. . . . The strangeness of Rickert’s fiction is more than balanced by her acute insights into families and disturbed minds.”
— Gary K. Wolfe, Chicago Tribune

“Reading a Mary Rickert story quite often is like sinking through layers of such worlds. We begin in one place, blink, and open our eyes to somewhere—something—else.”
— James Sallis, F&SF

“There are writers able to create stories where the world becomes a place full of magic and human life, with its joys and its sorrows, a wonderful ride across time and space, full of mystery and enchantment. Mary Rickert is one of those writers, endowed with a remarkable imagination and an extraordinary ability to mesmerize the readers with her spellbinding narrative style.”

You Have Never Been Here is stupid good. There’s no other way to say it. This collection of short stories is at once uniform and eclectic; the stories share threads—both thematic and aesthetic—that bind them together, but each story is clearly and uniquely its own thing. The book opens with the story of a woman slowly turning into a deer, a story that begs to be metaphorized but actually thrives better without the clunkiness of questions like “But what does her turning into a deer represent?” And this is true for many of the stories in Rickert’s collection: fantasy tales that at once ask the audience to find truth in them and at the same time question the nature of that truth. Reading this stories is an experience, and it’s one everyone should have. And buoying up each story is Rickert’s unbeatable prose. . . . I could go on about each of these stories. The way Rickert plays with form, always experimenting: in “Cold Fires,” she tells stories within the story, embedded narratives that, like a few of these pieces, draw on fairy tales and ricochet off one another. Or in “You Have Never Been Here,” the title story, how she messes with second person in a way that is at once creepy and fascinating. These stories stick with you after the reading, begging you to consider them further, to take another peek inside the book, to dig deeper into the characters and narrative. There’s so much to say about each one, but I’ll leave some of the mystery for you to discover on your own.”
Hazel and Wren

“Rickert’s work, its superbly subtle handling of deepest human yearning for something to heal the howling void behind our increasingly demythologized world, shows the ineffable power—and value—of fantastical storytelling.”
See the Elephant

“Rickert’s latest collection contains haunting tales of death, love, and loss. In stories that are imbued with mythology, beasts, and fantastical transformations, Rickert captures the fanciful quality of regret and longing. . . . Rickert’s blend of dark and whimsy is reminiscent of Angela Carter. Perfect for readers looking for something unique, melancholy, and fantastical.”

“Beautiful, descriptive prose enriches tales of ghosts, loss, and regret in this leisurely collection. . . . Fans of Neil Gaiman and Kelly Link will appreciate Rickert’s explorations of myth and memory.”
Publishers Weekly

“Short stories about people haunted by loss and transformed by grief. Ghosts walk through this collection. Witches are rumored. People collect bones, sprout wings, watch their feet turn into hooves. Above all, people tell stories—stories that cast spells, stories that change the world. In “Journey into the Kingdom,” a tale about ghosts who walk out of the sea has a powerful effect on a young widower. In “Anyway,” a mother asks herself what she would sacrifice to save her son’s life. In the collection’s longest story, “The Mothers of Voorhisville,” a group of women are drawn together when they realize their newborn babies have something very strange in common. Not every piece sings, but those that do have a powerful, haunting effect. As the mother of a dead girl puts it in “The Chambered Fruit,” the best of these stories show how “from death, and sorrow, and compromise, you create,” how “this is what it means…to be alive.” Rickert’s (Holiday, 2010, etc.) writing is crystal-clear, moody, occasionally blood-chilling. Her characters maneuver through a world where strange, troubling transformations are possible, but they live and breathe on the page, fully human. The worlds Rickert creates are fantastical, but her work should appeal not just to fantasy fans, but to anyone who appreciates a well-told tale.”
Kirkus Reviews

“Mary Rickert’s latest collection, You Have Never Been Here, packs a punch with stories that are quietly devastating and haunting in their strange imagery.” — Campus Circle Holiday Booklist

Table of Contents

Memoir of a Deer Woman
Journey into the Kingdom
The Shipbuilder
Cold Fires [audio]
The Corpse Painter’s Masterpiece
The Christmas Witch
The Chambered Fruit
The Mothers of Voorhisville
You Have Never Been Here

Cover photo “Angel” © 2015 by Emma Powell.

Reviews of Mary Rickert’s writing:

“I’ve seldom read a book as gentle, and yet as powerful as The Memory Garden.”—

The Memory Garden is a lovely book of women, friendship, sadness and healing, and it is genuinely uplifting. Like the garden of its title, this is a book to take in slowly, to spend time in, to wander through; you’ll likely find yourselves the better for it.”

“This is a novel haunted by mortality — with people who died young, with people now old and dying, with ghosts. But it is often a joyful novel, a novel of life, forgiveness and good meals with friends and strangers.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Rickert writes with a blend of poetical language and dark suspense . . .” — Washington Post

”Best of all, in a brilliant alchemical turn, Rickert transforms the lead-weight problem of indecisive identities into storytelling gold in this bewitching marvel of a book.”

“A potent brew of guilty secrets and tragic histories, but also of enduring friendship and love. Add a pinch of the botanical. Serve on a luminous night faintly reminiscent of A Midsummer Night’s Eve. A totally charming, totally engaging story told by Rickert, a magus of the first order. Magic in every line.” — Karen Joy Fowler, author of We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves

“Rickert writes with a blend of poetical language and dark suspense… The Memory Garden is a tale of tragedy, hope and kinship.” — The Washington Post

“A wise portrayal of the way women relate to each other, of how communities deal with their outsiders, of how secrets are held among friends, with the strands of narrative united by the garden and its flowers. But it’s also a superb fantasy novel. The supernatural elements may be as carefully measured and restrained as in a Graham Joyce novel… but the magic is real.” —  Chicago Tribune

“Unwinds the magic and mystery of a mother and daughter and three old friends, all at the fragile juncture of truth and forgiveness. Rickert can build an audience that will marvel at her witchy talents.” – Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“With its fairy-tale qualities, this debut novel is sure to charm … Readers who enjoy the magical realism of novels by Sarah Addison Allen, Laura Esquivel, and Alice Hoffman will savor Rickert’s mesmerizing and magical novel of friendship and family.” – Library Journal

“Tiny fireballs shooting across the reader’s brain, delving into dark and scary parts of our imagination that other writers don’t reach. . . . Rickert’s writing is reminiscent of Margaret Atwood, Connie Willis or Doris Lessing, writers who are unapologetically political and who use mythology as the underpinning to explore modern life. As with those writers, Rickert occasionally uses humor to heighten the darkness of her writing. But, in this collection at least, Rickert is very comfortably settled in the use of science fiction and fantasy to explore the lives of the outsiders and misfits who populate her work. All of this comes together in stories such as “Peace on Suburbia,” an odd Christmas tale about a family dealing with a grandparent’s Alzheimer’s, snowflakes that might be angels and the random suburban paranoia triggered by worries about who is knocking on the front door. Rickert has a satisfyingly vigorous imagination which scales from the smallest detail to the grandest conceit, and she corrals and controls it in an incredibly skilled manner.”

“Mary Rickert’s debut novel is absolutely stunning. An emotionally complex story bridges the divide between the past and the present, between generations, and between age-old friendships compromised by a web of secrets and lies. Be prepared to fall under this novel’s strange and sensuous spell.” – Christopher Barzak, author of One for Sorrow

“Rickert has created a slew of magical and unforgettable characters that will steal readers’ breath away. This is a great story that must be devoured in one sitting.” — RT Book Reviews

About the Author

Mary Rickert has worked as kindergarten teacher, barista, Disneyland balloon vendor, and in the personnel department of Sequoia National Park where she spent her time off hiking the wilderness. She is the author of two collections and a novel, Locus Award winner The Memory Garden. She has a Masters of Fine Arts from Vermont College of Fine Arts and lives in Wisconsin. Find her online here.