If I’d Known
You Were Coming

Winner of the Iowa Award for Short Fiction and a San Francisco Chronicle recommended read.

In these twelve award-winning stories, Kate Milliken unflinchingly shows us what can happen when the uninvited guest of our darkest desires comes to call. Whether surrounded by the white noise of a Hollywood celebration or enduring a stark winter in Maine, the characters of If I’d Known You Were Coming yearn to heal old wounds with new hurts. With a wry wit and a keen eye for emotive detail, the author of this unforgettable collection sets intersections in motion that will leave you both winded and wanting more.

In one story, a mother, driven by greed, unwittingly finds out how far her needs will push her. A hand model surprises himself and everyone else at the birthday party of an old friend’s daughter. With poetic deftness, a woman evaluates the meaning, the familial stories, that we carry with us from birth. In a story ripped from the headlines, a woman pines for the legs her husband lost in a freak accident at a Santa Monica farmer’s market. A medical clerk, restless and alone, takes advantage of a disabled neighbor.

Kate Milliken knows the ties that bind and how tautly we will pull them. These are stories about desire, betrayal, love, regret, and family. If I’d Known You Were Coming possesses that uncanny ability to reveal us to ourselves.

Praise &


“The interesting and unexpected connections between the characters in the linked stories create a strong sense of plot and a distinct fictional world…[Milliken’s] got what it takes and she knows how to use it.”
—Kirkus Review

“Kate Milliken’s haunting debut collection [is] best consumed in one sitting…set predominantly in the unglamorous, middle and lower-middle-class environs of Los Angeles, but ambling all the way east to Maine, the consistency of tone and effect renders the narrative whole greater than the sum of its individually accomplished parts.”
—San Francisco Chronicle

“These twelve elegant, edgy, and deftly made stories are full of ravenous women, hungry for money, attention, fame—sometimes even fame by proxy—and sometimes even food. Highly compelling and a little bit terrifying, If I’d Known You Were Coming is a terrific debut.”
—Pam Houston, author of Deep Creek

“This is a stunning debut collection, one that leaves a dark but vivid impression.”
—The Rumpus

“The startling, darkly beautiful stories of Kate Milliken will make you uncomfortable, disquieted, suspicious, even weirdly aroused—and you will be left with the realization you don’t know everyone you thought you knew, the equivalent of a camera pressed through the bedroom blinds of the couple next door. She never flinches, but you will.”
—Benjamin Percy, author of Red Moon

“These twelve marvelous stories expose the tenacity of blood memory: tender, accusatory, sometimes off course. Here, the aftermath of abandonment is replete with risk, sensuality, and truth; loss and replacement repeat in endless cycles, both vital and sorrowful. In these brilliantly wise, emotionally haunting stories, Kate Milliken reminds us how wildness can overtake the most mundane circumstance, how the quietest inclination toward loyalty or betrayal can alter, even determine, fate.”
—Melissa Pritchard, author of Spirit Seizures

“The most interesting and satisfying thing about Milliken’s debut collection is the ingenious way the 12 stories fit together. Though each selection stands alone, several characters reappear throughout in different contexts…The whole is greater than the sum of the already pretty impressive parts.”
—Publishers Weekly

“Kate Milliken’s stories burn straight to the darkest places in our hearts, speaking aloud the thoughts we hardly dare to call our own. In twelve flawless pieces, Milliken expertly illuminates the aftermath of abandonment; her characters, cast adrift, find themselves painfully alone, futilely seeking what was torn away long ago. Milliken writes with merciless precision about women and men, about the old and the young, about the betrayers and betrayed. You will stay up all night to learn the fates of these people, who will become as real to you as anyone you know.”
—Julie Orringer, Award Judge and author of The Flight Portfolio and How to Breathe Underwater